Friday, March 20, 2020

The Final Solution: Ubiquity

Ubiquitous is probably the best description for the current pandemic. Most misery is conveniently compartmentalized so that a considerable portion of the world is able to take solace in the fact that it’s not happening to them. That's the way many people treat huge hurricanes and tsunamis, their displays of anguish for the victims scarcely belying the glee over the fact that it’s not happening to them. “It could happen to me,” is the punch line of an old joke in which the recipient of much commiseration is finally asked “what could be worse than that?” Many people watch the Weather Channel to indulge their schadenfreude. Most bad things that happen are very far away. The iconic shot of the South Vietnamese general holding his gun to the head of a Viet Cong was estheticized as encapsulating the injustice of the conflict. Pol Pot was like Pere Ubu, Idi Amin a bad joke. But there are no distant observers, no safe vantage point from which to watch this ultimate gladiatorial conflict between man and nature. And yet it’s curious. Since coronavirus is an equal opportunity employer, it’s not like the Holocaust with its built-in racism (though Trump has been taken to task for referring to it as a “Chinese virus”). It’s like an anarchist or nihilistic terrorist whose target is mankind itself. Was it some value-free form of terror like the current pandemic that Mr. Kurtz foresaw when he said "The horror! the horror!"

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