Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Final Solution: The Eleventh Plague

"Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law" by Rembrandt (1659)
There’s no chosen people whose first-borns will be spared and given free passage. No malevolent monarch or civilization is being punished for their tyrannies. It’s as if the biblical story of Exodus were deconstructed. But if the current scourge is a product of a culture what are the contingencies that have informed it? One of the things that defines coronavirus is its contagiousness and hence ubiquity. It’s democratic. It’s the great leveler of social status, of economic inequality and ultimately of the individualistic fantasy of a great chain of being, of the Calvinist idea of the saved and the damned. This llth plague is value-free. If there's anything good to be said about the scourge, it's that all of humanity has finally been put in the same boat. It challenges the very notion of morality of a Manichean universe, since there's no notion of good or bad, of agency. Neither Egyptians, nor Ugly Americans nor millenarian terrorists are exempt. White supremacists and evangelicals who refuse to practice social distancing are felled along with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a much-loved CNN anchor, Chris Cuomo. The notion of punishment is inapplicable since the victims are random. The shelter-in-place mandates are the same ones used for an active shooter, like the one who randomly mowed down concert goers from a Las Vegas hotel window without regard for race, sex or political status. There will be no miracles or Exodus (in fact it’s just the reverse—everyone’s told to stay in) and no sea that's going to part--for anyone.

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