Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Symbolism of Corona

Jonathan Pageau offers his symbolic take on the coronavirus “pandemic,” and on plagues and epidemics more broadly considered.  I have found his video worthwhile on many levels, and have watched it several times.  I will encourage you to watch the video, it is something less than 30 minutes.

Equally interesting to his symbolic views are the political comments that he offers – it is primarily these that I will touch on here.

We can’t fully understand the dangers and ramifications of the situation.  The danger of the disease itself, versus the danger of the ramifications of over-reacting to the disease; we can’t seem to know which is best.  We know that excesses on both sides can cause massive damage to our fragile world.

It is nice to see that Pageau does not merely take one side of this issue – that paying the price will result in tremendous cost.  Unfortunately, too many people with far more public authority or a far larger audience have gone bat-$hi+ crazy on one side.

Pageau continues, discussing how this event will call into view our modes of being: our connected mode of being demands calls for diversity, we are the world – “all the buzz words we are hearing from one side of the culture war.”  The other mode of being is the separation mode, a turn toward the inside, a return to our roots and identity – “a level of differentiation from the outside. …All of the buzzwords we hear from the other side of the culture war.”

As this progresses, we will see some very strange swings in discourse, some very disturbing contradictions playing out.  We will see positions flip from one side to the other.

The same person who just a week ago was screeching how racist and horrible it is to ban others from coming into your country is the same one today that is telling you today to isolate yourself totally.

He snarkily offers his local example (Pageau is a French-Canadian):

Just the other day, I watched my own prime minister, the post-national, infinite openness, diversity is our strength Justin Trudeau – I watched him close down our border.

How quickly principle falls by the wayside when one doesn’t have any principle.  When there are no universals, only particulars, then every answer is the “right” answer – it just depends on the day.

The dirty little secret of an infectious disease is that it always comes from the outside.

Certainly, for an individual this is true; but the symbolism runs much deeper and broader – and Pageau will have some interesting comments on this momentarily.

Since the end of World War II, the West has adopted, almost religiously, this idea of openness and multiculturalism.  Now we are watching countries close their borders – even within Europe. 

I have often been astounded at the naïveté of people who insist that xenophobia is inherently evil, or who want to equate xenophobia to some kind of racism, full stop.  This is a sign of blindness, because everybody practices xenophobia.  We tell our children to beware of the stranger with candy, or we lock the doors of our house and cars.

Everyone has borders; everyone is careful about managing their borders.  Even the most “open borders” cultural-diversity-is-our-strength libertarian-leftist has borders that he manages.

It is normal to have healthy caution toward things we don’t know.

He comments on the purity laws from the Bible, which have been under ridicule over the last centuries.  Yet, purity plays out in all levels of society – we wash our hands, we don’t want Russians interfering in our election (he adds, sarcastically), we isolate ourselves from the sick and diseased.  Differentiation is an act of purity (which kind of puts a knife in the egalitarianism of the left).

The same people screaming about Russian interference in the US elections are simultaneously advocating for open borders and giving non-citizens the right to vote.

It really is funny.

There is a risk we will see scapegoating, and it might come from the very same people who were stating the opposite two weeks ago.

He notes that the ongoing breakdown of the intermediating groups – workplaces, community groups, churches, businesses – could result in even more centralizing systems of control at a higher level.  Robert Nisbet noted this many decades ago, and it has been occurring in the West beginning with the Renaissance – and absolutely since the Enlightenment.

He also finds the name – the “Crown” virus – of note.  There is a strange relationship between death and glory, and the word crown (glory) has the same origin to the word horn (death). 

He gives an interesting interpretation of “why toilet paper” toward the end of the video.  To summarize, it is used as part of the function of the ultimate act of cleaning (really, do I need to say more?).  There is also a link here to the transgender bathroom debates.


He comments on the closed churches – “and that’s pretty crazy if you think about it.”  Yes, it is – isolating the loneliest among us at the time of their greatest need.  Let’s see if they stay closed even for Palm Sunday and Easter.

Becky Akers offered in a blog post at LRC to send a PDF of a pamphlet written by Dr. Daniel O’Roark: “A Brief COVID-19 Analysis and Its Implications for the Church.”

Akers writes: “I was cheering before I’d finished the first page, in which he affirms philosophical and religious truth.”  It is a great read.  If you want a copy of the pamphlet, write to her and she will send a copy to you.


  1. The word holiness means that which is separated or to be cut away, and intended for a specific use (usually higher in the spiritual context).

  2. I have to say, the whole symbolism thing raises eyebrows here. Guess my brain is too straightforward (or maybe just plain simple). The gut feeling is, "waaay too loose dot connecting".