Psychic Pandemic: A Contrarian View of the COVID-19 Response

March 29, 2020 Updated: April 5, 2020


There may be a silver lining to the coronavirus. Mass shootings are being put on hold (there are no masses, sacred or secular). At the Roxham Road unauthorized border crossing, busloads of illegal aliens (sorry, “irregular migrants”) are no longer being cordially welcomed by the RCMP with Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. Whenever they find themselves in flyover country, progressives now have a legitimate reason to practice social distancing. And more Americans may, belatedly, come to recognize the prudence of Donald Trump’s admonitions about our addiction to cheap Chinese labour, and the vulnerability of the U.S. “supply chain” to the malevolent whims of a communist dictatorship.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that we are experiencing a full-blown psychic pandemic, in addition to the viral one. Does anyone remember a run on grocery stores during the HIV, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 epidemics? As one wag on the radio observed, if you need to lay in that many rolls of Charmin, you ought to have scheduled a visit to your doctor long ago.

In response to what he has described as a dire emergency, Canada’s prime minister is, as usual, more scrupulous about observing progressive pieties than taking the obvious and necessary steps to avert it. Forty-eight hours after Trudeau’s March 16 announcement of new air travel restrictions, flights from China were still landing at Canada’s major airports—where Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s “enhanced security measures” continued to consist in adding a single question on kiosk touch-screens about whether incoming passengers had travelled to Hubei province.

Fully six weeks earlier, Trump had already sensibly banned all flights from China, for which he was immediately accused of “racism” by the Democrats. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia—hysterical xenophobia—and fear-mongering,” Joe Biden remonstrated, making it clear, I think, that Trump was not merely guilty of “hysteria and xenophobia” but “hysterical xenophobia.” But Trudeau would never do anything that might be construed as “racist,” would he?

With the exception of the leftist Western media, we are all by now aware of the fact that, had the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) not brutally covered it up (for over a month, in fact, after they first learned of the outbreak in early December 2019), the current pandemic would almost certainly have been averted. COVID-19 should be re-named COVERUP-19. In the 20th century, international communism gave the world psychiatric prisons, re-education camps, penal colonies, and industrial methods of extermination. In the 21st, it has added virulent contagious disease to its exported benefactions.

Given the CCP’s criminal behavior, closing airports to citizens from the country in which the virus originated—the Wuhan virus, as it was first called, before the Party persuaded a compliant Western media to desist from any more “racial stereotyping”—is hardly hysterical, but putting the entire planet under lockdown and decimating the world economy in the process probably is. “Facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams famously said, but never stubborn enough to force entry into the portals of the apocalyptic mind enjoying the thrill of imminent world extinction.

The facts remain that the ordinary flu is contracted by a billion people annually and causes 300,000 to 600,000 deaths. (At the time of writing, 707,000 cases of COVID-19 and 33,500 deaths had been reported worldwide.) In 2009, the H1N1 virus inflicted between 150,000 and 575,000 fatalities. SARS (2002-4) and MERS (2012, 2015, and 2018), while relatively contained, both had mortality rates substantially higher than the coronavirus. It is often said that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is exponentially greater than those of H1N1 or the common flu. But according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of those who carry the new virus have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic—which means that its actual mortality rate is exponentially lower than has been bruited about.

There seems to be a palpable disproportion between the 65 deaths caused so far in Canada (pop. 37 million) and the shuttering of an entire nation.

In “times like these” we are often instructed by the authorities that if we can save a single life, it will have been worth the sacrifice of our material well-being and democratic liberties. But as against the lives saved by the extreme measures taken against COVID-19, one should at least be conscious of the lives lost on account of surgeries cancelled and medical diagnoses delayed, not to mention spikes in suicide rates induced by bankruptcies, the obliteration of retirement portfolios, and government-enforced loneliness.

It has been accepted with astonishing insouciance that the (over)-reaction to the virus—rather than the virus itself—will cause a global economic collapse, driving millions around the world into joblessness, penury, starvation, disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, despair (and thus inevitably premature death).

And since “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” (as Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once said), the usual suspects are making hay out of it. The global warming fanatics have already exulted that the pandemic will finally rid the world of all carbon-dependent industry, and kill a lot of old people, who tend disproportionately to be “deniers.” (Anyone who doubts the ideological consanguinity between the environmental movement and revolutionary Marxism should take note of their common abhorrence of free-market capitalism and the bourgeois elderly.)

In the United States, the Democrat media (the adjective is now so redundant as to be scarcely necessary) have been talking up recession for years in the hopes of undermining the booming Trump economy, a venture they have now renewed in the knowledge that, in the equity markets, fear inexorably creates its own reality. Fear has also taken care of shuttering manufacturing, retail, sports, entertainment, restaurants, and pubs—in short, commerce. That’s one of the reasons the media need to hype the story and keep it alive until the fall. After the evanescence of the “Russia-collusion” and “Ukraine-quid-pro-quo” mass hysterias, the Democrats and their media mouthpieces may have finally hit upon one that, in wrecking the economy, gives voters in November a reason to purge America of the Trumpian miasma.

Beyond such rankly political calculations, most media are simply unable to resist the lure of the lurid. Natural cataclysms, terrorist atrocities, school shootings, high-rise building collapses, famines—all milked for every drop of bathos that can be extracted from them—have become the media’s bread and butter, and the only stories for which they deign to interrupt their incessant indictments of Trump. Of course, for the vicarious experience of grief and demonstration of ersatz compassion, the media have merely supplied an ever-increasing demand.

Since the global ululation over the death of Princess Diana, emotional inflation seems to have reached runaway proportions. One doesn’t have to be an old fuddy duddy to notice that, just a couple of generations ago, our ancestors treated hardship, danger, and tragedy (world war, depression, starvation, epidemic disease) with unflinching stoic fortitude by comparison to today’s fevered response to relatively trivial vexations. “Safety” has long been a festering cultural obsession, to the point that one regularly sees tykes on three-wheelers practically ensconced in full body armor.

But life is inherently beset by dangers; self-realization and achievement demand facing them, and safety itself involves risks. That has been the universal moral theme of every ancient narrative from Homer’s “Odyssey” to Virgil’s “Aeneid,” whose storm-tossed protagonists were offered comfort, respite from struggle, and refuge from danger—by Calypso, Circe, Nausicaa, Dido, and the Sirens—at every juncture of their arduous journeys.

Had they not resisted these temptations—had the safety-minded authorities closed down the shipyards and armaments factories, banned all maritime voyages, made communal banquets illegal, postponed bardic recitations, cancelled the Trojan games, and insisted that warring armies practice social distancing—neither Odysseus nor Aeneas would have accomplished their quests, Rome would not have been founded, and (most important of all) there would have been no stories to tell.

Harley Price has taught courses in religion, philosophy, literature, and history at the University of Toronto, U of T’s School of Continuing Studies, and Tyndale University College. He blogs at

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