I’m normally a big fan of schadenfreude, the feeling of pleasure in others’ misfortunes. But so much of what I’m reading just now just makes me sad. For example, there’s no joy in seeing prime minister Boris Johnson admit to having coronavirus just days after boasting about shaking coronavirus patients’ hands; I’m just sad that he’s probably infected others who will in turn have passed the virus on. I feel sorry for his pregnant girlfriend, who must be terrified right now.
One of the saddest things I’m seeing right now is people dying from arrogance, from misinformation and from tribalism. In the US, you’re much less likely to take the virus seriously if you’re a Trump voter, very religious or both; the lines aren’t as dramatic here in the UK but there’s still social media activity indicating a similar split between Brexit leaver and remainer.
Viruses don’t care who you vote for or who you pray to.
There’s an old Russian sailor’s proverb (often attributed to the gonzo writer Hunter S Thompson, but it was around for hundreds of years before him):
Pray to God, but row away from the rocks.
Sadly some people would rather row straight into the rocks and take lots of others with them.
Here in Scotland, the evangelical politician John Mason initially refused to cancel his face-to-face surgeries and home visits to protect his constituents. When one church closed, he posted on Facebook:
Surely we should be bold, take risks, and trust in Jesus?
Trust in Jesus is not an effective anti-viral.
I detest Mason, but I feel sad that his dark-ages idiocy could have caused people to become infected. And he’s not the only one. The usual contrarian clowns have had their say, and Scotland’s Free Presbyterian Church, another bunch of yahoos I’d happily see cast into a lake of fire, initially refused to cancel church services because:
attending public worship is not a mere social activity or recreational pleasure
This idiocy is global. In the US, pastor Landon Spradlin died from coronavirus this week. His death has made him internet famous because before he contracted the virus he shared online posts suggesting the media was creating “mass hysteria” over coronavirus; he also approvingly shared a tale of a missionary who cared for Black Death victims and never contracted the disease because God would ensure that “no germ will attach itself to me.” God must have been looking elsewhere this week. She’s got a lot on her plate.
Spradlin had previously railed against helping poor and vulnerable people get healthcare; when he got sick, his family had to resort to a crowdfunding website “to help relieve them from the stress of the situation [and] medical bills.” Some people are finding schadenfreude in that, and some have gone as far as to abuse his grieving family on social media. I just feel sorry for their loss.
And I also feel sorry for the other families who’ll grieve. Politicians’ inaction and media misinformation – particularly noticeable in the US, where the virus will kill many more people than 9/11 did – will cost many lives. As of today, the US has more coronavirus cases than anywhere else in the world. The toll so far is 1,297 deaths. There will be many more.
You can sum up a lot of current events in a single story.
No matter what god you may pray to, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want you to go out like that.