An Anti-Easter Story

If I read Bruce Charlton’s recent posts aright, he sees the present corona panic as a vast swindle by the satanic forces of managerial materialism. The epidemic is real enough, and real people have really died, but the mediated epidemic is propaganda for the doctrine that men and women are meat-sacks, and the lord and savior of meat-sacks is the managerial state.

The mediated epidemic is, in other words, an anti-Easter story in which flesh defeats spirit and all the good guys are priests and Pharisees.

If you wish to convert a man to materialism, you should make him a sybarite or you should make him sick. When a man’s mind is under the influence of pleasure or pain, it is consumed by thoughts of his body, the locus of those sensations, and of the bodies by whose motions those sensations are aroused.

If you wish to persuade him that the managerial state is his lord and savior, you must persuade him that continued pleasure depends on obedience to his managers, and likewise continued freedom from pain.

If Charlton is right, this mediated epidemic is doing to us exactly what the Nine Year’s War did to the people in Huxley’s Brave New World—obliterating the world of spirit and the natural human preference for freedom over security. It is nudging us none too gently into the role of servile swine. Here’s Huxley:

“People still went on talking about truth and beauty as though they were the sovereign goods. Right up to the time of the Nine Years’ War. That made them change their tune all right. What’s the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you?”

And that goes double for mediated anthrax bombs, since mediated bombs can pop as loud and as frequently as is needed to stop that talk of truth and beauty, and start the chant of “Orgy-Porgy.”

After the mediated pops of anthrax bombs have made men and women run into the arms of managerial materialism, the trick will be to keep them in those arms with “universal happiness.” Happiness is, after all, the great tranquilizer, since no one is more at peace with the world than a perfectly happy man. It is the imperfections and disappointments of the material world and its managers that have historically caused men to think of the next world.  So to remove the imperfections and disappointments is to destroy otherworldly thought. As Huxley’s character Mustafa Mond explains to the Savage:

“God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That’s why I keep these books locked up in the safe. They’re smut.”

In Huxley’s Brave New World, all the great books of the Bad Old World are smut, and all the smut of that Bad Old World is just good clean fun. Here’s an inverted hymn I wrote to accompany the anti-Easter story:

Blessed assurance, pleasure is mine
From birth to good death, hog heaven divine
Heir of this wallow, peel, shuck and pod
Born to a porker, washed in this mud

This is my story, this is my song
Praising man-a’-gers, all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising man-a’-gers, all the day long

19 thoughts on “An Anti-Easter Story

  1. Pingback: An Anti-Easter Story | Reaction Times

  2. I don’t know how any sane person could look at what is going on and not come to a conclusion similar to Dr. Charlton’s. We are pretty much living out the reality that every fictional story featuring a post-apocalyptic totalitarian dystopia has warned us about for the last century or so. The “apocalypse” in this case being extremely underwhelming in itself, turning out to be a bad case of the flu.

    If we are being tested from above in all of this, frankly, we are not doing so well. I recently wrote “St. John’s Apocalyptic description of the ultimate totalitarian, the Satanic false messiah who will deceive the world and become global despot prior to the Second Coming of the true Messiah, includes the famous detail that he will require people to receive a mark bearing his name or the number of his name – six hundred, threescore and six – on their right hand or forehead in order to buy or sell. Not a few people have drawn the obvious link between this and the totalitarian nature of a cashless society. Some of the supposedly “Christian” supporters of the “flatten the curve” strategy and its extreme measures, in their almost total disregard for the threat to civil rights and liberties during this universal government power grab and their haste to condemn anyone, but especially other Christians, who dissents from their point of view as “selfish” and “ideological” give every impression of having taken the Mark of the Beast in their hearts already.” While the snark in those remarks was primarily directed against Rod Dreher he is hardly alone in this.

    • There is wisdom, of course, in choosing one’s battles wisely. There is also good sense in taking every opportunity to advance and in not ceding an inch of ground if at all possible. . . that’s one ingredient in the demonic left’s recipe for success. When to apply which principle is a matter of judgment, but the loser right proclaims the former without ever actually making a stand. When will we actually see their strategic move? As the Alt-Right folks like to say, what exactly have conservatives conserved?

  3. If I may butcher a famous speech for it’s relevance here:

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    I believe this society cannot endure, permanently half spiritualist and half materialist.

    I do not expect society to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

    It will become all one thing or all the other.

    Either the opponents of materialism, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike doctrine in all the States.

    Or as you so succinctly put it: It is the habit-breaker.

  4. Yesterday, the government of the region of Moscow ordered the laity to not attend church during Holy Week and Pascha, and since my metropolitan has not blessed us to defy this order, I have no choice but to lead my family in prayer at home. Over the last few weeks, spent mostly at home on quarantine with the wife and child, we have established a rule of prayer together in the mornings, more concentrated and lengthy than usual. May the forced celebration of Pascha at home work paradoxically toward our salvation.

    Lord have mercy.

    • That is sad. We’re still waiting to hear from the bishop what we’ll be able to do for communal Paschal celebrations. I’ve suggested a morning (rather than all night) liturgy in a park. We’ll see. I wish you the best.

  5. Or we know enough a out transmission of diseases for the first time in history to try to prevent a predictable disaster (not black plague level disaster but potentially Spanish flu disaster) and it seems like doing something is the right thing, but we are in uncharted territory about just what and how much it is acceptable to do and who has the authority to enforce what. Try to be a bit charitable.

    • In fairness, the Flu kills more people every year than the Coronavirus has killed so far, and the Flu is extremely predictable in its annual regularity. I’m sure you aren’t suggesting we go on full lockdown every October through April, but if not that leaves the question open as to why we did it in this case.

      • In fairness, nobody is locking anything down based on the number of people the coronavirus *has killed so far*.

      • Help me to understand your reasoning here.

        1- Extreme measures are valid because they prevent disaster comparable to the spanish flu
        2- The Coronavirus hasn’t killed as many people as the spanish flu yet, but we are worried that it will, so the lockdown is justifiable
        3- The common flu kills, in fact, more people than Coronavirus has, in fact, so far.
        4- Therefore: the hypothetical future deaths of Coronavirus justify the lockdown, while the actual current deaths from the Flu do not.

        In other words, hypothetical future deaths of Coronavirus are a greater concern than actual deaths from the flu? Am I misstating your argument?

      • You make decisions based on the future, not the past. If you everything you know is telling you that doing nothing will lead to megadeaths, and that the something you can do about it amounts to making peoples lives somewhat unpleasant for a matter of months and some economic hardships that don’t amount to serious privation by world historical norms and can be mitigated somewhat in any case, and that the something you can do can be undone if you learn something new; it’s not unreasonable that you do something.

        If the Spanish flu had been identified when it was early enough to be eradicated, what would you want the response to have been?

      • Scoot,
        You are always comparing hypothetical deaths to other hypothetical deaths. Thankfully, I am not the King of America and I don’t have to make these decisions, but if I were I would say that the hypothetical future deaths from coronavirus and hypothetical future deaths from influenza are equally important, but that the former justify more concern because there are so many more of them.

      • Josh:

        You are always comparing hypothetical deaths to other hypothetical deaths.

        The Flu has actually killed more people than coronavirus this season. That is a fact. The Flu does this every season. If “number of deaths” is the factor we are concerned about, the common flu has it in spades.

        former justify more concern because there are so many more of them

        I don’t believe this is true. Google has a tool that shows current total coronavirus deaths, globally, at 125,000. According to WHO, the global annual mortality due to common flu is between 225 and 500k, possibly as high as 650k. Annual. I welcome data to the contrary, but what I have seen so far informs my belief that flu is the more terminal illness.

        You make decisions based on the future, not the past

        US Coronavirus cases have “Peaked” and will be declining steadily into the summer. Because those cases have already happened, we should remove them from our decision making and focus instead on the future. Do I understand your position correctly?

        If you everything you know is telling you that doing nothing will lead to megadeaths, and that the something you can do about it amounts to making peoples lives somewhat unpleasant for a matter of months

        This begs the question, presuming that everything we know told us that doing nothing would lead to megadeaths. This is certainly not the case, and that is borne out in the data. Sweden’s mortality rate, a nation which did not lock down, looks very similar to the rest of Europe. The data at the time did not prove that megadeaths were inbound, and the data after the fact does not prove that the measures we took had any effect.
        At risk of making a fallacious argument from personal experience, I work for a hospital in an administrative capacity and it was announced today that big cuts are coming. I don’t know what kind, but the rumor mill suggests it could be everything up to and including layoffs. “making peoples lives somewhat unpleasant” is, at a minimum, flippant. I’m one of the lucky ones, because there’s waitstaff and restauranteurs who aren’t being paid and who can’t make rent because the second the lockdown came down, they were out of work.

        If the Spanish flu had been identified when it was early enough to be eradicated, what would you want the response to have been?

        I certainly would not have wished economic devastation, a total war sacrificing the livelihoods of the populace for the sake of remaining illness free.
        I will end my argument here. The points I wanted to get across are:
        1) If Deaths drive decision making, then Coronavirus isn’t even the biggest threat
        2) If we commit to a social lockdown every time there’s a mild risk of illness, we will destroy ourselves.
        3) The tyranny I am decrying here is the very kind you believe would be most beneficial “for the public good”.
        Maybe I did so ineffectually. That’s on me.

  6. @Josh – It is not about knowing enough but Not knowing enough – and being dishonest about it.

    Read this for the whole argument –

    Or if you just want it in six numbers – try these:

    It is not about new knowledge, but chucking-out many decades of experience and genuine expertise with upper respiratory tract disease outbreaks – on the basis that (without any solid evidence to support the assertion) this is something new and qualitatively different. .

    It is not about doing the right thing, but doing the wrong thing and actively making things worse.

    In fact it is not about the virus as a threat to health but the virus as an excuse for a global totalitarian takeover – which is now in place. Or haven’t you noticed?

    • I haven’t noticed the global totalitarian takeover yet. I’m not sure what you think the numbers on your blog are supposed to prove. Of course there wouldn’t be that many deaths in the early part of a quickly spreading illness. There weren’t even any cases a few months ago. The deaths are doubling just like they said they would, though.

      “The 16,387 deaths that were registered in England and Wales during the week ending 3 April is the highest weekly total since we started compiling weekly deaths data in 2005.”

      and the rate of doubling is slowing since restrictions were put in place, just like they said it would. I’m not saying that everything is being handled perfectly. Its probably being handled badly, but it all seems within the realm of statesmanship.

      Wouldn’t your arguments apply equally well to the black plague?

      • Just as whole lot of trees taken together comprise a forest so totalitarian police states being enacted by national, regional, and local governments all over the world with the aid of the mass media, multinational corporations, and the technocrats add up to a global totalitarian takeover.

      • Josh, your arguments seem reasonable, but there are other alternatives between shutting down the country and laissez-faire. Minor inconveniences would be easy to swallow, but having governors pretty much suspend civil law over this level of threat has to shock even “Remember Waco” USG cynics. I think that most critics of our lockdown policies would approve of more measured responses geared to keep the most vulnerable safe, but cost-benefit analysis appears to have been trumped (indeed, even Trumped) by craven appeasement to hysteria or, worse, a totalitarian itch that doesn’t want to waste a crisis in its scratchlust.
        By the way, scholars estimate that the Black Death killed at least a third of the population. If 100 million Americans would die from this virus in the next few years, I doubt that anyone here would object to heavy-handed government impositions in order to protect public health. That isn’t what we have. I just found that about four million Americans have died in motor vehicle accidents over the past 120 years — with many millions more injured (that’s around 33k annually). Yet, we still have fast cars and speed limits that allow for lethal crashes. Heart disease factors in 25% of ALL American deaths, and yet we still have work routines, urban planning, and food that contribute to heart disease. Government and public health officials normally weigh pros and cons for policies, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with M M M My Corona.

    • Agree with Josh, I don’t see how the numbers Dr. Charlton cites are commensurate. Don’t you have to compare over similar time periods? In the U.S., for example, Corona only really got going within the last two or three weeks. Roughly 2k dead daily from Corona in the U.S. for about the last week. That’s quite a few as a percentage of our typical daily death totals. Much higher percentage in certain hot spots like New York of course (NYC had about twice its normal monthly death total during the past month). Fortunately, new cases seem to have started leveling off.
      Seems like we have the panickers on the one hand, who think that Corona will wipe out multiple millions in the U.S. alone, and the meta-panickers on the other, who think that the measures that public officials have taken are the first step in an incipient global totalitarian take-over (um, the global totalitarian take-over happened a while ago). Like Josh, I don’t see it. A parsimonious explanation is that public officials may have overreacted to something for which they had limited information, that’s all.

      • (um, the global totalitarian take-over happened a while ago)

        lol! If I didn’t laugh I would cry. That’s a good point: All of this is happening not because of some new development, but because it happened a long time ago and they don’t feel threatened.


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