Pandemic: Of Words, Beasts, and the Gates of Peace
The world is facing a pandemic. People are looking for ways in which to minimize its effects and defeat the virus. Some are taking all the necessary precautions. Some are treating the situation lightly. Some are panicking. And some… are spreading false information and fueling animosity.
Of fear and consequences
One of the most dangerous issues during this time of crisis is misleading information. It changes people’s behavior, and people’s behavior is the only way in which the spread of this virus can be halted, and, vitally, the way in which society’s future after this pandemic can be guided, for better or worse.
In a time of crisis, words are given more gravity and power than ever. One must be careful how one uses them and mindful of their boomerang effect. It is easier now than it ever has been to spread misinformation. Whether one is religious or not, it should be one’s goal to leave the world a better place than one found it, not to make it worse. This is not only in the interest of the world, but in the interest of the individual who would be changing things for the better. They would be changing things for themselves, for their children, for their legacy, and they would not have a burdened conscience, as even the most despicable of people have a conscience, which is why they are not happy, but tormented.
A legacy of the scapegoat
The scapegoat, a name recalling the Mosaic tradition of casting sins upon an animal so that one might be cleansed of his own impurity and wickedness, has been a psychological constant before and after the manifestation of this tradition, and all throughout the history of humankind.. Although in the tradition there would be two goats, one of which would be sacrificed and the other (the scapegoat) would be released into the wilderness to take the evil with it, in human history, the unsuspecting sacrificial animal has been represented by certain groups of people who have somehow had the misfortune to be either different, nonconforming to certain social standards (often not necessarily laws) or that were simply too visible.
Some of the most alarming attitudes out there today are those singling out specific groups of people and blaming them for the difficult times in which the world finds itself. Even if any of these groups were guilty, hatred and instigation to violence would not be the answer. The only way to help people who do not understand the situation is to educate them. And, if a law is passed and not respected, the only way to deal with that is through legal sanctions. There will, of course, always be elements of society which cannot be controlled completely, and strategies must be designed accordingly, so that chaos does not ensue.
It is vital, however, that people do not take matters into their own hands. And it is crucial that we learn from our past mistakes. People need a sense of control over the uncontrollable. Some will turn to prayer, others to their own reason. And many will try to find someone else to blame, instead of looking for solutions. It seemed logical to Hitler to blame the Jewish people for the wrongs suffered by Germany. It made sense to the French to massacre royals for the evils which befell the ordinary citizen. It was normal for Stalin to starve and murder the kulaks and other class enemies. It made sense to the Hutus to blame the Tutsis for their troubles during the genocide in Rwanda, and… it made sense to Nero to blame the Christians after the burning of Rome and have them devoured by wild beasts for entertainment. No pity was taken. They were all destroyed by disinformation and wrongly directed anger.
As the shadows of Nero, Stalin and Hitler lurk in the corners of humanity’s heart, now is the time to educate, to follow the law and be calm and responsible. It is not now nor has it ever been time to panic or spread hatred towards our neighbors. The Chinese people are not to blame for the outbreak. Certain problems in their country and the authoritarian rule which lacks transparency and honesty might have made this worse, but hatred towards the Chinese people is not the answer.
Cyberspace: towards peace or hatred?
The Church is not to blame for moving too late or too quickly into cyberspace. Christians are taught to follow the laws and be good citizens. Whatever one says or thinks about the Church or other matters, they should do so directly to the people in charge, not to the general public in order to spread fear, hatred, an air of superiority and paternalism or dehumanization, as such scenarios have been copied throughout history at the beginning of every persecution and genocide.
Rocks have been thrown at Jews and Christians for thousands of years. This 21st century pandemic is no different it seems. The Bible does not promise Christians easy times. It does not promise them earthly utopias. It warns them of persecutions and hardships to come. They are taught to be ready: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Is this generation’s greatest achievement to be the fact that it made tragical Biblical prophecies come true? Or is it to be the generation that looked to keep such inevitable realities at bay for as long as possible? Are the gates of peace to be guarded by all of us during these uncertain times, or are they to be broken down so that the old darkness of ignorance and hypocrisy might spawn new offspring in the world?
There is always a small or a great Holocaust, always a Rwandan genocide, somewhere. There is always a burning of Rome, and it is followed by a burning of Christians. The brutality of human nature needs no help in manifesting itself. But when it gets that help, the results, not just in nature but also in numbers, are horrendous, vile and sickening. Hateful acts unceasingly bleed the human spirit and kill angels of peace.
The mark of the beast
Whether one is religious or not, the mark of the beast is hatred. The cure can be found in knowledge, education, understanding and rationality. With such things cohabits love. Love, not to be confused with tolerance, reprimands and corrects, but never unjustly accuses or throws itself at the mercy and darkness of blind contempt.
Now is the time to be vigilant. Now is the time to protect our own freedoms and those of others. Now is the time to be rational and educated, not fearful and angry. One must not think World War Three will be a copy of the past two wars. This is the age of information. We are living such wars every day. The more we let ourselves be victims of misinformation and we let our anger cancel out our reason and empathy, we become soldiers fighting not for dreams but for nightmares. We become the soldiers of despair. We become the warriors of perdition. Our cause is lost in a veil of misery and wrong-doing and our legacy turns into pain. Do we desire this to be our future? Or are we to stand before the gates of peace, protecting the precious gift inside of them and making sure that this world does not fall into a new night of broken glass, blood tinted tiles and shattered memories of hope?