Afternoon Ethics Update, 4/8/2020: It’s A Wonderful Day To Think About Ethics!

—even if so many people are not.

And can’t.

Today is my wife’s birthday. All we can do to celebrate is to be together, and be grateful that we found each other, and are still together, a miracle of chaos theory in so many ways. She is, and will always be  my inspiration, my rock, my balance, the one who constantly keeps me from spinning out of control, and the love of my life.

1.  Pandemic ethics and religion. It’s unfortunate when religions misbehave during catastrophes:

  • The Pope made the fatuous comment in an interview that the pandemic offers an opportunity to slow down the rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. “We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods?” the Pope said. “I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”

Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Maybe it sounds better in Italian.

  • Yesterday, I turned on the TV only to see a live broadcast from one of the evangelical mega-churches, packed to the rafters, nobody wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Irresponsible and infuriating.

About 44 percent of likely voters in the United States see the coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown as either a wake-up call to faith, a sign of God’s coming judgment or both, according to a poll commissioned by the Joshua Fund, an evangelical group run by Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes about the end of the world, and conducted last week by McLaughlin & Associates, pollsters for President Trump and other Republicans.

David Jeremiah, a pastor who has been one of President Trump’s informal evangelical advisers, asked in a sermon recently if the coronavirus was biblical prophecy, and called the pandemic “the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us.”

No, it’s really not. This “end of days” stuff is either hysteria from the ignorant whose knowledge of world and U.S. history begins in 2008, or it’s worse, deliberate scare-mongering by church leaders to goose membership. Yes, I know a recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple so hard that the golden trumpet fell from the angel Moroni’s right hand. That is exactly as significant a portent of the Apocalypse as Chris Sale having Tommy John surgery.

In other words, incredibly significant.

After I get this post up, I think I’ll go watch “The Omen”—the good one, with Gregory Peck.

2. Here it comes: Dare County in North Carolina has closed its borders to visitors and non-resident property owners in response to the Wuhan virus outbreak to limit the number of people on a narrow barrier island. The county set up checkpoints at the two bridges where highways enter the Outer Banks. Anyone who is not a resident of Dare, Currituck, Hyde or Tyrrell counties are not allowed in except those who have an emergency or are in extreme hardship. Now six non-North Carolina residents from Virginia, South Carolina and Maryland argue in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern North Carolina that they should be able to prepare their rental properties for the spring and summer season, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports. The lawsuit calls for the borders to reopen right away, and asserts that the restrictions are unconstitutional, which they indeed may be.

These kinds of suits will proliferate, and simply chanting, “We’re all in this together” isn’t going to fly forever.

3. Speaking of that slogan, our local TV news team kept running an ad last night about how they would get us through the crisis with their sage advice and timely information. The spot showed smiling, unmasked reporters and staff clustering around computer screens, leaning over each other, touching and breathing in each other’s faces.

4. Nah, the mainstream media isn’t promoting fear and panic! To show how much virus deaths in the New York Area have increased, the Times has a front page chart where the red line goes all the way up the front page, past the masthead….

5. From conservative pundit Matt Margolis, we get the form of fake news called “psychic news” with the headline, “Six Reasons Why Obama Would Have Botched the Coronavirus Response.” This kind of smear click-bait has been used against President Trump for three years now; it’s just as unethical coming from the Right.

6.  Two ethics-related deaths of note:

  • Linda Tripp, 70, has died. She was a whistleblower and an important one, which the mainstream media encouraged the public to excoriate and mock, reaching a nadir when obese John Goodman player her in drag on Saturday Night Live. The Clintons and Monica owed her apologies, but she died still vilified.

She did inform a lot of people that Maryland was a two-party rather than a single party consent state when taping phone calls, however.

  • I’m half Greek, so I knew about this guy, but I bet you didn’t.  Manolis Glezos, a Greek resistance fighter who , along with a friend, tore down the Nazi flag that waved over the Acropolis in German occupied Athens in 1941, right under their noses, died last week The Nazis put a price on his head for the defiant act. From his obituary:

In the early hours of May 31, armed with just a knife and a lantern, the two crept into a cave beneath the Acropolis, silently ascended that ancient citadel high above the outskirts of Athens, climbed the flagpole on the grounds and pulled down the Nazi flag while unsuspecting German officers drank toasts near the Parthenon to celebrate Hitler’s takeover of Crete. The two young men cut the flag into pieces and buried it. “We had absolute consciousness that it was a historic moment,” Mr. Glezos told The New York Times for a profile of him in 2014. “No struggle for what you believe in is ever futile.”….When Mr. Glezos went home, his mother asked him where he had been. “I opened up my shirt and pulled out a piece of the swastika,” he said. “I showed it to her and said, ‘That’s where I was.’ Without saying a word, she hugged me and left.”


39 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Update, 4/8/2020: It’s A Wonderful Day To Think About Ethics!

  1. Portents And Prodigies

    Sēmeion in Greek and signum in Latin correspond closely to the word sign. The ancients lived in a world where signs were ever present and were to be found in the most diverse parts of the universe: heaven, earth, and underworld. Portents and prodigies often appeared in everyday observation. Even today, popular belief often attributes favorable or unfavorable meanings to apparitions, no matter how natural: to animals of certain breeds, aspects, or colors, or to certain ecclesial phenomena such as a flash of lightning or a thunderclap in a peaceful sky.

    It does not surprise me that you (Jack) would have no means to allow for an omen or a sign. The reason is because we live in a mechanistic world reduced, by scientific view, to one devoid of divinity. It is part-and-parcel of the time we live in that people can no longer understand the world in that way.

    It is all a matter of the soul though: what the soul perceives in a given circumstance. An omen or a sign is a manifestation of meaning too, and is just as peculiar as is *meaning*. The more that the soul is present and active, the more that things can mean things. When one is reduced to mechanism and determined mechanism, in a world of dead matter, meaning also dissolves, slowly & surely.

    A crude mind will find crude meaning. But a sophisticated mind finds sophisticated and ‘meaningful meanings’.

    There are a tremendous quantity — a genuine abundance — of “meanings” in the time we live in. In my view the responsible soul has to grapple with them.

  2. Point two is about a government becoming overbearing (and at this point, in many locales, grossly so…executives are running rampant and legislatures are letting them). Point one is about people irresponsibly exercising freedom of assembly. They shouldn’t be, but even part of me is beginning to think is probably better for people to start ignoring executives gone wild until governments start following constitutional processes to address this ongoing emergency. The two points are related.

    I’m an “evangelical”. The concerns that arise from my understanding of eschatology are overlapping concepts.

    a) The “eschaton” is *immediate* (and has been since the Ascension). It should be understood as always at the door as the master of the house will come and the servants will not know when…and so should expect at any moment.

    b) There are always “pre-echoes” or “foreshadowings” of the eschaton throughout history. And while, we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that any particular contemporary “sign” is THE end, we should recognize those signs and try to learn. We have a tendency in Western Civilization to assume what happens to Europe or the United States is to be interpreted universally. When, by all analysis, the Kingdom still has fertile fields to work in other places.

    c) The eschaton is not some figurative warning of things that could be that should be up for interpretation every generation as a “try to avoid this”. The end WILL come (according our particular belief set). There is a subset of Christians that think they can somehow speed things along with behavior that intentionally invites persecution. This subset is irresponsible and doesn’t understand item “a” above. I think some of the behavior you see during this pandemic deriving from that subset of Christians.

    I think another subset of Christians behaving like this are legitimately concerned about the overall tenor of our nascent totalitarians that are finding increasing voice in our government and exercising religion and assembly is a rebellion against them. I don’t know if they are wrong.

    There’s another subset of Christians, whose conduct here is really just parallel to a larger group of society that still isn’t convinced this is as serious a threat as the government insists. This subset is related to the second subset.

    • Michael,

      I’m going to have to read that a couple of times, but I think that was really good. And I think we are very much in agreement.

      P.S. I think you’re the one who posted “one testicle” comment the other day. I’m STILL laughing at that.

    • Some notes

      To understand our present, there is no way to avoid understanding the past, hence the highlight of historical studies. Put another way, if one has no historical reference-point, if one is *located* exclusively in the present moment, one is significantly inhibited in making sense of everything about one’s self, about the people around one, about one’s culture, indeed about ‘life’. I wish to suggest that if we consider the notion of ‘dumbing down’ as having validity, that we live in a time in which the dumbed-down have far more power and influence than is good — for them self and for others.

      To be ‘dumbed-down’ is in a sense — in one of its senses — to be reduced to immediacy; to be confined within immediacy and within mutability. Temporal powerlessness. An aware & conscious citizen [in the platonic sense] must have a trained & aware soul, and must have a more dimensioned and dimensional grasp of his and her own existence and being. Only that sort of soul-citizen can actually be a participant in genuine politics.

      But what happens when all society’s mechanisms — its institutions, its schools, its *theater* if you will (TV and Entertainment and music] — direct the soul-citizen away from wide-ranging consciousness and awareness, and lead the citizen into what I define here as *bondage*: confinement in mutability, in immediacy, in sensation, and in the moment; within a silly SitCom with a laugh-track? Clearly, from a Christian perspective certainly, the forces that do this, that educate such a citizen, are understood to be acting to obscure that citizen’s spiritual power: the power of the spirit to act in this world. Every branch of Christian theology of that I am aware places focus on the notion of *corrupting influence* and what results from corruption. The more Christianity becomes NewAge . . . the further away from biting analysis it moves. When it returns to its roots it regains its decisive power: the power to see and decide and thus to impose.

      It requires a hermeneutics to interpret ‘what is going on’ and, then, to see it in an historical manner. But doing so one requires a historical reference-point. To notice ‘dumbing-down’ is, in fact, an example of historical awareness. To make assertions about dumbing-down requires both a hermeneutical view and an allusion to what is understood to be the opposite of a dumbed-down condition.

      In certain Hindu religious view [mythology if you wish] it is understood that in a declining historical cycle that forces of ignorance [ignorance = avidya = a basic ignorance of who we are and of the underlying reality that connects everything in the universe] that the forces of materialism corrupt proper understanding, that these forces of corruption break apart *proper hierarchies*, that they eventually focus on the corruption of woman because if you corrupt your women you corrupt the vessel through which conscious souls are brought into this world and nourished; and that as these processes continue one of the first things to occur is ‘dumbing-down’: principally understood to be loss of intelligence but for the sake of my argument here loss of memory.

      If your memory is defective — if you cannot remember & recall — you are indeed cut off within mutability. Memory and historical awareness (to put it crudely) are essential for a conscious, proactive soul. If you do not have this, or if it has been taken away from you, you cannot act properly! You can act, that is true, but your action will not be intelligent. And remember that the world intelligent is linked to intellectus and refers to a relationship between material and physical man and realms of being that are spiritual and metaphysical.

      One of the most curious things for me: to become aware of just how *fallen* we have become in this distorted & distorting present. I am not talking about a *them* over there. I prefer to make this as poignant as possible even if it aches. There is a reason why to be hard and uncompromising when one makes statements about the present state of US culture (and about the state of man especially Occidental man). If you can’t make really sharp statements — demanding statements that even seem cruel — well then, you are not really saying anything at all.

      Did you think this was going to end here, without a Part Two? 🙂

    • I think some of the behavior you see during this pandemic deriving from that subset of Christians.

      The pandemic is one thing, but the manifestation of Protestant & Evangelical will and decisiveness at this particular time, and allied as it is (to varying degrees) with President Donald Trump and his populist movement to *reclaim America* and to *make America first again*, have to be carefully, and historically, examined.

      So, the various manifestations of Christian realization [how Christian Evangelicals (and other Christians too) define the time and the moment], be they crude or sophisticated, have to be seen in the larger context: a spiritual call. How odd it is that a grotesque figure, and in a sense a fallen figure, like Donald Trump would be the one to rise to the occasion with a spiritual call. He *blew a horn* which is both terrestrial . . . but resonates, for Christians, in metaphysical overtones.

      Taken in and of itself Donald Trump is an omen. One can *examine his entrails*. Whether he did it consciously, or whether it happened to him, nonetheless he represents a portent within the movement of Time. His effect is not only domestic but is universal. There is a ‘sign’ here and it requires ‘interpretation’.

      If you want to understand what we term The Left’s opposition to all of this, then you have to go back in time 100 years to the 1920s when the 100% Movement and the Second Klan was active. This was a Protestant movement among men and women in *original America* that were reacting to the impending ‘social engineering’ that was beginning to come down on them and which would continue, with outrageous force, in the Second Postwar (WW2) after the First Postwar (WW1). They wanted to ‘protect America’, conserve its traditions, keep it in the hands of those who *made it* (and in this sense ‘made it possible’). In many ways they were *soundly defeated* and a new, engineered, pluralistic America emerged: the Multi-Cultural America that is now falling apart at the seams. The bindings come undone. The social glue fails. the *you* and the *I* look out through lenses that make us see very different *realities*. These do not concord.

      Those 100%ers, they noticed the beginnings of influences — of social engineering — that were to transform America into the so-called *pluralistic* nation it has become today, and they attempted a resistance to this: crudely, ignorantly in some cases, but not without some levels of prescience.

      Now, today, there is no way even to mention the 100% Movement if one does not refer to it in absolutely negative terms. But I suggest this is a manifestation of the (‘evil’) of controlled thought and politically-correct thinking as a form of intellectual coercion.

      There is a direct link between the 100% Movement as a manifestation of American Protestant Christian will, and what is going on in America right now.

      The principle thing I notice, here and almost everywhere, is a lack of comprehension about the nature of the battle going on: its roots, and what the battle *means* for America at this bizarre & dangerous juncture. It is like people are fighting, but they fight with blindfolds. I guess this is the ideological fog of war. You cannot see until you get above the fray.

      The nature of the battle is over *What America?* Which America is being fought for? Who defines it? Who controls who will organize its educational system (what its cultural paideia will be). What is even more strange, once one has understood the *battle of factions* which result from the deliberate social engineering processes, is that the only force that can now hold America together is a controlling autocratic government. Kissinger alluded to this in his recent WSJ article: the government will have to act supremely intelligently and proactively in order to control a situation that is out of control.

      So, what was always perceived as the most undesirable eventuality, is now showing itself as what must happen next! There’s an irony for you!

    • Chalk it up to my horrifyingly irresponsible habit of not reading book “Forwards” to why I didn’t read Jack’s italicized intro and missing the obvious.


  3. I apologize…I probably should have just made one big all-inclusive comment rather than splatter-gunning my thoughts all over creation…

    1. The Pope is either a liar, or terribly misinformed, or a terribly misinformed liar. Or maybe he can’t read a most basic sea-ice extent chart. Regardless, at no time in the last 18 months could a boat cross the North Pole because the glaciers had melted. At no time in the 18 years…at no time in the last 180 years…

    During the Medieval Warm Period that MAY have been possible…about a thousand years ago. The Pope is worried about the secular state of the world. Pot, meet kettle…

    • Only tangentially related: but the world of geopolitics will become interesting once a reliably year round *safe* polar route becomes available to commerce, the Panama Canal loses relevance and Canada becomes a major power sitting astride the World’s most efficient sea route from Europe to China.

          • Aha, but the warming only exists in the adjusted numbers, and measured Arctic ice has increased year-over-year in spite of model projections to the contrary.

            The antipodes of knowing something which gives an edge over the field of investors and that knowledge being so obscure that nobody has the notion to venture into the market to begin with are deadly. This is why I throw my money into the certain failure of general investment portfolios. Best to be certain of financial ruin going in than to risk forming some glimmer of hope.

            • Benjamin, thank you for sparing me the trouble of digging out the details again. This can’t be said often enough but, unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to come up naturally in conversation . . . .
              the warming only exists in the adjusted numbers, and measured Arctic ice has increased year-over-year in spite of model projections to the contrary.

              • I thought about changing “year over year” to “year after year,” then decided that the simultaneity of the first is more accurate (as well as more poetic). We have been compelled, practically from birth, to consider time in solitary units instead of flowing over and into one another, exactly as the layers of Arctic ice continues to grow itself, year over year.

    • Frankie is not the brightest candle in the church. Keep waiting for a group of Cardinals to denounce him as a false Pope and formally break with those supporting his lying, ignorance, or idiocy. The schism in The Church, as in society, has become so pronounced it is difficult to imagine a bridge to cross it. Reminds me a bit of The Brothers Karamazov.

      • There are rumblings to be sure. Archbishop Vigano still hasn’t let up the pressure.

        Did you hear about the new study commission on deaconettes coming from the Vatican? The cynical side of me says they won’t do or say anything until fire from heaven consumes the innocent and guilty alike. They have too many years succumbing reflexively to social pressure behind them to turn back now without a great deal of effort and reflection. It makes one wonder how many Catholic bishops are really Catholic. I’d love to meet one. The encouraging news is the swell in good and faithful young priests. God Himself will raise an army to follow Him from the very stones when all His princes betray Him.

    • Konstantinos Koukidis (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Κουκίδης) was the alleged Greek Evzone on flag guard duty on 27 April 1941 at the Athens Acropolis, at the beginning of the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. After the first Germans climbed up the Acropolis, an officer ordered him to surrender, give up the Greek flag and raise the Nazi swastika flag in its place. Koukidis instead supposedly chose to stay loyal to his duty by hauling down the flag, wrapping it around his body and jumping from the Acropolis rock to his death.[1] A commemorative plaque near the spot marks the event.

  4. That’s an interesting story about Mr Glezos the resistance fighter. The Italians who tried to invade Greece totally failed in their offensive and were pushed back to Albania. Hitler had to rescue them as the British had landed troops in Greece and Crete. Although there was a sizable number of British troops in Crete they were soon overwhelmed by German paratroopers.

  5. Linda Tripp, 70, has died. She was a whistleblower and an important one, which the mainstream media encouraged the public to excoriate and mock, reaching a nadir when obese John Goodman player her in drag on Saturday Night Live. The Clintons and Monica owed her apologies, but she died still vilified.

    How would you contrast Linda Tripp with Alexander Vindman?

    What evidence was there that the mainstream media encouraged the public to excoriate and mock Tripp?

    • 2. Because they excoriated and mocked Tripp?
      1. Because Clinton’s activities with Lewinsky potentially breached Clinton’s own sexual harassment law. Vindman had no basis to blow any whistles other than a political one. Vindeman said, “I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

      None of which was his call to make.

      • 2. Because they excoriated and mocked Tripp?

        Any proof?

        I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen

        Has this Vindman ever considered the implications of his logic.

        Suppose it was a criminal offense to ask a foreign government to investigate any U.S. citizen for any reason whatsoever? What would be the downside?

  6. Re the Pope: His “powers” are limited, as below:
    “Papal supremacy is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that the Pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as the visible foundation and source of unity, and as pastor of the entire Catholic Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered: …”
    As we all know, the Pope’s understanding of global warming is limited, and his pronouncements are both wrong and outside his purview.

    Re the Greeks: Everyone else has said it, but as a student of WWII, I have always admired them for keeping the Nazis out. Even Hitler gave up on taking Greece. There’s a lesson to be learned there. They aren’t the only ones who can fight back against tyranny.

  7. 6. Did Lewinsky owe Tripp an apology, or did Tripp owe Lewinsky an apology?

    Let’s be real, Tripp, who had been Lewinsky’s friend for a year and a half previous to the scandal, secretly recorded Lewinsky’s phone conversations on the advice of her literary agent. She was the one who convinced Lewinsky not to have the dress washed, and she was the one who told Star about the affair, handed over those tapes, and told him about the dress.

    I understand why Tripp would be owed an apology by the Clintons, the media, and a whole lot of America. But the hell would Lewinsky have to apologize for? Allowing herself to be betrayed? Expressing her hatred for Tripp following that betrayal?

    • I think we’re also seeing this in the context of 20/20 hindsight. I’m not going to say that having an affair is good, I’m not going to say that having a relationship with a co-worker is good, and I’m not going to say that having a relationship with someone with a material power imbalance is good… But it’s not uncommon, and it especially wasn’t uncommon at that time. The Lewinsky affair was, as close to as could be, consensual. What made this a big thing wasn’t that Bill was cheating on Hillary… It was the Clinton’s response to the scandal, the lies, the threats, the destruction of livelihoods, the crimes committed. None of which was happening at the time Tripp was getting ready to write her juicy book at the expense of someone who considered her a friend.

      • Again: Clinton has signed into law a sexual harassment bill with great feminist fanfare, surrounded by adoring ladies. He broke his own damn law. It wasn’t consensual…no affair with an extreme underling is consensual, and the power disparity here is about as great as when Zeus raped humans. We are NOT seeing this in hindsight, because everything I write now is identical to what I, and others wrote then. Tripp was aware of the Paula Jones lawsuit, and thus aware that Clinton was lying through his teeth to avoid a lawsuit by a woman whom he had thought he could abuse because she was poor white trash. I was teaching courses in sexual harassment when the Monica scandal erupted…it was not something new.

        Tripp realized her friend was being exploited, and she was being exploited. The fact that she was preparing the way in case she chose to cash in later is a mixed motive, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that she was right to get the truth out.

  8. “About 44 percent of likely voters in the United States see the coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown as either a wake-up call to faith, a sign of God’s coming judgment or both, according to a poll commissioned by the Joshua Fund, an evangelical group run by Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes about the end of the world, and conducted last week by McLaughlin & Associates, pollsters for President Trump and other Republicans.

    David Jeremiah, a pastor who has been one of President Trump’s informal evangelical advisers, asked in a sermon recently if the coronavirus was biblical prophecy, and called the pandemic “the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us.”

    A fear-and-hate-mongering swing and a miss by the NYT here.

    Anyone is perfectly within reason to “see” this pandemic as “either a wake-up call to faith, or a sign of God’s coming judgement or both.” Assuming that there is a God, which is perfectly logical to the level that no better hypothesis exists, and assuming that God cares about human affairs (also highly logical given the level of detail in nature) it’s reasonable to assume that EVERY catastrophic event is potentially a “wake-up call to faith.” The only thing illogical would be to state it as a known fact (I suppose you could do that if God had told you directly, but no one would be obligated to believe you on your word alone.)

    There’s also a massive bit of weasel-wording in the phrasing of that first paragraph; anyone catch it? I suspect that a small percentage saw the pandemic as a possible “sign of God’s coming judgement” and a much larger chunk of that 44 percent opted for the uncontroversial “wake up call to faith” and the author decided to needlessly lump the two options together to get a bigger number.

    David Jeremiah is not a kook. I’ve personally seen multiple pastors “ask in a sermon” whether the coronavirus was a biblical prophesy or judgement…in order to explain that it most likely ISN’T. Sermons generally set up questions and then answer them. I’ve given a couple of anti-superstition messages myself personally since the quarantine started.

    “Most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us” is true of most us who weren’t alive during WW2, so once again it looks as if the author was trolling the pastor’s sermons for out-of-context wording that sounded alarmist and honed in on “apocalyptic.” The context of that sentence implies that he’s clearly not saying that we’re actually in The Apocalypse. He’s almost certainly just setting the table by describing how fearful the pandemic is and how large it looms. I say this without even checking, but I’m probably right.

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