Everyone you know has a “good reason” to break quarantine. Some wish to bury a relative, while others want to visit a lonely elder in a nursing home. Parents want to baptize their children to save their souls, and first-generation college students want to attend graduation. All of them were told to abstain from these things in the name of public health. Following those orders had human costs — rates of domestic violence increased during the lockdowns. Calls to suicide hotlines skyrocketed. Millions were thrown out of work. Businesses built over generations filed for bankruptcy, Some will never recover.
By nature and design, I’m one of those “whose only aim is to observe how and why everything is done, and to be spectators of other men’s lives, in order to judge and regulate their own,” as Montaigne put it. I live my ordinary life doing ordinary things, and when I have some spare time, I like to amble out to my little blog-porch here to sit a spell and watch the world go by as I mutter to myself about it. Most of the time, I maintain an amused, ironic distance from it all. Even the great Covid pause hardly made a difference to me personally. Our health and business are fine, and our routine is back to normal tomorrow with our gym reopening. I’m as comfortable and content as a person has any right to be.
Over the last several days, though, I admit I’ve felt uncharacteristically angry and despairing. I feel like I’ve just watched an enormous stockpile of social capital go up in flames while a bunch of gibbering idiots danced around it, oblivious to what they’ve done in their imbecilic glee, and I’m still stunned.
Not by the riots and literal flames. That’s horrible, of course, but I’ve never been under the illusion that civilized behavior is anything but a thin crust over the fault lines of dangerous passions. No, it’s the good old trahison des clercs that’s so unforgivable. The damage to the cities will last for decades; some of them haven’t fully recovered from the last round of urban rioting. How much longer will the damage to the crumbling remains of moral/intellectual/professional authority last? There’s nothing even remotely defensible about this ridiculous about-face.
Again, I hardly consider myself one of the trumpenproletariat. I don’t spend my time consumed with resentment for “coastal elites.” But what else are we supposed to conclude from this? Oh, I see. We all need to spend three months under house arrest. We need to give up everything for the greater good, the common sacrifice. The SCIENCE™️ said so. Did your small business expire after being asphyxiated for weeks? Andrew Cuomo helpfully tells you that maybe you should get a job in an “essential” field. Economic hardship isn’t death, after all, and if anyone knows about death, I suppose it would surely be the motherswiver who forced nursing homes to accept Covid patients before suffering the glaring scrutiny of…a goofball interview with his somehow-even-more-useless brother, who apparently cosplays as a cable news anchor when he’s not staging fake endings to a quarantine he didn’t even abide by while infected. Rules are for little people; we’re busy creating reality TV spectacles here and burnishing our personal brands.
And all of it was for nothing. Even epidemiologists and other public health officials have to pay obeisance to the Church of Anti-Racism. Even The SCIENCE™️ lies awake in the wee hours in a cold sweat at the thought of being accused of racism on social media. You can’t catch the plague if your cause is righteous enough, apparently. Never mind the fact that all this protesting is an after-the-fact reaction that changes nothing and will prevent nothing in the future. The cop responsible was quickly arrested and charged. What are we supposed to do as a response to the vox populi, arrest him harder? Charge him with double murder, triple murder, infinity murder? More useless theater for the sensation-addicted, more reality TV for people who find the nuances of professional wrestling too ambiguous. What’s most important of all is demonstrating that we’re the good people and we’re going to progressive heaven. My doctor’s office has been sending me emails since March saying I shouldn’t come anywhere near the premises without a hazmat suit lest I contaminate the staff, but the staff of a NYC hospital can walk outside to applaud a protest? Siiigh, says Charlie Warzel, NYT opinion writer. How exhausting it is for poor Charlie and the rest of the credentialed class to have the commoners persist with these impertinent questions, like they think they’re owed an explanation. How dare you expect me to abide by an eight p.m. curfew during looting and rioting, says the bint who accused Georgia of conducting experiments in “human sacrifice” for attempting to re-open the state.
Privilege is being children of the cultural aristocracy and getting to cosplay as sans-culottes. Privilege is being able to destroy other people’s property and have media intellectuals bend over backwards to make excuses for you. Privilege is affecting to despise the fruits of capitalism while you pop them one after another into your gaping maw. Privilege is being able to declare a bacchanalia in the midst of the worst public health crisis in our lifetime and know that the consequences will be borne by others. And in the most amazing of coincidences, that sort of privilege is the exclusive property of the very people who claim to see it everywhere else.