Oftentimes, when people start a story by saying, “I’m not proud of this…” the truth is that they really are rather proud of whatever they are fake-confessing. But I am really, really not proud of this. What I did was just plain incredibly stupid. It was a male sort of thing. Honestly, I wouldn’t even mention it if it didn’t help me make an important point for this Thought Tool.
When one of our lovely daughters turned six, she asked for a sleepover party. Accordingly, in the late afternoon, about a dozen excited little girls between the ages of five and seven were dropped off at our home in their pyjamas. They had supper together before burrowing into blankets and sleeping bags in our living room, chattering and giggling.
That was the moment I donned my rented gorilla costume. Beating my chest while uttering gorilla-like roars, I leaped into the living room and pranced among the sleeping bags. Yes, I really did. I hate myself for this and all I can say is that it was a male sort of thing. Little boys would have loved it. (I was so sure Susan and our daughter would love my exciting plan that I neglected to inform them in advance.)
But these weren’t little boys. They were little girls. Sweet, trusting, gentle little girls. With their tiny hearts pounding and screams of hysteria strangled in their constricted throats they shot into the bathroom and locked the door. After about five hours (well, it seemed five to me, but it might have been half an hour) the screams had subsided to gasping sobs. Then they called their parents to come pick them up. It was quite a birthday party. For the next month, all I got whenever I encountered the girls or their mothers were reproachful glares.
I said that the purpose of recounting this tragic tale was to make a point. It is this: Had I bounded into my daughter’s room one evening in that gorilla suit she would probably have looked up and said, “Hello Daddy, why are you dressed like that?” It takes many people together to create fear, hysteria and panic.
It’s just like a nuclear reaction. Scatter twenty one-kilogram balls of uranium 235 around your house. Nothing. Now throw them all together in one big box and you’ve got—Chernobyl. Hard to terrify one little girl but easy to make a dozen of them turn into a panic-stricken, hysterical throng.
The really surprising thing is that adults are no different. Walk in on your brother sitting and quietly reading his newspaper and yell, “Fire!”. He’ll slowly look up and ask, “Where?” However, if you try the same thing in the proverbial crowded theater, you know exactly what will happen.
Groups of people can give one another courage but they can also feed one another’s fears until it becomes a self-sustaining reaction of sheer thoughtless panic. Take a look at this verse:
…and your foes shall dominate you. You will flee though nobody pursues you.
In English, unlike in Hebrew, the second person personal pronoun ‘you’ can be singular or plural. See this sentence:
I will now throw you out of this club.
We can’t tell if the ‘you’ in this sentence means just one person or a crowd about to be evicted.
But in Hebrew, the word for you (singular) is different from you (plural). Thus, the correct translation of Leviticus 26:17 might read like this:
…and your foes shall dominate y’all (plural). Y’all will flee though nobody pursues y’all.
Every day you and I get in our cars and drive somewhere. Imagine that every time you opened your newspaper the headlines informed you how many people died in car accidents over the past 24 hours? Suppose every time you turned on your computer, some uninvited banner revealed the accumulated road fatalities for the year? What would it be like if everyone repeatedly warned you that getting behind the wheel of your car exposes you to a real chance of dying in an accident? Consider what it would be like if many times a day newscasters and pundits reminded you that America’s road fatality rate was 120 per million of population (which it is).
Compare this with the Covid-19 rate which officialdom claims for America of just double the road fatality rate. It is 240 deaths per million population.
If we shut down the country for a death rate of 240 per million, shouldn’t we at least do something about a death rate of 120 per million? How about a national speed limit of 25 miles per hour. That would do it.
Why isn’t this entirely logical restraint occurring? Simply because politicians and pundits are not talking about road deaths. Fear and panic are seldom caused by facts and figures. Instead, they are caused by emotions and feelings. Celebrities are not tweeting about the need to flatten the curve and stop people dying in their cars. Neither is the media toasting our brains with non-stop coverage of road fatalities by state and age. We don’t anxiously compare our road mileage exposure with our neighbors. But the media connects all our collective corona concerns and binds us into one colossal, terrified, corona mob.
Yes, connection with others can certainly cause fear to flourish and spread like wildfire. But company can also engender courage. Anyone who has faced peril alone knows how different it is when that same danger is confronted together with brave comrades.
It falls to ancient Jewish wisdom to explain when we manage to stare down adversity with confidence and determination and when fear gets the better of us and we join our fellows in panic as we trip over our own feet in our desperation to escape. Escape what? Fear itself of course.
Commitment to a value system brings courage. Why do military men always have stories of valor? For the same reason the military presents medals to those who exhibit that valor. The military is built on a value system. The result is courage.
Secularism is the formal annihilation of a God-centric value system and the obliteration of hierarchical structure. Not surprisingly, cowardice is the legacy of secularism while fear and panic are its constant attendants. Secularism in the west has coated everything with fear.
A Scandinavian teenager wins acclaim when her voice trembles with fear over climate change.
Income inequality is frightening because it will plunge us into civil disorder.
People who swore to uphold the Constitution abuse their power to trample on it, citing fear for the end of the American republic because the nation elected a leader not of their choice.
You must fear artificial intelligence because it will create robotic monsters who will attack us.
And yes, a panic- proliferating elite pulverizes our healthy economy, destroying lives, medical centers, medical research, civil rights and much more as they spread fear rather than dealing with an admittedly serious virus with mature and measured steps.
We’re long past the original fear of hospitals being overrun, so why not pull back instead of increasing the severity of lock-down laws? Because hysteria and panic never self-modulate. The crowd continues to stampede even after it is evident that there is no fire.
Secularism has indeed made us all vulnerable to fear.
But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, and if you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all My commandments…
…and your foes shall dominate y’all. Y’all will flee though nobody pursues y’all.
Yes, if you reject God’s value system then you will flee even when nobody is pursuing you. Secularism makes a crowd fear just about anything. And everything.