“The people don’t want to go to war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”
– Luftwaffe Commander-in-Chief Hermann Goering.
“We can fear WHAT we should not- either because the threat is not in fact great or immanent or because what we fear losing is not in fact good – or we can fear AS we should not; that is, we may fear the proper object but fear it excessively.”
– Scott Bader-Saye, “Thomas Aquinas and the Culture of Fear,” 2005.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 situation, we have witnessed the birth and careful cultivation of a culture of fear on a global scale which is unprecedented by any event in history, including both World Wars. Never before have so many people been bombarded daily with so many messages of fear, doubt, guilt, and division.
The new strain of Coronavirus which spread out from China in late 2019 has resulted in the entire global routine being forcefully suspended by governments and medical consultants. In the West, citizens of nations that once espoused liberty and inviolable personal rights have been placed under draconian restrictions allegedly in the name of stopping the spread of a supposedly tenacious sickness. Once, we were free men who could go where we pleased and do as we pleased so long as we obeyed the laws of the state, which were mere codifications of commonly accepted social laws of humanity. We could pretty much do what we wanted, so longs as we didn’t willingly harm anyone else unless at utmost need. In my country, Ireland, we were some of the most free men in the world. But all that’s changed now.
Where once we had freedom and rights, now we have only “permission.” We have permission to buy food or medicine, care for the needy, go to work if our work is deemed “essential” by the government, and exercise within a state-sanctioned radius of our home. We have permission to watch TV, browse the Web, shop online, read books, paint, play with our children, work from home. We have permission to call our parents on the phone, associate with people from the same household, and wear masks when we stand in a queue for half an hour outside the supermarket. Finally, and most significantly of all, we have permission to watch our society stagnate and sicken at its heart while our children are sold a bleak and lifeless future.
Do you remember what it was like to be a child? To require permission for everything, the food you ate, the places you went, the people you played with, whether you could go to the bathroom or not? It’s not quite the same, our present situation, but sometimes it sure feels as though we’re being treated like children.
Is there a reason for all this? Well, we know now that the Coronavirus, although very deadly to a specific set of people, is relatively harmless for the young and the healthy. The average age of death from Coronavirus is about 82 years old, an age at which pretty much anything could kill you.
According to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, the percentage of people confirmed to have Coronavirus and died between January 1st and May 1st 2020 was 0.07%. That’s 239,294 deaths divided by 3,394,342 confirmed cases. Now, let’s not be flippant. 240,000 dead people is a significant loss. A tragedy. This virus is a real threat, at least to a very small section of the population. But to put things in perspective, here are some other stats from the same source between January 1st and May 1st 2020.
835,582 deaths caused by alcohol.
450,983 road traffic accident fatalities.
162,571 seasonal flu deaths.
239,294 Coronavirus deaths.*
The numbers don’t lie. We are surrounded by danger, beset on all sides by threats and risks, which all have the potential to snuff us out of existence like the fly in God’s soup that we are. How we manage to survive to old age in a typical year is a mystery, let alone in times of pandemic. But most of us do. Most of us live our lives, leave our houses, work our jobs, raise our families, play sports, lift weights, drive motorcycles, eat sugar, and we get by just fine. Most of us don’t spend our time dwelling on thoughts of death. Most of us don’t avoid doing what we want and must do if there’s risk involved. There’s always a risk involved, but we’ve developed a relationship with risk which allows us to live and operate in the dangerous environment that is the world. In the normal case of events, when we want to do something, we quickly assess the risk and determine whether the reward is worth the risk, and then act accordingly. We avoid unacceptable risks wherever we can, but we accept many seemingly lesser risks every day.
Let’s talk about me. I drive a lot, and I’m a young man in good health who’s never had a serious medical condition. I eat clean, exercise every day, have no mental deficiencies, and yet I typically dri0ve more than 60,000 kilometers per year, sometimes on a motorcycle. How much more likely am I to die in a road traffic accident than I am to die of Coronavirus? A lot. But that’s just me. Am I so different to everyone else? A little, probably, but not a lot.
Many people are in relatively poor health due to poor dietary choices, lack of exercise, or underlying conditions. Not everyone is blessed with the good health that I currently enjoy, and I’m aware of that. But most people (I think, I’m not an authority) are in a relatively good state of health and have a fairly productive relationship with risk.
So why is there so much fear out there now? Don’t pretend that you haven’t noticed it, the fear, the doubt, the reluctance to engage with people. There’s a park near where I live. I walk there every day, and
every day I see groups of people walking their dogs, sitting on the grass, playing with their kids, and enjoying the outdoors in the limited manner that’s available to them while taking more precautions than they usually would.
But I also see something else.
I see the people who haven’t developed a sufficiently productive relationship with risk. I see the people hiding in their houses, looking out the windows from behind their curtains and watching what everyone else is doing outside. I see the people on social media complaining about everyone else who isn’t taking the risk as seriously as they are. I see the snitches. I haven’t seen ’em snitch, but I know a snitch when I see one. There are people out there who needed nothing more than a little fear to turn on their neighbors.
It’s not surprising given how well people have been programmed. I don’t usually watch the news or TV or listen to the radio. I typically get my knowledge of world events from the people I talk to. But recently, the news and the media have been almost unavoidable. Anytime I see a government broadcast or a panel discussion, or an expert’s report, I get a distinct impression that I’m being sold something. For a brief period in my life, I worked as a salesman (didn’t suit me), but I did it long enough to recognize a sales pitch when I’m on the receiving end of one. So I feel confident in saying that the media, the experts, the Government representatives that I’ve seen are selling us fear.
They want us to be afraid.
Why would they? Because they’re people, just like you and me, and just like you and me, they have agendas and plans. They, like us, want something. Sure, one of the things they want is to prevent the spread of a dangerous virus, probably, maybe. But certainly, one of the things they want is to take advantage of the situation to further their own agenda. That’s normal. It’s human. We all do it. We all try to make the most of whatever situation we find ourselves in, to get as much as we can from an opportunity that presents itself to us.
And what is a government? What does it do? It governs, it regulates, and it administers. The role of a government is to impose order on chaos, to create laws and restrictions. That’s the government’s job. It’s what we pay them to do. So is it surprising that the government might want to capitalize on an existing state of fear to further its ends?
Fear is a powerful lever in the hands of a manipulator. Why does anyone buy insurance if they weren’t sold fear? Why do we pay taxes if not for fear of reprisal? Why do we go to war if not for fear of losing something we’re willing to die for? Nazi Hermann Goering understood. In his quote at the beginning of this article, he describes a simple process for leveraging fear to coerce an unwilling populace. Make people feel as though they’re under attack, in danger, at risk, then turn the fearful against those who are unafraid, then manipulate this internal division to incite further fear, all the while imposing your will onto them in the name of their own benefit.
Treat people like emotional children, and eventually, they’ll act like emotional children.
But I’m not a child anymore. I’ve established a process to deal with fear so that it doesn’t govern my actions. I regularly expose myself to risk and danger, make assessments, and act accordingly, and so I’m not afraid of this virus despite the media’s best efforts to make me so. But I am also not irresponsible. Those in poor health, I avoid unless they make it clear that they don’t wish to be avoided. We direct our own fates, and we must respect the self-sovereignty of others as we would wish our own self-sovereignty to be respected. And there’s a lot of people out there who really are at risk from the virus but who refuse to let it stop them from living meaningful lives. I salute those people.
To sum up, I propose the following:
Let anyone who’s at significant risk of this virus, or any virus, or those who even think they might be at risk, stay at home. Give them state support. Give them every opportunity they might need to stay in their house for as long as possible. And let the rest of us, those of us who don’t give in to fear, keep the wheels of civilization turning until they find the courage to come out of hiding.
Once, we were free men, but now we have little freedom. Now we have only “permission.” It’s become clear that the governments of most countries will not permit their citizens to do what’s necessary for some time more. They plan to ride this wave of power for as long as they can get away with it. I ask myself the question, how much more will it take for previously free men to give themselves permission again?
I wrote this article around Easter 2020. Easter is a doubly sacred time for my people because of the Easter Rising of 1916, in which the seeds of rebellion sprouted once more in an occupied nation that had been docile and obedient for too long. The men and women who participated in the Easter rebellion gave their lives so that their children would be free to determine their own fate without the oppression of a tyrannical government that had gone mad with power. It seems to me that we’ve given up on their dream and submitted ourselves to tyranny by compliance.
Let the sick stay home. Let the fearful hide away. Let the strong carry the burden for as long as they must. And let us all remember that we were free once only because better men and women than us fought and died long ago to secure our freedom. Give yourself permission to make their sacrifice mean something.
*These figures were correct when I wrote this article, but more recent figures in 2021 show a death rate for COVID of just 0.02%. That’s without even calling the number of recorded cases into question, which is perfectly reasonable to do given the overcalculation of cases that the authorities have admitted.