"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Afraid Of Our Own Shadows–COVID Paranoia, Spooked At Every Turn

Johnny Little had literally been afraid of his own shadow since childhood.  He never understood what it was, what created it, or how to escape it.  In his mind it was another being, a bodiless person mimicking him in a weird, black pantomime.  As much as his parents tried to explain optics, light, and perspective, young Johnny remained unconvinced.  Worst of all was the sense that he had created this dark doppelgänger and expressed it from the depth of himself.  It was he and not he – being and non being; some torturously distorted configuration of himself.  How could he not be afraid?

Image result for Images Afraid of One's One Shadow. Size: 168 x 110. Source: idioms.languagesystems.edu

His parents, who at first admired their son’s creativity and imagination, later became concerned, for he avoided playing outside, carried umbrellas when no rain was forecast; and when forced to leave the house – e.g. to go to church on Sundays – he walked intimately close to his sister.  If two shadows merged, he reasoned, then there was less to be concerned about his own doppelgänger . Rather than double in size, intensity, and malignity, it would merge and dissipate within that of his sister. 

“Get off of me!”, his sister said, “you creep”, pushing him into the sunlight where his own shadow emerged whole and undiminished.  His feint had not fooled his shadow; and with this realization that his shadow could not be fooled, he began to see its insidious creep indoors, under floor lamps, bedside tables, and kitchen lighting.

He, as might be expected, grew out of this obsessive, frightened penumbra and came to mature normally.  Yet, thanks to Freud, we understand that no child trauma, unless exposed and confronted, never fails to damage and debilitate as time goes on and often in unexpected ways.  While Johnny Little had long outgrown his obsessive fear of his own shadow, he became a timid, highly risk-averse adult.   Risk pursued and bedeviled him.  Failure, and worse, damage and doom awaited him whether on the monkey bars or in the board room.  He became an adult of avoidance – a fearful, shaky pansy now as figuratively afraid of his own shadow as he had literally been as a child.

Image result for images flowers pansy

It was not surprising that he pursued a career in government.  There he could be assured of predictability, ordinariness, and smooth sailing.  The bureaucracy was an organic, independent whole, designed and engineered for self-preservation and longevity.  There were few risks involved when the document that crossed his desk already had five signatures, and after his would have five more.  He had to watch his back for sure – the bureaucracy was a petri dish of envy, jealousy, and suspicion – but there were never the existential crises of childhood – i.e. whether he or his shadow existed or not.

As fate would have it, Johnny Little was promoted into the decision-making echelons of public health policy, and while for years he dealt with incidental nosocomial infections, cruise ship epidemics, and food poisoning, he was suddenly thrust into the maelstrom and limelight of COVID politics and policy.

The current Administration had taken a worrisome, fearful, and political position regards COVID.  Echoing the decades past, discredited mantra of AIDS, it averred that COVID was ‘everyone’s disease’, and despite effective vaccine prevention and low risk for all but the obstinately unvaccinated, insisted that everyone mask up, continue to socially distance, and to be beware of malignant variants.  It was a perfect time and place for Johnny Little.

He naturally and instinctively hewed to an all-hands-on-deck, bugger the details, risk-averse policy.  In fact he was at the forefront of the political juggernaut intent on enforcing universal compliance.  He, after years in the swamps of minor quasi-epidemic episodes was finally thrust into the spotlight.  Not only was he professionally suited for draconian policies of universal lockdowns, virus barriers, and punitive response; but he was personally convinced that COVID was ‘the big one’, the shadow that could not be ignored.

At a meeting of his public health top brass, he was cheered by the assumptions of one doctor after another, that this indeed was an existential event, and that no measures should be left off the table.  Despite intermittent spurts from the loyal opposition who insisted that the chances of the vaccinated getting COVID were extremely rare; that the chances of them getting hospital-worthy sick almost nil; that children rarely if ever got or passed on the virus or its variant, the politically entrenched won the day.  It was time to stop this insidious threat in its tracks – and by the way to enhance the visibility and respectability of heretofore ignored branches of government.

Image result for anti mask covid demonstrators

Johnny was in his element.  Motivated by childhood fears and Freudian theory, he absolved the American electorate of any individual, personal responsibility, and arrogated authority to his government masters to dictate terms.  

Since he was afraid of COVID and terrified of its mutant Delta Variant (a horrible re-visitation of his childhood fears of shadows), he led partisans to the barricades.  Universal mask coverage, reinstated social distancing, lockdowns at a moment’s notice, authoritarian rule, and absolute, universal governmental edict were to be the menu du jour and he the happy, compliant, and complaisant maître d’.

Insurrections arose.  Those vaccinated, protected, said ‘Fuck it’.  They were not about to capitulate to this rogue band of pseudo-scientific poseurs in Atlanta and Washington who now flip-flopped and reverted to the discredited meme of ‘it’s everyone’s disease’.  Fuck ‘em, they said, to the CDC and to the millions of unvaccinated who refused, on the grounds of alien, invidious assumptions of ill will, to get vaccinated.

What was Johnny to do? How could he counter idiocy with reason?  How could he exorcise his shadowy demons and set the record straight? Unfortunately the die had been cast.  He, afraid of his own shadow, had  become accustomed to be afraid of just about everything.

He like most, chose the lubricated route. ‘Better safe than sorry, don’t ignore your brother, do the right thing, man up and be serious’ – all resonated within his reasonable, well-educated breast; but his alter ego – the smart one, the one not tricked by snake oil salesmen or big tent preachers, the shadow – said, ‘Basta’. He felt that he was no more than a carny barker at a side show who lured customers with “See the deformed, belittled, tortured and twisted”.

So, he became the Genghis Khan of Biden’s COVID army – a brutal, defiant, savage, and consequential leader of the avant garde.  A slaughtering, decapitating, disemboweling, and raping nouvelle vague.  As in the examples of Khan or Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot to follow, there was no need for justifying power.  Rule implies authority; and whether by arms or social media, it will be done.

It seems obvious that flaccid public officials base policy on adolescent fears, but that is the nature of the beast. Let it be, but let them suffer.  Whereas most Americans have said, let the unvaccinated suffer their own delinquency and get sick – Johnny Little held on.  Compassion, inclusivity, charity should rule the day.   Lock down to protect the unprotected.

The age of shadows was over.   No cover behind buckboards,  whorehouses, or corrals.

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