By Fred A. Reed
A man I admire and respect asked me to lend some “intellectual heft” to the ongoing discussion — or is it introspection? — about why our world seems to be headed at top speed for the precipice.
It’s a subject that often pops up on this blog. All I would have to do, he explained, was jot down some random thoughts. And promise not to utter the name of the incumbent U.S. president. No problem with that.
The “heft” part caught my attention, seeing as how I possess that quality in homeopathic amounts. But when it comes to random thoughts, I’ve got lots to spare. In fact, that’s about all I’ve got, sitting here in self-imposed isolation in Agadir, Morocco, as the coronavirus, like rising floodwaters, swirls around us.
We’re not alone. Just about everywhere infection rates are rising. People — and not just the elderly and infirm — are dying. The authorities seem perplexed. Can’t impose another lockdown. That would kill what’s left of the economy. Can’t let the virus run rampant; that would kill off a lot of the people.
Wait for a vaccine that would protect everyone and get the system operating again? For a large body of opinion a vaccine — any vaccine — is now feared as a pretext to impose massive social control, regimentation and the ultimate takeover by “them” of “us” by somehow implanting microchips in everyone.
It gets worse. There is no credible narrative; no generally accepted account of reality. Mainstream media are discredited and massively disbelieved. Social media propagate lurid multi-layered conspiracy theories, some of which sound almost plausible. Some less so. Is our green-blue planet — our only home — in reality being governed by a secret cabal of reptilian extra-terrestrials?
Is that the high-pitched whine of desperation we hear? Can it be completely abnormal that people are looking for explanations, or answers, or some form of spiritual comfort in the current epidemic of high spiritual discomfort?
Here in Morocco, and throughout much of the Islamic world, there’s been a lively debate: is the Supreme Agency — lets just say God — punishing His servants for their sinful behaviour, or just firing the proverbial warning shot across their bow, as in: “watch out; you’re going too far?”
Some claim loudly that mankind is being chastised for its trespasses. But these voices are a minority. An even smaller minority denounced the closure of mosques and the cancellation of all Friday congregational prayers — now in its eighth month — as an act of apostasy. Those guys are now behind bars. Where perhaps — sad to admit — they should be.
Most of the people we know and trust are more cautious. The epidemic and all adversity are in their view tests imposed upon us to measure our mettle and spiritual fortitude. It’s not for nothing that my co-religionists are always praising God for everything, good or bad. A practice I’ve come to adopt.
Others say Satan is at work. Could be. A lot of this sounds like his doing. The argument is seductive. To accept it would relieve humankind of the obligation to conduct itself properly. But for the Devil to succeed, humans must say "yes," accept his blandishments. A simple "no" will drive a stake through his heart.
There are also those who argue that God has entrusted humanity — uniquely — with the care of His creation. Humans must exercise ultimate responsibility for whatever they do, including the stewardship of their environment, and will be judged accordingly. This is the belief I hold: be governed by faith, but hold yourself accountable.