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The Spiritual Roots of Our Pandemic Response: The Chinese Alternative

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It's Vaccination Day! - .For The First Time In Forever. Frozen Parody For the first time in forever, I might actually go out... and put on a bra. I know... #parody #comedy #covid Well, 2020 is over but 2021 still is pretty weird. So we ...
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Over the past week, three approaches to the widespread availability of anti-Covid-19 vaccinations have crossed my desktop. One was the comical music video (above) celebrating a supposed post-vaccine normalcy including a return to restaurants, movies, gatherings with family members, friends, grandchildren and mask-less interaction with the world at large. I couldn't help smiling and laughing at my own relieved celebration of freedom's prospect after more than a year of quarantine restrictions.

The second approach however was more sobering. It was an essay by Ernesto Burgio published in the Wall Street Journal's Science and Technology International Magazine. Its basic message was "Not so fast; the human race is not nearly out of the woods."

The third slant on the expected end of our current crisis returned me to the world of comedy and entertainment - to Bill Maher of all people and his recent riff on China's competition with the United States (see below). He called it "We're Not 'Losing' to China - We Lost." Without saying so, Maher's thesis implied that China's system of governance holds much more promise of dealing with Burgio's dire warnings than does our own.

Finally, and speaking specifically as a theologian, I found that the three pieces just referenced caused me to jump to a fourth level, a spiritual one. The leap had me concluding that nothing less than a China-inspired change in the West's guiding spiritual mythology will save us from destruction.

The 1st Anthropocene Pandemic

In his Wall Street Journal piece, Burgio pointed out that scientists have been predicting something like SARS-CoV2 pandemic for the last 20 years. In fact, Covid is merely the most dramatic manifestation of a long-expected more general biological crisis resulting from a two-century long "War on Nature" - from what Pope Francis has called a systemic attack on humankind's "Common Home."

In recent memory, pandemic precursors have already surfaced as outbreaks of:

  • Ebola
  • Nipah
  • Hendra
  • Marburg
  • Flu-Orthomyxoviruses
  • Bat-Coronaviruses
  • SARS 1
  • H1N1
  • HIV AIDS
  • Covid-19 and those predecessors along with the pandemics to follow are the consequence of climate change, deforestation, and the creation of mega-cities that pack humans together in circumstances redolent of our related mistreatment livestock on factory farms. The upshots of it all were prepared by related culturally induced comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes exacerbated by unhealthy diets dominated by sugars, salt, oils, and chemical preservatives.

    According to Burgio and in view of such systemic causal links, it is senseless to seek salvation primarily in pharmaceutical remedies (including vaccines). What's demanded instead is systemic reform of the post-modern lifestyle including rejection of fossil fuels, adoption of environmentally friendly diets (with drastically reduced meat consumption), and careful restoration of animal habitats and ecosystems.

    The problem is, such radical lifestyle reforms are virtually impossible for capitalist cultures like the one found in the United States, the most powerful causal engine of environmental destruction. Especially here, where private enterprise is king, there is simply no central authority powerful or effective enough to institute the rapid comprehensive changes required to head off future pandemics, much less to save the planet. Indeed, half the American population cannot bring itself even to recognize that the pandemic is real, that human activity causes climate change, or that we've truly transitioned into a new (Anthropocene) geological age.

    And that brings me to Bill Maher's observations suggesting that any hope that the human race might have lies with China.

    The Chinese Promise


    New Rule: Losing to China | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) Bill warns Americans that while they're busy obsessing over silly culture wars, China is overtaking them on the world stage. Connect with Real Time Online: Find ...
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    The title of Maher's piece says it all: "We're Not 'Losing' to China; We Lost." That's because (in Maher's words) unlike us, when Chinese authorities see a problem, they fix it. For example, and specifically relevant to Covid-19, when the pandemic hit, they threw up a quarantine center with 4000 rooms in 10 days. They made robots to check children's temperatures and got them back in school almost immediately. As a result, China has returned to something close to normal. It will be the world's only major economy to register significant growth during this extraordinary year.

    In fact, Maher's rant echoes what Burgio himself pointed out in his essay when he said:

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    Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program. His latest book is (more...)
     

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