Notes from the End of the World

I am taking a short break from my boatload of work, as I try to design inescapable e-classes on the fly, all the while knowing that this form of education is inherently second-rate. And how better to enjoy a few peaceful moments away from the grind than to reflect on the accelerating descent of civilization in the grip of the most suicidal mass panic of the millennium?

What is most dreadful — in the literal sense of the word — about the advanced world’s current lurch toward the edge of the abyss in the name of “fighting the spread of the coronavirus,” is precisely that it is a lurch. That is to say, mankind, under the sway of a sort of collective vertigo, is seemingly willing the end, craving annihilation. How else to explain the precipitous collapse of global markets, beginning in the U.S., on the basis of almost nothing but profiteering alarmism from an amoral mass media behemoth. 

The virus? It is spreading quickly, no doubt, and leaving in its wake more or less what one would expect of a flu virus to which no one has ever developed immunity from previous exposure. Many people are dying, but probably not all that many more, proportionally, than from a more common flu virus, although it is admittedly too soon to say for sure — for the same reason it is too soon to declare this virus the Bringer of Doom, namely that we have no idea how many people have been infected with it, compared to the number of dead. 

On the basis of this big question mark, however — along with the now certain knowledge that the virus is claiming very few victims among the young and otherwise healthy — the human species, or at least its most highly educated minority, has chosen to declare war on itself, on its noblest institutions and traditions, and on whatever was left of its dignity. 

Spain and Italy, two of the great nations of modern civilization, are now on state-enforced universal “lockdown.” France is heading that way. The United States, at least in many individual states, is not far behind. Freedom of association is being suspended. Freedom of movement is threatened. The age of reason and individual sovereignty has given way to a mewling cry of helplessness from populations ready to rip their own brothers limb from limb for the crime and sin of not obeying the state’s behavioral directives. All to save ourselves from a bad flu bug. 

“Give me liberty or give me death!” cried Patrick Henry. Today, the majority is screaming “Screw liberty, I don’t want to die!” And then imposing this emasculated slavishness on everyone else through their demand that the rulers — we no longer have or desire “representatives” — do something.

None of this is an effect of the virus, per se. It is a mass death wish. A will to annihilation. Nihilism’s final destiny, the last titillation, the thrill of the suicide’s last moment of twisted self-aggrandizement: “Nobody can stop me now!”

Is this to be our final shame? To die a spiritual death, willingly and eagerly, in the name of saving our mere flesh from a largely imaginary terror? It seems an awfully fitting end for modernity, the age that proudly, scientifically, emancipated itself from the “mythical” world of the soul, the gods, life.

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