Devil must have laughed boisterously at the post-COVID19 `world disorder’. COVID origin is shrouded in mystery, natural transmutation from Pangolin, bats, snakes, and what not. Or, genetic engineering, prophecy, and alien nemesis as reflected in a host of novels/books/films. American author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak in 1981. His novel The Eyes of Darkness made reference to a killer virus called “Wuhan-400” – eerily predicting the Chinese city where Covid-19 would emerge. Film Contagion 2011 predicts a global pandemic that jumps from animals to humans and spreads arbitrarily around the globe.
The devil must have laughed boisterously at `scientific’ and religious theories about its origin, foretold predictions and treatment. In Homer’s Iliad, the Greeks disrespect one of Apollo’s priests. The god manifests his displeasure by firing his arrows of contagion into their camp. The plague lasts nine days, brief by modern epidemiological standards. When the Greeks make amends and sacrifice sheep and goats to Apollo, the plague is cured. Thucydides, the Athenian historian, has a simple explanation for the epidemic: wrath of Apollo. The Spartans had cannily supplicated the god and he in return had promised victory. Soon afterwards, Sparta’s enemies started dying of the plague. But, probably it was not divine wrath but unhygienic conditions that caused contagious diseases. Athens was under siege, its population swollen with refugees, everyone living in unsanitary conditions – was at risk of contagion in a way the Spartan army, free to roam the countryside outside, clearly wasn’t. But this thought doesn’t occur to Thucydides.
Book of Chronicles, a Hebrew prose of text featured in the Old Testament, hints about COVID19. It contains a story from Adam, some teachings from Jesus and a narrative of the history of ancient Judah and Israel until the proclamation of King Cyrus the Great.
The passage being shared online reads: “Whenever I hold back the rain or send locusts to eat up the crops or send an epidemic on my people, if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again.
“I will watch over this temple and be ready to hear all the prayers that are offered here.” This extract is interpreted to refer to the coronavirus, the current locust plague and the Australian wildfires which are still being contained in some areas. Nostradamus 2020 predicted three prophecies of plague that surprisingly sound like coronavirus. Novelist Dean Koontz eerily predicted the outbreak in his 1981 book The Eyes of Darkness.
How to deal with idleness: No-one imagined he would suddenly have so much idle time. But, Bertrand Russell, as far back as 1932, thought about it. He says, ‘Science is what we know, and philosophy is what we don’t know’ (Chapter 2: Philosophy for Laymen, p. 24). Russell visualized a situation where media and channels would be swayed by pseudo-scientists, as today. He observes. `But so long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans (ibid. p. 27).
Nietzsche went a step further. He pointed out although science makes claims to knowledge; these claims are as deluded as those of religious dogmatists.
Analysis of work: Russell says that work is of two kinds. One is altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter. And, the second is telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. He analyses how work evolved historically.
Throughout the essay, he generally discusses the evolution of work for subsistence living, economic justice, so on. His views offer food for thought: “From the beginning of civilization until the industrial revolution a man could, as a rule, produce by hard work little more than was required for the subsistence of himself and his family, although his wife worked at least as hard and his children added their labor as soon as they were old enough to do so. The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was appropriated by priests and warriors.”
“In the West we have various ways of dealing with this problem. We have no attempt at economic justice, so that a large proportion of the total produce goes to a small minority of the population, many of whom do no work at all. Owing to the absence of any central control over production, we produce hosts of things that are not wanted. We keep a large percentage of the working population idle because we can dispense with their labor by making others overwork. When all these methods prove inadequate we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we were children who had just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage, though with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of manual work must be the lot of the average man.”
“Much that we take for granted about the desirability of work is derived from this system and, being pre-industrial, is not adapted to the modern world. Modern technic has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.”
Russell’s themes from “In Praise of Idleness”:
Work not virtuous: He believes that notion that work is virtuous does more harm than good
“The fact is that moving matter about, while a certain amount of it is necessary to our existence, is emphatically not one of the ends of human life.”
A four-hour workday: It should be enough for everybody. “If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day there would be enough for everybody, and no unemployment — assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization.”
“When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried farther than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently.”
The wise use of leisure leads to the best things in life: “A man who has worked long hours all his life will be bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things.” “The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education.” He pointed out: “In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and the capacity.”
Happiness: Without workaholic, the future would be full of good nature, originality, happiness, and joy of life. “Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen instead to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines. In this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.”
Advice to laymen: “The first principle of all action is leisure” (Aristotle). Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance (Chapter 2: Philosophy for Laymen, p. 27). But so long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans.
Inference: We are upset as in a hyperactive work we lost sense of identity with nature. We regard our artificial lifestyle as natural.