These last few years have felt nothing short of apocalyptic. A worldwide pandemic followed by nationwide civic unrest (also known as “mostly peaceful protests”), and now an inflation hangover. It was as though the world was an anthill colony that just had been kicked by a five-year-old boy. And just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, another deadly virus has been unleashed upon the weary world. Say hello to Virus X! What is currently known about Virus X is that it is highly contagious (even more contagious than Coronavirus) and the symptoms are as follows: fear, self-righteousness, enemy-centered outrage, and a tendency toward mob justice.
What is Virus X? As of today, Anthony Fauci cannot be found for comment and Biden’s press secretary has yet to acknowledge its existence. CNN, Fox, Time, and Newsweek have all been conspicuously silent regarding the new contagion. One possible reason for media silence was provided by the WHO which recently stated, “We believe that we have located ground zero of Virus X. From careful contact tracing the virus was traced back to several TV news studios.” The statement concludes, “The transmission of Virus X is unlike any other. Virus X apparently attaches to news stories right before it is literally broadcasted out to the public.” Support for this theory is based on the fact that infection rates appear to be astronomically higher among those who consume an average of 2 or more hours of news programming per day.
And while the infection rate for Virus-X is apparently doubling every 10 days, scientists are only now discovering how the virus interacts with its human host. The virus first attaches to any news story that is based on binary oppositions: left and right, racist and anti-racist, progressive and conservative, fascist and anti-fascist, angels, and demons. Currently, there are thousands upon thousands of “binary-code” news stories being produced and published for human consumption every day. But now, these “binary-code” news stories have become carriers of a new highly contagious virus, Virus X.
Once Virus X penetrates the body through the eyes or the ears of a news consumer it immediately seeks out the part of the brain responsible for identifying “friend or foe.” The amygdala is a rather primitive organ used to assess the threat of imminent danger, which is why they call it the “reptilian brain.” Normally the other regions of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex act to keep the amygdala from becoming overly stimulated. But Virus X has a neutralizing effect on these other regions. As a result, the amygdala sensors remain open and receptive to incoming signals. Exposed to an endless flood of fight-or-flight news stories, the amygdala literally heats up and becomes inflamed.
An overly stimulated amygdala causes a person to feel increasingly anxious, and agitated. Those who suffer from an inflamed amygdala are captive to the binary code logic of “fight or flight.” Other iterations of the “fight or flight” program are “friend or foe”, “right or wrong” and, of course, the mother of them all, “good or evil.” Scientists, theologians, and psychiatrists believe the virus is behind the marked surge in public incivility on Twitter as well as in downtown Portland, Oregon. A leading epidemiologist from the University of Science believes that Virus X has been around for a long time, and was likely responsible for triggering the Salem Witch trials, the Spanish Inquisition, as well as the Red Scare of 1950s America.
Virus X ultimately destroys its victim’s sense of security and existential equilibrium; in the late stages of the disease, people report that they are no longer able to view the world outside of the “fight or flight” perspective. These same people have reported experiencing an unusual obsession with the need to be perceived as “a good person” accompanied by a powerful longing to reach and secure the moral high ground over and against the “evil people.” This sense of moral superiority in the infected subject is often manifested in the desire to crusade against various perceived evils and publically “call out” others’ transgressions.
It is believed that by the end of next week, over 4 billion people will be infected with Virus X. Meanwhile, the effects of the virus on society are already being felt. Triggered by a relentless daily surge of infected messages on their phones, radios, television, and computer monitors, people are becoming increasingly agitated and aggressive. Gus Williams’ hardware store was vandalized last night by some of his neighbors who sprayed-painted in big red letters the words, “RACIST!” on his store window (interesting fact, Gus Williams is a 68-year-old black man).
With each new day, evidence continues to point to news media outlets as the epicenter and medium for virus X and its transmission. With the force of a tsunami wave, through every conceivable portal, every hour on the hour, pedantic and vacuous admonitions ring forth: “Don’t be a brutal rapist! Don’t be a white supremacist! Don’t be a greedy capitalist!” “Don’t be a Nazi!” We are witnessing the resurgence of the old Falwellian “moral majority”, a modern-day inquisition, and a fanatical cult, whose members are possessed by pure ideology. If the spell is not lifted soon, our public discourse, which was already broken, will be lost and the damage to our country will be irrevocable. Virus X has been unleashed – the initial signs are not good and the future outlook is terrifying
The above report is an allegory that attempts to describe the indescribable and assail the unassailable. What is the actual name and what is the root cause of this spiritual and social pandemic? You can call it whatever you like. I will call it, the all too human instinct to cover one’s ass. I will call it fanatical moralism combined with the detestable practice of virtue signaling. Just look at our current medieval court of public opinion where we have substituted “stock and pillory” with “call-out and cancel.” And by the way, who vetted these self-appointed inquisitors, these “guardians of the good”? Sadly, in spite of the horrors of the pandemic, economic downturn, and social upheaval, nothing has changed. No one is coming to save us.
You may feel tempted to join the infected mob in their blind pursuit of immunity (immunization) on top of Mt. Moral High Ground, but you must resist the temptation. For, the more we attempt to claim the moral high ground for ourselves, over and against “them”, the faster the ground erodes beneath our feet. To quote Yeats, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” But perhaps, all is not lost.
Ezekiel was commissioned to walk the length and breadth of death valley, “it was full of bones.” Upon his return the Lord greeted Ezekiel with a pointed question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered, “O Lord GOD, only you know.” In recent years, we have experienced pestilence, lawlessness, eroding trust in our institutions and leaders, as well as the collapse of our civic discourse. Can these bones live? As with Ezekiel, the answer depends on who is asking the question.