People are hunkering down in their living-room bunkers, worried about going outside and catching the virus, worried about giving the virus to someone else. But perhaps this way of thinking is subtly more selfish than selfless, more mindful of oneself than of the common good. We are not responsible, after all, for how a virus mutates, reproduces, and spreads. When we “flatten the curve,” we inflate our own sense of importance. Cowering at home, we are saving the world.
Jesus tells us, by contrast, to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, to perform corporal works of mercy—visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, burying the dead. We cannot control what a virus does, but we can take responsibility for our hearts and souls. The elderly are lonelier now than ever before, Masses are empty, the Blessed Sacrament is without company. We listen to “experts” and bureaucrats, but not to Christ. Christ did not say “Every man for himself,” but “No greater love hath a man than this.”
The coronavirus has shown us the moral decline of modern man. Our societies hide death, tuck it away in the dark. The infirm and mentally unwell are “euthanized,” the unborn are aborted if deemed inconvenient. These people are unnamed in the papers, even, in the case of the holy innocents, unnamed before God. No one in the mainstream papers discusses the death that we have trained ourselves not to see.
But when modern society denies the reality of death, it also hides God and makes salvation harder to gain. Having rejected the Holy Catholic Faith, modern society cowers in terror at the prospect of the body’s demise. At all costs, death must be avoided. When it cannot be avoided, it must be concealed. And when it cannot be concealed, the subject must be changed: it is racist to discuss a virus, the media told us. Secularists still whistle past the graveyard, only the tune has changed in modern times.
These lockdowns are showing how utterly ineffective the modern regime is, how powerless to understand the meaning of human life, or death. We assume we are sovereign individuals and so we retreat to our castles and haul up the drawbridge, daring the virus to defy our absolute political will. But the virus mocks us. We cry “Equality for all!” but the virus puts the lie to that, too. Some people who are infected quickly perish. Some people don’t even notice they have been infected. Big Brother tells us that equality will translate into safety, though. Stay home, flatten the curve, all are equal, on average you will not die.
On average, you will not die. This is the modernist substitute for immortality. The Great Algorithm has determined that most of you will live. Act in unison, assert your equality, maintain your sovereign defense. Modern society has no cures and no real answers, but it does have strategies and probabilities. God does not exist—because God would by definition be more powerful than the modern secular state. But the virus exists, because the virus confirms the state’s necessity. Shields up, souls off, experts on the move. Turn on your television, await orders from Party Central.
Here is the liberty of the modern world: the bunker, the basement, the sick ward.
Here are liberalism and globalism: viruses unbounded, and sins too. We are armoured and ensconced, but vulnerable as anyone ever was. Pornography viewing is setting new records as hundreds of millions of modern sovereigns sit at home alone. We can access vice from almost anywhere, we can spread disease around the world at five hundred knots, but this borderless freedom has imprisoned us at home, pathetically alone in front of a glowing screen. We are all globally connected, we are told. Meanwhile, even before the coronavirus pandemic, there was the pandemic of loneliness, the pandemic of pornography and blatant hatred for one another and ourselves.
Here, too, is ecumenism, aggiornamento, the windows thrown open to the world: no Mass, no sacraments, no Christian life. Will the Buddhists come to consecrate the Host? Will the Protestants chrism our loved ones whom God calls home? Will the CDC or the WHO send a friar to pray for the souls of the faithful departed? Maybe the phone company will arrange for a nice non-denominational Zoom service once the corona turmoil has passed. With notable exceptions, our bishops have been largely AWOL. Is this the New Evangelization—running away?
And, observe, democracy: average people demanding that governments take tyrannical measures that no monarchy in the past would have dared to adopt, or even dreamed of in the first place. House arrest for entire nations. Mass surveillance, tracking, forcible vaccination, brutal arrests and beatings for people caught walking around. Take the governor of Michigan and compare her with Louis XIV—I will wager that King Louis XIV would be among the Michiganders now, fighting the dictator and her goons.
This chaos reminds us of a very important point. Human nature does not change. Modernity, which includes the paradoxes and ironies listed above, and many more besides, is entirely against human nature. It advances principles that human beings cannot endure. These principles don’t work, because they are alien to our humanity. So modernity doubles down, pressing us to be even more unlike that which we really are.
Here is one of modernity’s many errors: freedom as an end in itself. People need order first. With order, there can be true freedom. Without order, no one is free. Modernity has privileged freedom—license, mad hedonism, complete disregard for consequences or for other human beings—and order has given way to pandemonium as a result. When a crisis hits, we can see that we were sold a bill of goods. We have neither freedom nor order. We have a state with delusions of omnipotence, and a population with the illusion of democratic control.
If you want to know what the state really thinks of voters, try visiting one of the states where walking in the park is forbidden. You have no freedom, but you do have order, the order of the nightstick and the bullhorn. You may stand in a straight line to have your mugshot taken. You may wait in an orderly cell to be arraigned. Thou shalt not walk in the park. Thou shalt not play in the sunshine. The state dispenses violence and calls it peace. The state denies the need for order, but human nature requires it, so at the end of the day human nature wins and you get an order, but one so harsh than even the pagan civilizations of old would have quailed and rebelled. Pagans did not know charity, so the law tended to be talionic, but by the same measure fair. At the very least, pagans knew human nature, while we have forgotten. A pagan quarantine would take human nature into account. Today, we have only the law, cold, robotic, and absolute. In your homes, citizens. The state has spoken. (But remember to vote!)
Here’s another error: the borderless world. If you are behind a door, then you have disproven the central tenet of globalism. Even globalists use padlocks. Letting in anyone at any time to any place is madness. A fair society, a sane society, discriminates: who will help build our society, who will help lift up our communities in charity and respect? Not everyone is Mother Teresa. The state tells you that it is evil to apply reason in your daily life. You must prop the door open for all. That theory has been blown apart by the coronavirus. Borders, walls, fences, gates that lock as well as open: without these, we are in hell, where the price of admission is exactly the same as to modernity, and the bar is set just as low.
The modern world has rejected Catholic order, but it did not get complete freedom in exchange. It got a hard order instead, the order of the iron fist. Catholic charity, the tender regard for the weak and suffering—these are gone. We have the catechism of Malthus now: count the living, count the dying, run the numbers, only the strong shall survive. New York governor Andrew Cuomo, one of the world’s champions of infanticide, diversified his portfolio by including geronticide as well. He deliberately condemned people in nursing homes to death. They probably weren’t going to vote for him anyway. And, after all, they were old and weak. Sparta needs warriors; old men eat what young men need for battle. That’s one kind of order. Not Christ’s order, but order of a certain making.
It is an irony, though, that this lockdown, which is the greatest honor ever paid to Malthus, has succeeded in guaranteeing human misery. We all run the risk of dying if we go outside while the virus is abroad. A lockdown, however, destroys society absolutely. The chances of the economy collapsing and people falling into depression and despair if forced to stay indoors are one hundred percent.
And we have to go through all this bad Malthusian theatre just to play along with the government’s belief that it has everything under control. We are essentially waiting for the government’s God moment, the moment when it announces it has developed a vaccine and we are all in the clear. The government cannot admit its intrinsic impotence to control disease, so it controls people instead. The people pay the price for the government’s dangerous illusions. Democracies force their own people to beg for the authoritarian measures which alone are touted as remedies for what democracy has wrought. Begin with the Bastille, end with Robespierre, and then get Napoleon to boot. Every time.
There is an inbuilt ranking to human beings. We have layers of life in us. Our spirit outranks our flesh. Our souls are greater than our bodies. If we cling only to the life of cells, we will lose that which makes us human in the first place. We are not biological processes. We are children of Almighty God. We are in this world for only a little while. We are as the flowers of the field. Monks used to keep skulls on their writing tables to remind them of this. He who lays up his treasure in Heaven will be happy with God forever. He who lays up his treasure on earth will know only the thief, rust, and the worm. Where is our treasure laid up?
There is a virus stalking us now, but that virus does not stalk alone. Our false principles have been killing us, body and soul, long before the horror out of Wuhan. Individualism, atheism, democracy, liberalism, globalism, egalitarianism—these are our real death, and they did not first strike us in 2019. Before we were worried about Chinese viruses, were we worried about Chinese communism? Is this not chief among the “errors of Russia” about which Our Lady warned us 103 years ago? Why did it take us more than a century, and all the nightmares that filled it, to wake up to what Our Mother told us in love and gentleness?
Let us see this moment for what it surely is: God’s chastisement upon a stiff-necked people. My brothers and sisters, let us take heed, and repent, and believe in the Gospel. Pray, make sacrifices, offer up the sufferings God sees fit to send us. This virus will soon abate, and the sins of the world will pile higher. Justice will be done, sooner or later. We do not know the hour, but we know the need, now, for conversion, penance, and Jesus Christ.
Paul de Lacvivier is the President of Ōken Gakkai in Tokyo, Japan