On Plagues, Prophecies, and Truth Falling by the Wayside

April 6, 2020 Updated: April 7, 2020

Commentary

Painfully aware of our mortality, humankind has continuously sought to buffer itself against the existential threats of the natural world. This instinct has led to the prescription of various methods of self-regulation and societal organization. Where we are at today is the result of a centuries-long experiment to deduce mankind’s most beneficial modes of being. Sometimes we have worked wonders while other times we failed catastrophically.

Over the ages, civilizations have risen and fallen. The historical record shows time and time again that when a civilization fell, it was almost always preceded by a period of immorality, decadence, or tyranny.

From the withering of the Greek Empire, to the Fall of Rome, to the collapse of the Eastern European communist bloc in more modern times, hindsight points to moral decay either in the citizenry or the leadership. Greece gradually relinquished the pursuit of knowledge for hedonism, Rome persecuted the Christians, and the USSR arbitrarily brutalized and starved its own citizens. In China, too, a change in dynasty was almost always preceded by corrupt leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left us wondering in isolation why the world as we know it has been brought to its knees. Is it due solely to the pandemic or is there a deeper reason? We instinctively want to understand the mechanisms behind the seemingly random events of the world by pondering both the material and metaphysical realities behind them.

To this end, it’s worth taking a look at how pandemics and prophesies are linked by indelible principles of moral conduct that go beyond mere conjecture.

Morality and the Metaphysical

Humankind has been transfixed by prophecy since time immemorial. Nostradamus is perhaps the most often cited due to his uncanny prediction of world events—from the rise of Hitler to the falling of the Twin Towers on 9/11. As with all prophecy, the language is poetic, vague, and open to interpretation, but pointed enough to ring with truth. The Mayan calendar, another object of fascination, had a great number of people on edge in 2012, the year the calendar abruptly ended. For Christians, the Book of Revelations has long served as the most dire warning of the consequences of man’s moral weaknesses.

It’s human nature to look for ways to predict the future in uncertain times. This holds true today as much as it did in the past. An example is the recent Twitter storm surrounding Sylvia Browne’s 2008 book “End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies About the End of the World,” in which she writes: “In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments.”

Post-outbreak, the relatively obscure book became an instant bestseller.

This search for signposts about the future stems from an instinct for self-preservation and a need to believe there is a way out of the pandemic and the upheaval it has wrought.

Truth, the Foremost Virtue

Much of the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic can be placed squarely on a singular moral failing of our times—the rejection of truth as the primary virtue that sustains civilization—which not only led to the outbreak but hastened its spread throughout the world. The pandemic is serving as a painful and palpable reminder of the absolute need for truth, trust, and transparency.

Since the outbreak, which began in Wuhan and was initially covered up by the Chinese regime, many governments and organizations have inflated Beijing’s influence and pretence of power and succumbed to appeasement out of their own self-interest or fear. Even with ample evidence to the contrary, few are willing to do anything but take the regime’s propaganda at face value—propaganda that now includes trying to pin the blame for the pandemic on the United States.

The World Health Organization was full of praise for China’s negligent response to the outbreak, never once questioning the legitimacy of the official narrative on the matter. Even when it became increasingly clear that the virus could become a pandemic, those who suggested travel bans or mandatory quarantine for travellers from China were deemed xenophobic and quickly silenced at Beijing’s behest. There was a serious lack of transparent discussion on these matters even when it became clear that there was a well-founded risk to public health.

This endless kowtowing to Beijing by governments lured by economic benefit have made them willing partners in the regime’s deceit. And for that they are paying a steep price.

Our current, inverted relationship with truth, along with our tolerance for duplicity, is best described in Elena Gorokhova’s Soviet era coming-of-age tale, “A Mountain of Crumbs.” She describes the state’s political deception thus: “The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.”

The fine points of morality can be endlessly debated, but the self-evident superiority of truth cannot be wholly removed from its metaphysical underpinnings because its value, especially in times of crisis, is absolute. There is no substitute. Without truth and trust there is no commerce, peace, democracy, or sustainable future. It took centuries for us to get this relationship right and we are in grave danger of losing it.

Without truth, our ability to differentiate between good and evil is severely hindered. We see this play out in China today where the moral corruption of communist ideology has infiltrated every aspect of life, leaving  people bereft of the compassion, fortitude, and humility needed to weather any coming storms. This moral handicapping cannot be compensated for by affluence or material comfort—superficial trappings that can’t endure without a sufficient ethical compass to keep them in check. China has sought to buy the soul of its people with material wealth. It should not be permitted to do the same to other nations.

The world needs to re-align itself with the concepts of transparency, trust, and honesty before it’s too late. Governments must recognize their missteps and correct course, and the people must demand that, while also coming to terms with their own fear-bound deceptions. We need to be stoic in our response, unbending in our pursuit and loyalty to truth lest we become the unwitting inheritors of dark prophecy.

There is room for optimism in this. If we can awaken to the threat of deception and align ourselves with the foremost moral virtue, it might just set us free. And it might just help alleviate the next pandemic.

Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.