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Between Human and Mother Nature

The pupil of Cleo is attuned to the comic and the frightful to be found in the contemplation of human behaviour during crisis, real or merely apparent. Perhaps nowhere in the annals of Man do hilarity and terror meld so conspicuously.

Thus with the latest species-panic.

This flu is only Mother Nature’s most recent attempt at pedicide. She suckles as well as poisons her own brood. Yet Corona is not, so to speak, so crowning an achievement compared to former attempts (for a brief dossier of our smothering mama: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/respice-finem/ ).

I discovered I had myself been rented out as temporary hostelry to the visiting virus some days after it had already checked out. At the time, I felt only slightly weary, accompanied by a blunting of the olfactory sense (which was only slightly inconvenient to that preplanned visit to the pub). The experience of most people ranges from less than this–an asymptomatic non-experience–to a few days of bodily nastiness, compensated by the opportunity to Netflix one’s way to convalescence.

History does not, cannot, repeat itself, not exactly. But humans tend to the same role, though the play be unique.

Mr Holmes, enlighten us, if you please:

“While the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to.”

What repeats itself is folly, and history lends us a variegated infinitude of circumstance for the making of it.

It is thus beneficial, critical, with a view to the future, to keep in view the past. In our day such as it is we’d do well to keep in mind how ingrained is the tendency to hyperbole and hysteria. To that end I would urge you to think upon the difference between prudence and paranoia. The first leads one to shrewd and pragmatic planning. The latter to agoraphobia, and a sickness often worst than the one it seeks to avoid.

The politician, with a fearful word on his tongue and a “sweeping” plan of .gov action in his hand, will be there, as sure as a Qur’anic sermon on Friday. As will the various .orgs and raveled interests, whose cause can always be advanced and subscriber list lengthened by panic and the heightened susceptibility to suasion which it brings about. (In the spirit of self-candor, there also arrives your Israeli American writer, of libertarian persuasions). Everybody will see in a state of hypertension the opportunity not given him under normal circumstances to manifest his ideal society. A hectic climate is an opportune time for preaching. There is nothing for the presence of fire and flood in the way of stage effects. (Tends to lend spark, see.)

Species-crisis, like war, also reveals a no less sinister aspect of human nature. People with the power to effect social change, under the view that they are in pursuit of something right and noble, will be insensible to the illiberal actions taken in pursuit thereof. That is, when your intentions and goals are above this earth, what does some scorching of it matter? A creeping and sinister ‘un’ tends to slip itself unawares between the two words making up the beautiful compound, humankind. The vigil against this imposter must be continual and keen.

Your Orwellian reference comes in here, as it so often does elsewhere, seamlessly: guard against those warpings and distortions to civil liberty which can occur before society’s eyes while its mind is too absorbed in passing crisis. Liberty is often made to vacate its place in safety’s name. (One need only look to the “redefinition of liberty” which our wayward Western cousins in Australia were so foolish as to effect during the broodier periods of COVID.) Gaia forbid we should fall for such toxic poppycock, lest such policies become permanent. We might find ourselves living in quite the bizarre new state of normal.

About the Author
American by birth; Israeli by birthright. TLVivian by residence. By the year, enough of them. Haim, namely.
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