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FGF Op-Ed
“Heretical” Ideas
April 3, 2020

Psychic Pandemic: A Contrarian View of the Coronavirus Response

by Harley Price
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

Toronto, Canada — There may be a silver lining to the coronavirus. Parliament has now been officially quarantined. Mass shootings are being put on hold (there are no masses, sacred or secular). South of the border, Chuck Schumer, reflexively enraged at whatever Trump does, says, or thinks, may be moved to remind himself that the virus can be passed to others in airborne droplets, and thus stop foaming at the mouth for a while. And more Americans may, belatedly, come to recognize the prudence of Trump’s admonitions about our addiction to cheap Chinese labor, and the vulnerability of the U.S. “supply chain” to the malevolent whims of another communist dictatorship.

We are experiencing a full-blown psychic pandemic, in addition to the viral one.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that we are experiencing a full-blown psychic pandemic, in addition to the viral one. Does anyone remember a run on the grocery stores during the HIV, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 epidemics? As one wag on the radio observed, if you need to lay in that many rolls of Charmin, you ought to have scheduled a visit to your doctor long ago.

More Americans may come to recognize the prudence of Trump’s admonitions about our addiction to cheap Chinese labor, and the vulnerability of the U.S. “supply chain” to the malevolent whims of a communist dictatorship.

Meanwhile, our inboxes and airwaves are being inundated with nauseatingly self-congratulatory messages from businesses telling us they’re “here to help,” “committed to serving our communities,” and lauding their solicitude for our “safety” (their “top priority”) in what are little more than crass advertisements masquerading as social responsibility. What you’d expect, I suppose, from so-called capitalist entities that have long ago learned to “put people before profits” — and thereby make bigger profits — and otherwise signal their virtuous devotion to the latest progressive cause.

(I am reassured to learn that my bank has been scrubbing down the counters and floors of its branch offices; but there is no news thus far about how it will sterilize the coins and bills that are the more probable conduits of the contagion.)

In the 20th century, International Communism gave the world psychiatric prisons, re-education camps, penal colonies, and industrial methods of extermination. In the 21st, it has added virulent contagious disease to its exported benefactions.

In response to what he has described as a dire emergency, Canada’s prime minister is, as usual, more scrupulous about observing progressive pieties than about taking the obvious and necessary steps to avert it. Forty-eight hours after his announcement to the contrary (March 16), multiple flights from China continued to land every day at Canada’s major airports — where Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s “enhanced security measures” consist in adding a single question on kiosk touch-screens about whether incoming passengers have travelled to Hubei province — and busloads of illegal aliens (sorry, “irregular migrants”) were still being cordially welcomed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts at the Roxham Road border crossing.

Fully six weeks earlier (January 31) President Trump had already sensibly banned all flights from China, for which he was immediately accused of racism by the Democrats. The next day, Joe Biden remonstrated, “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fear-mongering,” making it clear, I think, that Trump was not merely guilty of “hysteria and xenophobia,” but “hysterical xenophobia.” But Justin Trudeau would never do anything that might be construed as racist, would he?

Closing airports to citizens from the country in which the virus originated is hardly hysterical; but putting the entire planet under lock-down and sabotaging the world economy in the process probably is.

With the exception of the perennial useful idiots in the Western media, we are all by now aware of the fact that, had the Chinese Communist Party not brutally covered up the outbreak (for more than a month, in fact, after they first learned of it in early December 2019), the current pandemic would almost certainly have been averted. In the 20th century, International Communism gave the world psychiatric prisons, re-education camps, penal colonies, and industrial methods of extermination. In the 21st, it has added virulent contagious disease to its exported benefactions.

It has been accepted (with astonishing insouciance) that the (over)reaction to the virus — rather than the virus itself — will cause a global economic collapse, driving millions around the world into joblessness, penury, starvation, disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, and despair (and thus inevitably premature death).

The facts remain that the ordinary flu is contracted by a billion people annually and causes 300,000 to 600,000 deaths. (At the time of this writing in March, 250,000 cases of coronavirus and 11,000 deaths have been reported worldwide.) In 2009, the H1N1 virus infected another billion people, inflicting between 150,000 and 575,000 fatalities. SARS (2002–2004) and MERS (outbreaks in 2012, 2015, and 2018), while relatively contained, both had mortality rates (15 percent and 34 percent respectively) substantially higher than the coronavirus. It is often said that the mortality rate of COVID-19 — whose estimates started at 3.4% and are now down to .4 percent — is exponentially greater than those of H1N1 or the common flu (.1 percent), but, according to the CDC, 80 percent of those who carry the new virus are asymptomatic — which means that its actual mortality rate is exponentially lower than has been bruited about.

It is notable that the United States and Canada have done a poorer job of “flattening the curve” than Taiwan or Hong Kong — in spite of their immediate proximity to the source of the contagion — but then Taiwan and Hong Kong are rather more experienced with, and less credulous of, CCP mendacity. All the same, there seems to be a palpable disproportion between the 20 deaths caused so far in Canada (pop. 37 million) and the shuttering of an entire nation.

The global-warming fanatics have already exulted that the pandemic will finally rid the world of all carbon-dependent industry and kill a lot of old people, who tend disproportionately to be “deniers.”

In “times like these” we are often instructed by the authorities that if we can save a single life, it will have been worth the sacrifice of our material well-being and democratic liberties. But as against the lives saved by the extreme measures taken against the coronavirus, one should at least be conscious of the lives lost on account of surgeries cancelled and medical diagnoses delayed, not to mention spikes in suicide rates induced by bankruptcies, the obliteration of retirement portfolios, and government-enforced loneliness. I fear that not a few of us, compelled to read and watch the unrelenting and unvarying “news” about the pandemic day after day, week after week, might eventually expire from boredom.

In the United States the Democrat media (the adjective is by now so redundant as to be scarcely necessary) have been talking up recession for years in the hopes of undermining the booming Trump economy, a venture they have now renewed in the knowledge that, in the equity markets, fear inexorably creates its own reality. Fear has also taken care of shuttering manufacturing, retail, sports, entertainment, restaurants, and pubs — in short, commerce. That’s one of the reasons the media need to hype the story and keep it alive until the Fall. After the evanescence of the “Russia-collusion” and “Ukraine-quid-pro-quo” mass hysterias, the Democrats and their media mouthpieces may have finally hit upon one that, in wrecking the economy, gives voters in November a reason to purge America of the Trumpian miasma.

Fear has taken care of shuttering manufacturing, retail, sports, entertainment, restaurants, and pubs — in short, commerce.

Beyond such rankly political calculations, the Western media are simply unable to resist the lure of the lurid. Natural cataclysms, terrorist atrocities, school shootings, high-rise building collapses, famines — all milked for every drop of pathos that can be extracted from them — have become the media’s bread and butter, and the only stories for which they deign to interrupt their incessant indictments of President Trump. Of course, for the vicarious experience of grief and demonstration of ersatz compassion, the media have merely supplied an ever-increasing demand.

Just a couple of generations ago, our ancestors treated hardship, danger, and tragedy (world war, depression, hunger, epidemic disease) with unflinching stoic fortitude by comparison with today’s fevered response to relatively trivial vexations.

Since the global ululation over the death of Princess Diana, emotional inflation seems to have reached runaway proportions. One doesn’t have to be an old fuddy-duddy to notice that, just a couple of generations ago, our ancestors treated hardship, danger, and tragedy (world war, depression, hunger, epidemic disease) with unflinching stoic fortitude by comparison with today’s fevered response to relatively trivial vexations. “Safety” has long been a festering cultural obsession, to the point that one regularly sees tykes on three-wheelers ensconced in full body armor.

But life is inherently beset by dangers; self-realization and achievement demand facing them, and safety itself involves risks. That has been the universal moral theme of every ancient narrative from Homer’s Odyssey to Virgil’s Aeneid, whose storm-tossed protagonists were offered comfort, respite from struggle, and refuge from danger — by Calypso, Circe, Nausicaä, Dido, and the Sirens — at every juncture of their arduous journeys. Had they not resisted these temptations — had the safety-minded authorities closed down the shipyards and armaments factories, banned all maritime voyages, made communal banquets illegal, postponed bardic recitations, cancelled the Trojan games, and insisted that warring armies practice social distancing — neither Odysseus nor Aeneas would have accomplished their quests, Rome would not have been founded, and (most important of all) there would have been no stories to tell.

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Copyright @ 2020 by Harley Price and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This article may be reposted or reprinted if credit is given to Harley Price and fgfBooks.com.

Harley Price has taught courses on literature, philosophy, and religion at the University of Toronto, Tyndale University College, and the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies from the academically novel perspective that the great writers and thinkers of the Western Tradition, from Homer to Milton, Plato to Pico, have something to teach us.

Dr. Price’s political and social commentary has appeared in Our Canada, The Idler, The Interim, Catholic Insight, and The Epoch Times. His fortnightly “Essays in Reaction to the Smelly Little Orthodoxies of the Day,” and “Essays on The Perennial Things,” may be read on his website, Priceton.org.

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