We are, it has been said repeatedly, in unprecedented times. Even if this novel coronavirus is not the foretold invisible harbinger of our doom as a species, yet still many have already been imprinted traumatically by what is, by what could be, and even perhaps by stirred up ancestral memories of what has been humanities lot throughout the aeons. We are, in reality, all of us the descendants of the lucky survivors of plague, pestilence and war. These sorts of threats tap deep roots in our psyches.
There have been many responses, fear, stoicism, kindness, confusion and so on. An honourable mention must surely be made of Don Guiseppe Berardelli, a 72 year old Italian priest, who refused the ventilator his parishioners had secured for him, insisting instead that it be given to a younger patient, and who died thus in the full life of his faith. How many of us could even approach such incredible nobility? Almost all responses from the neurotic to the brave can be understood and accepted as running the full gamut of vulnerable human expression, though there is one that I find absolutely intolerable.
There were sneaky mentions of it here and there, mainly from the gloomy halls of the climate change activists who have had the taps of vast attention turned firmly off due to a superceding real life threat, and who must therefore pine. It could be ignored from such quarters, from people who have cheered for a general euthanasia, but then I met someone who said it straight out in front of me, in an act of casual malificence.
“Maybe it is just what the earth needs.”
The one who says or thinks this must not be aware of the true import of their dismissal. That must be the explanation – it is an untested thought, many of which we are all fully guilty. For it is truly a monstrous thought if examined at all. The same person may think they love nature and feel that they protect and commune in some Gaian way with it, but that relationship is surely a sentimental projection onto the beasts and flora who simply abide and cannot speak back to them and be cantankerous.
For humans are irascible, contrarian, idiotic and wayward but we are also the pinnacle of a miraculous creation and exclusively capable among all natures works of divine reflection and self sacrificing heroism. Could one possibly speak of the starving millions, the war-decimated populations, the ill, the feeble, the dying, as being maybe just what the earth needs? And yet a sentiment such as that in response to this virus is no different. It is a call to misanthropic blood letting. A shrug about a culling of the useless, the used up, the burden of feeders. It is nihilistic eugenicism prettied up as some transcendent love for the burdens of Mother Nature. It is in essence an unspeakable malediction.
This is not just what the earth needs. No suffering or affliction or any disposal of unknown human is what the earth needs. Please do not speak so.