I worry that the fear over the Covid19 CHINESE VIRUS pandemic, along with our innate fear of freedom, will lead to the drip, drip, drip fall of western culture and democracy as we know it.
We must practice free-will or lose it. There is within us an innate desire to return to the womb, the Garden of Eden, where all our needs are met. Governments based on ideologies of fascism, communism, Nazism, socialism and Islam prey on the innate fear of it citizens to act on their moral agency; free will. Freedom reigns when the people protect their moral agency, their free will, while maintaining a modicum of fear about the power of government – its overreach. That overreach can happen slowly, or in an emergency, with great speed.
Fear of the CHINESE VIRUS led governments to shut down our way of life and reduce our freedoms, not only with social distancing but closing our businesses and our parks. Children, who need fresh air, sunshine and exercise, are shut in. Families are struggling. We agreed to these rather draconian demands because we were told, at first, that the health care systems would be overwhelmed; they weren’t and aren’t. And millions of people would die. The death projections have been wrong. The models were not just wrong-they were way wrong. Epidemic modelers are the first to admit their projections can be off. “All models are wrong, but some are useful,” statistician George Box supposedly once said—a phrase that has become a cliché in the field. But decisions about how we will live in community are made on those models. Now, there is fear if we allow people out that there will be another wave, and then another wave and then…until when? Until there is a vaccine? Perhaps in 18 months? What will our society look like then, and will freedom still reign?
We have been told that freedom will come from tracking the citizens. We will know who has the virus and has had the virus. Apple and Google have agreed to work together to create tracing technology that alerts people when they have been in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for Covid19. Now, take a moment and think about that. How much information will these technology giants have to collect in order to know who has the virus and where everyone has traveled? Just think about how much information they have already culled from everyone on social media.
Germany has also implemented the use of big data and location tracking. They are also backing the development of a smartphone app to help trace infections. And then what? Will the app just disappear? “Such monitoring is already proving controversial in Germany, where memories of the East German Stasi secret police and its informants are still fresh in the minds of many.” I should hope so.
Then we heard about cards; like an identity card. People who have had the virus will have a card that allows them to be outside, so if stopped on the street they can show their papers. Why not give out badges? Like the Yellow Star that the Nazis, and the Muslims before them, did to identify the Jews?
I expect that many people, especially young people, at home with children, will jump at the opportunity to get out of the house or apartment and get back to something that reminds them of normal. Yes, they will say; give me that identity card. Get me out of here. And short term gain will blot out the possibility, if not probability, of long term pain. The demise of freedom.
How is it possible for people raised in freedom to give up freedom so easily? To surrender our moral agency? I suggest it is our innate fear of freedom. I wrote about this in my first book; Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values.
The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, out of slavery, can be read as a metaphor for the struggles and fears many of us face in our lives. The Israelites had crossed the Sea of Reeds and were safe in the desert. But it wasn’t long before the complaints began. They were frightened. Where would they get food, water, or basic shelter? So they began to wax poetic about the past, viewing it through discolored glasses. Egypt had not been so bad. At least there they had food and shelter and a bed in which to sleep. In short order, they were prepared to give up FREEDOM.
.A journey that should have taken a few months, took forty years. God saw that His people were suffering from the fear of freedom. They were unable to cope. He knew that in order to go forward into the land of hope and promise, His people needed to taste freedom in the present so they could relinquish the slavery of the past, because memories of enslavement can drag us back into the past. But these lessons require time and effort. For the Israelites it took forty years, until all those who had been enslaved—physically, morally, intellectually, and spiritually—had died and the new generation—those not raised in slavery—were ready to move forward. I know it is hard to understand why it would take any time at all to revel in freedom, let alone forty years. But freedom has to be learned, over and over again. Or it will die.
We are facing a dilemma: Overwhelming fear of a virus versus fear of overreaching government. Are we going to give into fear of this virus and give up freedom, freedom we may never be able to reclaim, or will we find a way to maintain our health and our freedom?
From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”