Our response to the pandemic not only elevated false authority, built on ideas disconnected from the realities of human existence, and not only did it create a system of idolatry, of symbols which were used to mediate this authority; but furthermore that system of idolatry was welcomed in and installed within the very hearts of Jewish communities, and therefore in many ways we directly relived that destruction ourselves, which is so powerfully described in the Book of Lamentations.
The pandemic has turbocharged this process of medical objectification. We are no longer individuals, with unique desires, responses, wishes and drives, but rather are primarily considered by policy makers to be infection risks. Once we are primarily objects, rather than diverse human beings, it then becomes legitimate for medical procedures to be mandated, mask wearing to be forced, or our movements to be tracked and traced.
If we are people in a society with an authoritarian structure, where our ability to participate and do the things we wish to do every day are conditional on the approval of government, then our way of relating with power structures is no longer one of “We are all in partnership together” but one of “behavioural correction.” In such a system the mask becomes a tool for enacting that behavioural correction.
The solution to distress that is caused by closed services, missed education, lost income, poverty, debt, or coercive public health interventions is not to be found in psychiatric services – and particularly not in psychiatric services whose treatment options have been restricted to pharmacology only approaches.
At a time of crisis, such as during a pandemic, is exactly when such institutions are even more needed than ever, and when faced with uncertainty, many seek the comfort and support of religious institutions.Yet during the pandemic and the lockdowns, religious institutions were only too willing to shut themselves down, close their doors, and therefore abandon those that depended on them.
These principles can help risk assessments function as intended – as a tool to help individuals and communities evaluate risk and put in place targeted measures, to contain and ultimately reduce anxiety, and to move away from more performative measures that simply serve to entrench anxiety and cause harm, without any benefit.