As it has been for almost two years, the dominating motif in life to-day is the COVID virus and its seemingly innumerable variants. I write this from an Austria under double lockdown at the moment; for the vaccinated, for whom it is supposed to lift shortly, and for the unvaccinated, for whom it shall continue.
Of course, as we all know, innumerable national, state or provincial, county (or equivalent), city, and other local governments have struggled since February of 2020 to deal with the little visitor from Wuhan. Apart from last year’s near-universal lockdown, there was the rush to produce vaccines; unhappily all of those now available suffer from ethical issues regarding the use of fetal stem cells in testing; from fears regarding their long-term effects; and from doubts regarding their effectiveness in combating the virus at all. There is also the deep suspicion that perhaps there was a huge over-reaction; that left to itself, COVID would not have wreaked as much havoc as have the measures used to deal with it. Moreover, the reluctance or refusal of governments to look at treatments with existing medicines is attributed by many to big pharma’s corruption of the regulatory system in various jurisdictions.
Moreover, such incidents as California Governor Gavin Newsom’s elite, maskless dinner party at the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, and the Austrian (now former) chancellor and president boogeying their blues away with their colleagues in a night club while their country was severely locked-down did not play well. Neither did the new Austrian chancellor’s evocative comment that “vaccines make free” in reference to the continued lockdown of the unvaxxed (the question of whether they are to be made to wear yellow stars is still, at the moment, satirical). But in our time the headlines have a way of jumping ahead of satire.
There are other issues involved, of course. One is whether or not the emergency powers assumed by various governments are legal or constitutional. In recent months, putting the weight of the State behind forcing the unvaccinated to be jabbed has become very popular amongst the planet’s ruling classes, as is isolating or imprisoning the recalcitrant. From the top down, many Catholic chaplains have been anxious to follow Cardinal Wolsey in blessing and sanctifying any measures ordered by their secular masters—from suspending the Sacraments entirely early on, to banning the unvaxxed from worship entirely in various places more recently. The reverend hierarchs were only too happy to set aside the Church’s teaching on stem-cell research at the behest of their new unhappy lords. This display of lickspittling is in sharp contrast to the ensuing attempts after June of 2021 of various prelates to “crack down” on adherents of the Church’s Traditions.
This display was reminiscent of many secular authorities’ severe dealings the previous summer in the United States and elsewhere with those who ignored the lockdowns—unless, of course, they were burning shops or destroying statues. In that case they appeared to receive special treatment as “mostly peaceful.” Indeed, in addition to the problems provoked by the COVID, a whole other set of horrors emerged, as Wokery sprang from the academic and bureaucratic sewers of its spawning into the light of day. There it engulfed innumerable organisations, from garden clubs to literary societies. Concomitant calls for “defunding the police” in various moronically ruled municipalities led to a sharp rise in murders and other violent crimes—a development that only the brain-dead could have failed to predict.
Here in Europe, as in Australia, New Zealand, Los Angeles, and New York the authorities as mentioned have cracked down upon the unvaxxed Untermenschen. They are speaking of special camps for them in Germany; although that nation does have experience in running such establishments, the prototypes are already in existence among our cousins down under. Here in Austria, they will be heavily fined, if the current government has its way.
This witches’ brew of stupidity, hypocrisy, and virtue-signalling (if I am not repeating myself) might be easier to defend—despite the infanticidal issues—if the vaccines and lockdowns actually worked. Then, despite the incompetence of our masters, there would be far less resistance. But do they? Have they? It is in their name that many of the world’s governments propose to divide their populations into good people who will be rewarded with crumbs of freedom and their old lives, and bad people who must be punished for the good of society. So far, the question of vaccination has merely ruptured families and sundered friends; here in Austria, after February 1, 2022, fines and possibly prison await the recalcitrant.
Theoretically, the justification of these measures should be obvious: the vaccinated are protected, whereas the unvaccinated are not, and if all the unvaccinated have to go into the ICU the system will collapse, as it threatened to do in various places in early 2020. But theory is not reality. In reality, these measures reveal that the leaders of many nations have lost faith in the efficacy of the vaccines. The need for boosters—up now to three jabs, with an anticipated fourth for the omicron variant—does not build confidence; nor does the incidence of COVID and death among the vaccinated and the reported deaths and serious health issues deriving from the vaccinations themselves. It may well be that only a small percentage actually die from them, but saying that the vaccinations are no deadlier than the disease they are supposed to ward off is not a good advertising point. One ought not even start on the omnipresent masks, which were initially spurned, then mandated, and then ignored by the partying elites and by their favoured children while looting, burning, and rioting.
A resistance has built up to all of this, which may or may not be well informed. But the numbers are growing; in Austria, 70% may be vaccinated, but an even larger percentage oppose the abuse contemplated for their unvaxxed brethren. One hundred thousand people turned out for the first anti-vax demonstration in Vienna to protest the government’s policies. Without a doubt, the opposition Freedom Party expects to ride this issue to power.
Adding to the insanity, a new vaccine, Valneva, shall be available in March or April. The new product has no ethical problems (no fetal stem cells were used in its development), is based upon decades-old technology which has worked very well and is less susceptible to being outsmarted by mutating COVID strains. Without doubt, many of those currently unvaxxed will jump at the chance to get this more reliable, less risky vaccine. Yet one cannot help but suspect that the fines to be levied beginning 1 February are intended to somewhat recoup the government’s spending on vaccines that shall not be used.
All of that aside, the question at the heart of the matter is: why is the rulership reacting with such hysteria? Why are they so frenetic? Why are they so draconian? In the immediate, of course, no rulers, no matter what their democratic pretences, enjoy being disobeyed. Regardless of actual science or logic they have transformed the issue from one of public health to bondage and discipline, dominance and submission. Their subjects shall obey, or else!
But there is, I think, something more to it. I believe that under the bluster and attempts to appear omniscient and forceful lurk fear and frustration. Fear, because the generation of ’68 which is still the motive force of our leadership class, grew old without growing up. They have never faced a real crisis since they came to power. Moreover, most are without real religion, and for them death is simply the worst thing that can happen. In a word, they are hollow men and women. Frustration, because since their accession to power they have been able to alter things at will—marriage and gender, among other things—with minimal resistance. But now, not only are some of their subjects being recalcitrant, but nature itself refuses to do their bidding! The pandemic simply has not behaved as expected—and this is extremely annoying. Who are they to take their annoyance out on, save their hapless servitors: the public?
The pandemic shall mutate into oblivion sometime relatively soon. When it does, we will all be left with the aftermath. Wrecked economies, shuttered businesses, and life opportunities lost are only a small part of it all. Worse still are the questions that may be asked. When the rulership had us put on our masks, they took off theirs. The experience of the past two years make plain a reality only a few saw before: the modern citizen has only those rights his rulers deign to give him, and these may be taken away at any time. In a word, the myth of democracy is dead.
But that in turn opens up other issues. If our masters are sovereign, rather than ourselves, precisely who are they, and whence comes their power over us? “Consent of the governed” is a phrase that has always been a bit shaky in application, and never more than now; but unlike Monarchs of old, our rulership does not claim to govern “by the Grace of God.” One supposes that they believe themselves to be the ‘best fitted,’ the natural results of ‘meritocracy.’ Their record, of course, hardly justifies this belief.
Why is this important? While, as Voltaire observed, the ability of rotten things to hold together so long as they are not roughly handled is amazing, the pandemic—although not the Black Death—may be the symbolic end of the age of reality’s easy handling of the West and its geriatric-though-puerile masters. Of course the West does have real enemies: Islam and its more radical proponents within the formerly Christian Middle East; China (for all that so many of our rulers are paid by her); and Russia. But with the partial exception of the last-named, the West’s leaders reserve their greatest ire for governments in Central Europe and movements and individuals elsewhere whose greatest crime is maintaining the values held universally throughout the West just half-a-century ago. Even their dislike of Russia is fueled as much by Putin using such values as rhetoric as by his subsequent actions in Ukraine and Syria. Above all, when such leaders go on the verbal offensive, they insist on equating anyone they dislike with Fascists, Neo-Nazis, and Racists (whose ideologies, to be fair, have far more in common with our rulers’ than with their more Traditionalist mutual adversaries).
Herein lies the danger. Just as the Forever Wars the United States have just finished fighting created a large pool of dissatisfied combat veterans, the lockdowns and the forcible vaccination schemes are creating great numbers of dissatisfied subjects (citizen implies an equality that no longer exists, if ever it did) who no longer trust their masters. If any truly serious threats confront the West and the rulership respond with what we know now to be their habitual incompetence and weakness, those subjects will look elsewhere for leadership. Said leaders (and we ourselves) should pray that it is to the much-maligned upholders of Western Tradition they turn to, and not to partisans of overt Totalitarianisms.
Charles A. Coulombe is a columnist for the Catholic Herald. His most recent book is Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy (TAN Books, 2020). It was reviewed in our Winter 2020/2021 print edition. He is also a Contributing Editor to The European Conservative.