We keep doing this, gathering the raw material, going back to the lab, hooking up the idea to the power source, throwing the switch, and experiencing shock and regret at the results. Our modern monsters aren’t isolated threats; they are killing freedom the world over.
Let us remember that Carl Schmitt despised America and everything it stood for, especially the idea of individual liberty and limits on government. It’s one thing to study his writings in graduate school as a warning to what it means to turn against enlightenment values. It’s another thing entirely to deploy his theories as a viable path to keeping power when it appears unstable, not only in Beijing but also Washington, DC. That should truly terrify all of us.
Giorgio Agamben had, for a few decades before 2020, been known as one of the most judicious thinkers in the world. Since the genesis of what has been called a pandemic, his public image has undergone a radical change. In lieu of praise, he has courted the savage hatred of very many people. Even derogatory labels like “crackpot,” “lunatic,” “coronavirus denier,” and “crazy anti-vaxxer” have been accorded to him.
A new totalitarianism is emerging in our society. Not a communist or fascist totalitarianism but a technocratic totalitarianism. A kind of totalitarianism that is not led by “a gang leader” such as Stalin or Hitler but by dull bureaucrats and technocrats. As always, a certain part of the population will resist and won’t fall prey to the mass formation.
In these times, when calls for crisis government and more emergency powers for the administrative state seem to grow louder by the day, the legislators in Congress — the people’s representatives and trustees — ought to pause, look around the Capitol, and consider the long tradition of freedom and dignity that is our inheritance and could still be their legacy.
Social distancing was not really about preserving hospital capacity and it was not just about two weeks. It was really about the complete reconstruction of social life itself, critiqued as pathogenetic starting 12,000 years ago, with Covid as only the latest example of the costs of free association.
Religious persons today are a threat, but not to public safety as the narrative instructs us. They are a threat to the idea that the state is to be worshipped above all else, to the religion that’s trying to take their place, to the idea that it’s possible to find a compelling and complete sense of meaning outside of the state.
Science is like a weathervane: it gives you information, which you can use to decide on a course of action, but it doesn’t tell you what to do. The decision belongs to you, not to the swirling metal rooster. A weathervane can tell you there’s a stiff wind coming in from the northwest, but it can’t tell you how to respond to the data.
In the early months, while secular folks were exhorting everyone to stay home, stay safe, mask up, and all the rest, religious leaders began pushing back against what they saw as encroachments on freedom of worship. It wasn’t just church closures or bans on choral singing they opposed. They cried out against the whole worldview underpinning the rules, a mindset that reduces people to their health and risk status.
Keeping the peace at all costs has become a sacred and unquestionable goal among large parts of our society, especially among its more credentialed sectors. This implacably strict pose positions multitudes into a spirit of acquiescence to power, no matter how dangerous or devastating the results.
The scapegoat mechanism is a speculative device to explain how some of the human systems, in a fairly broad sense of the phrase, establish and keep their order. The most fundamental tenet is that order is attained and sustained through the cyclic sacrifice of an entity that is internally excluded.