Note: There is the weekly Taki post. It is another take on the Covid panic and ties in well with today’s post. For the audiophiles, there is a Sunday podcast up behind the green door. Of course, if you buy me a beer, you get my secret writings.
Now that the Covid panic is finally winding down, it is a good time to look at how it quickly became a religion for many people. It is fair to assume that most people looked at Covid as a blend of public health and public policy. They do not know much about either topic, so they trusted what they were told. Others, however, embraced Covid and the rules around it like a new religion. The rituals and statistics quickly became the central point around which they organized their lives.
One of the first signs of this happening were the personal testimonials. By the late spring of last year, the Covidian had stories to tell. “I know of four people who have died from Covid this month” was a popular one. Despite the statistical improbability, millions were telling us about their personal war with Covid. The victims became younger as the age realty became apparent. Finally at the end, we are getting stories about the unvaccinated dying despite being healthy.
The joiner always personalizes her latest fetish. On the one hand, it lets her be the star of the story. We saw this after 9/11, where millions of people swore they knew someone in the towers. It is also a personal testimony to show how the believer has now given herself over to the faith. It is a show of piety. Of course, it also insulates the believer from having to explain herself. It is an appeal to authority in which her alleged suffering makes her the unquestionable authority.
Then there is the suffering that comes with every civic religion. Sacrifice is an important part of all religions. Membership is not supposed to be easy as the value of anything easily attained is always low. In the case of Covid, the goofy mask wearing, standing six feet apart and other nonsense was quickly and mindlessly embraced. It was a public sacrament, like taking communion. Of course, this gave the Covidian a chance to lecture the rest of us about the need to respect their piety.
The ascetic is an important part of every religion. The vegetarian makes a big show of not eating meat, because their role requires it. Similarly, the keto adherent will let you know she does not eat carbohydrates. Food-based cults are always popular with ascetics, because all of them require abstention. In the case of Covid, the constant slathering of hand sanitizer was the sign of their discipline. The Covidian never missed a chance to perform the ritual before every activity.
It is not an accident that the same people who tote grimy canvas sacks to the grocery store were the first to embrace the rituals of Covid. All civic religions in the modern age come with these piety symbols, usually with a corporate logo. Public television stations made millions giving members tote bags with the logo on them. Note that American sports teams quickly rushed out branded face masks. In a world of strangers, displaying your corporate overlord is important.
Hoffer famously pointed out that “What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.” He was wrong about this, in that our rackets and cults tend to come with a corporate sponsor. In our highly atomized and corporatized existence, the corporate logo provides legitimacy. The Apple logo replaced the Darwin fish, for example. The Church of Covid became a money making racket, a cult and it was sponsored by our corporate overlords.
Every religion has its apostles, and this was no different. The army of pseudo-intellectual poseurs that spring up in the media are always there to add authority to the latest narratives. All of a sudden, anyone with a connection to medicine or immunology was preaching from a digital street corner. The fact that none of them knew a thing about this disease or public policy did not matter. All that mattered is they were there telling us to repent or fear the wrath of Covid.
Probably the most obnoxious aspect of the civic religion is the martyrs. Because democracy turns deadbeats into civil servants and civil servants into priests, every politician quickly became a martyr to the cause. Every state with draconian Covid laws has a governor who publicly nailed herself to the cross. You see, they really hate passing these crazy laws, but they are suffering for all of us in this twilight struggle against the great threat to humanity known as Covid.
It is worth noting that Covid seems to have blended several strains of social pathology into a single event. We have the civic religion, but there is also the primitive fear of nature and nature’s wrath. Then there is the panic. This is what really gave the whole thing its juice. Like the satanic panics or the day care panics or the witch trials, the Covid panic caused most people to suspend their sense of disbelief. The lack of evidence became a weird proof of the danger.
Finally, what the Covid panic may indicate is that these ritualized panics will become more common and intense. If people will believe the flu is an extinction event, then they will believe just about anything. It is the old expression, people who believe in nothing will fall for anything. America and the West is now populated with gullible, deracinated primitives looking for a reason to exist. The future may be one crisis after another, each more bizarre and ridiculous than the last.
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