or: How can we ever let people die again?
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The Essay „Die Schuld der Schafe“ has received wide distribution in its original German version and has found a surprising response. In order for the essay to be made available to an international audience, the text was translated into English by Thomas Morgenroth (Ireland) and Kaweh Etminan-Rad (Montana/USA).
The year 2020 will go down in history as the Corona year. And if we wish so, every future year will also be a Corona- or „Virus-XYZ-year“. It depends on what moral standards we apply to natural given normalities. Above all, however, it depends on our media need for arousal, on how spellbound we look and how sentimental we want to empathize. It depends on whether we want to view every old person who dies as an avoidable victim, his passing as a scandal and catastrophe – or whether we behave mentally as we did all the years before, in which we, though probably with slight dishonesty to our inner selves, knew how to come to terms with the inescapable in a pragmatic way.
Yes: Covid-19 is a serious disease. Nobody wants to get it, nobody wants to end up in an intensive care unit. Nobody wants to suffocate in overcrowded hospital corridors while overwhelmed, desperate doctors collapse weeping around them. Nobody wants to die. Even the 85-year-old doesn’t want to die when he could actually live until 95.
Personally, I don’t even want to be at home in bed for seven days and feel as miserable as I did a few years ago with conventional flu.
But: What I want for myself personally and what I think is sensible in terms of the common good operates on two different stages. A tragic element inevitably comes into play here, because the conflict between the private and the political can rarely be resolved straight out. The State is not the citizen’s family doctor. The State must be able to endure people dying. The State cannot save every single life of each of its citizens at any cost. He must not. People who demand this anyway are a-political, moralistic extremists. They are apparently in the majority, and they are currently trying to establish what is known as the “new normal”.
The minority, who are still sane, currently have one of the most important tasks in (sorry, it can’t be said any smaller) human history: To resist against all majority and media pressure to ever recognize the current situation as „normal“.
Repressing death, displacing the dead
If we take a look at the “old normal“ from a “new-normal” perspective, we have to admit that we could have counted every death in a retirement home every year before and published it in the daily news, and we could continue to do so from now on. However: we simply can not, because we will have to find out that we cannot live like this. We have to repress the scandal of death and we have to stay away from the large numbers because we cannot adequately process them with our evolutionarily grown emotional-cognitive equipment. If we pile up all deceased Germans to a mountain of corpses every day and celebrate this sentimentally in breaking news broadcasts, we will go crazy. Corona or not – around 2500 people die in Germany every single day, 900 of them in German retirement homes alone.
Of course this is a scandal, but not a health policy one, but an existential one. We will not be able to reduce this number significantly unless we prohibit people from all dangerous activities and compel them to a maximum health lifestyle. But even then, we’ll just postpone the numbers. The 2500 who do not die today and do not die tomorrow will then die a year later, maybe even ten years later, they will not die of pneumonia in the nursing home, but fall asleep peacefully or fall off their bikes. And even if we increase the average life expectancy to 150 years, at some point 2500 people will die again every day. In Germany alone.
And while we’re at it: Of all who die in Germany each year (an average of 950,000), around one percent(!) are „corona deaths“. And one can probably assume that in truth there are even less, seeing that truck accident victims whose autopsy revealed virus fragments are reassigned as corona cases. In 2020, no more people have died of seasonal respiratory infections than normal. The proportion of so-called corona deaths in the total number of deaths is extremely low compared to deaths from cancer, heart attacks, injuries and poisoning deaths, etc.
The sleepwalking Zeitgeist
What does our handling of the coronavirus say about our mentality? That seems to me the crucial question. Because if we don’t get our fears, our blindnesses, hysteria and conformity addictions under control, then humankind will continue to accelerate down a slippery slope. More lockdown measures combined with the voluntary paralysis of human life will lead to our extermination faster than any climate catastrophe, every world war and every killer virus.
This voluntariness is very much in need of explanation. At some point, if things get all too wild and weird, people could protest, rebel, revolt against measures imposed by the government and perceived as being excessive. That we are actually as far away as possible from the revolt, united in fear and almost one hundred percent in agreement with the most insane restrictions in life – that really is scary.
Like all strange developments in recent years, “Corona” is primarily a Zeitgeist problem that can only be insufficiently explained on the level of rational decision making, ill will or political failure. Because what we observe, live and in real time, is the collective unconscious at work, the sleepwalking Zeitgeist in its dreamy work of destruction.
I don’t believe for a second that we are dealing with nasty machinations by dark powers, that world domination plans and political calculations or economic and financial interests play a significant role in all of this. Of course, someone will want to make money on a vaccine that would be administered to seven billion people a year. Of course, a certain conservative politician wants to make a name for himself as a crisis manager in order to improve his chances for chancellery. Of course, an insecure population is more docile and manageable. But that doesn’t explain anything. This does not explain why the people in Germany behaved like a frightened flock of sheep even before it came to government actions, and displayed a crisis-loving comfort in solidarity and “cleanliness”. Why they shouted “Please stay healthy!” with hygienic cordiality at every opportunity. But why talk in past tense? They still do it: They wear masks (even where they don’t have to), they have themselves registered on lists, they carry their fate with composure and humor. But they have no concern that all of this may be completely senseless, could prove fatally and irreversibly destructive.
Never before has a population been so unquestionably convinced of the correctness of their decisions. Yes, their decisions. We will not be able to blame the consequences of the Corona madness on the politicians alone. The people wanted it. This time they really wanted it. At least 90 percent wanted to let humanity stumble into the abyss, they did not want to wake up, did not want to work through the unconscious, to examine, question and doubt. Did not want to deal with the fact of omnipresent death in an adult way. They wanted to remain children, they didn’t want to know what they could have known, they wanted to be lazy and cowardly and treated like minors. This time it is not Merkel’s fault, not Trump, not the EU, not the AfD. Not even Bill Gates. It’s their own fault.
Flocks, shepherds, herding dogs
Only their herding dogs are more guilty than the sheep. The mainstream media are the drivers of the Zeitgeist. But what is driving the media? Or who? Who is the shepherd?
Well, looking around, I would say there is no shepherd and that may be the problem. The idea that the politicians are the shepherds who control the herd with the help of their media herding dogs is wrong. The politicians are just as driven as any other sheep. At most they are something like alpha animals, if such exist in sheep. I don’t want to stretch the herd analogy here, but our contemporary society actually resembles a herd without shepherd in which the herding dogs are in charge. Of course, “being in charge” does not mean that they are really in control. With their limited cognitive resources and their intimidating barking, they maintain a certain conformity, thus avoiding total chaos. But one would hardly expect real cybernetic skills from them. They take care that no animals get away from the flock, but they will not lead the herd to fresh green pasture in a planned and orderly manner. – But now, enough of the pastoral lyrics.
What is driving the media? That is the all-important question. Why were they not interested in the truth from the start? Not that the truth was openly public, but that is precisely why it would have been the task of journalists, especially those in the state funded media, to shed light on the diffuse truth, slowly emerging from the fog of ignorance; discuss from all perspectives, doubt, convey the state of affairs, open media space for complex debates and endure all contributions in all their hypothetical provisionality.
It could have been the hour of the media. The great time of cool observers, level-headed analysts, experts for clever questions and discursive diversity. The mainstream journalists, however, agreed that it was the hour of the executive and, above all, the hour of the virologists.
Why did they have to join forces within a very short period of time to form the usual opinion cartel, outside of which all divergent views had to be regarded as crude, crazy, controversial and thus somehow right wing and extreme and conspiracy theory?
I have to admit that I don’t understand it. For a television journalist it should be the most interesting and tempting thing of all to put the SPD politician and medical doctor Karl Lauterbach and the SPD politician and medical doctor Wolfgang Wodarg in a TV studio and let them discuss their opposing views. The ratings and media library ratings of Markus Lanz would surpass all previous levels if he were to confront Christian Drosten, who is about to be canonized, with the world’s most cited epidemiologist, John Ioannidis.
Obviously, something like that is not within the realm of the imaginable. The maximum of tolerable diversity of opinion seems to be to bring the slightly uncomfortable Professor Hendrik Streeck into conversation with the ex-bishop Margot Käßmann.
Why – seriously – was there never a program in which Minister of Health Jens Spahn argued with the doctor Gunter Frank, or the virologist Melanie Brinkmann with the finance professional Stefan Homburg? Why didn’t a talk show presenter let the strange microbiologist Alexander Kekulé meet the strange doctor Bodo Schiffmann? Why did the „dissident“ government official Stephan Kohn not meet his own Interior Minister Horst Seehofer? From my point of view, even journalist Düzen Tekkal could have dueled the cookbook author Attila Hildmann. At least it would have been interesting.
But that doesn’t happen. The Talk in the Hangar on Servus TV is a notable exception. But unfortunately nobody views it. Nobody I know has ever heard of it. I also don’t think that Plasberg, Will, Maischberger, Hayali, Illner, Kähler and whatever all their names are, even know that there is a Michael Fleischhacker from whom they could perhaps learn something about professional, that is: impartial, enlightening conduct of discussion.
Can we ever let people die again?
How will it go on? I’m afraid: catastrophic. The decision to handle the infectious disease Covid-19 the way we do in fact implies to acknowledge that we apparently always acted wrong in earlier times; cruelly, at least frivolously. From a new normal perspective, we should never have allowed ten thousand, twenty thousand people to die in any prior flu season. According to the standards that we have been applying since Corona, the federal and state governments should never have allowed people to get into contact with viruses and die of the diseases they cause. All those in charge who in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 simply watched the waves of influenza flooding through Germany and killing 20-25,000 people each time would have to – if things were „right“ (i.e. with the currently applicable standards) – retrospectively be held accountable. They did not avoid avoidable sacrifices but negligently let nature take its course.
But, even if I would hardly prefer anything more than to see the entire headless political elite removed from their offices and positions: Such an alleged negligence would be the wrong accusation. One can certainly hold a Health Minister responsible for failing to ensure the production of disinfectants and protective masks in his own country. That he does not improve the hygiene standards in nursing homes and clinics. But he cannot be blamed for people putting themselves in danger during his tenure simply by living their lives, and losing their lives as a result.
Right now I see on TV that a school somewhere in the country is being closed down because a child was tested positive (no illness or death, there was only a positive test result). A camera team reports. A man with a microphone and a worried face stands in front of an empty school building. “Our reporter on site” gives his assessments of the situation live.
How – I beg you – shall we ever get down from this level of insanity?
The reasons with which the current measures are justified would have to be applied consistently to every future disease occurrence. How can a politician ever again explain to the public that he will let 5000 people die of the flu this year? How should he ever be able to make plausible again that schools, stadiums, shops, churches, pubs remain open without restrictions if even a single virus death is reported in the area?
If we look closely – that is, carry out tests, take samples, dissect dead bodies – we will find some virus deaths every day for all eternity. We will experience preventable deaths every day. And every day we will find dead people who would not have died if they had not got into the car, if they had not climbed the ladder, if they had not gone to the swimming pool, if they had not moved to Beirut, if they had not become pregnant, had not eaten the self-picked mushrooms.
If we seriously pursue the goal of actually avoiding all avoidable death – no matter what the cost – then we are finished, then we go extinct.
The hopeless moments in which I almost long for this extinction are becoming more frequent.
© Marcus J. Ludwig 2020
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