The TownhallSocial issues

Are we humans, or are we animals?

By Matthew Delaney

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

We’re in the midst of a crusade not over religion, per se, but one that brings with it religious devotion and ferocity to its battles. That fight is over what it means to be a person. 

Obviously, you’re someone. You’re Tim or Sasha or mom or the boss or the boyfriend or the ambitious one or the weirdo – whomever. But what makes you tic? Do you know the reasons why you make the choices you do? Why you’re living the life you are? 

That’s the subtext of the Covid-19 vaccination push, which is also this crusade’s turning point. The meta-debate at the heart of this topic has gone by many other names: the argument between freedom vs. safety, or privacy vs. security, or the collective good vs. individual good. I’d break it down even further and ask: are you an animal, or are you a human? 

On one side, we have those who believe people are no more than their next meal or pleasure, and thus need thoughtful direction in their lives. Then on the other we have those who believe people have a conscience in order to achieve a purpose, and they should have the ability to discover what that is. 

Guess which side our most powerful figures are on? 

The bargain we all made at the beginning of this pandemic was to forfeit our liberties for a noble cause. We endured mask mandates, distancing, capacity limits, closed schools and a general sense of misery to protect each other, specifically the elderly and vulnerable, from severe bouts with the disease. This was a decision made with the good faith assumption that those running our societies would restore our liberties when the crisis subsided. 

But as the fear from the virus has waned, it’s become clear a level of terror has been needed to convert us into our dependent animal form. 

It started with President Joe Biden saying his “patience is wearing thin” with the nation’s unvaccinated last fall while announcing a federal vaccine mandate. Before that could kick in, governors, mayors, and major corporations started imposing their own vaccine mandates to achieve compliance. 

This isn’t solely an American phenomenon either. In Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron said he “really wants to piss” the unvaccinated off with more restrictions, and Austria’s chancellor has imposed lockdowns for the unvaccinated. In Australia, anyone exposed to Covid is sent to a “recreation” camp where they are bound to a cabin and rules that don’t “have to make sense.”  

In the background, the media pitted Americans against each other based on vaccination status. They not-so-discreetly mocked unvaccinated conservatives who died from Covid-19 during the summer Delta variant surge. Now, they’re encouraging everyone to openly mock the deaths of the unvaccinated. 

But the best example of this authoritarian urge for vaccinations was uttered by former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Blasio said that “Human beings are pretty predictable. If you say, ‘Your paycheck depends on it, or your ability to enjoy life, and go do the things you want to do,’ people will make the practical decision.”    

No, Bill; animals are predictable. Humans operate on a level of moral conviction, sometimes one that is better felt than articulated. That sets us apart from our cousins in the natural world. We have beliefs and we’re willing to endure real pain and loss to honor them. 

It’s why this period of forced vaccination reminds me of the forced conversions during the medieval Crusades

Back then, the Christians who rode into foreign lands gave the villagers they met a choice: convert to Christianity or die. The monotheistic Jews and Muslims often chose the latter, knowing that conversion meant giving up their personal beliefs. But the pagans they came across were easily persuadable.  

Those pagans worshiped multiple gods for multiple tasks – a weather god, a farming god, a god of good health, etc. It wasn’t the gods themselves the pagans were interested in, but what those gods could do for them. Pagans wanted tangible results for their faith. When they saw that the Christian kingdoms were growing and wealthy, they found this Jesus character to be a god worthy of following. 

Our leaders have had little trouble converting the pagan-like West to their cause by holding a sword to peoples’ leisure activities. Going to the gym, the bar, the favorite restaurant, or the international destination vacation are all subject to getting jabbed. Besides, why would they stop? Vaccinations typically see a short-term bump after leaders make public threats, like Macron did in France. 

What exactly is guiding their belief system is a bit trickier to determine. British writer Mary Harrington argues that the post-Christian western world is treating vaccination as a form of baptism “in pursuit of a purity more metaphysical than bacterial.” With how much we’ve deified health care workers, Harrington continues, “it’s probably a bit late to rein this blossoming spiritualization of hygiene.” 

But hygiene is only the physical token of this “religion.” You can demonstrate your allegiance by wearing your mask and bumping elbows, much like wearing a cross around your neck and keeping a dusty Bible on your nightstand can demonstrate your Christian faith. There is no exploration into how well understood those beliefs actually are. Because, if we take time to read their Bible of Science, we’d find research detailing the uselessness of cloth masks and how the virus never transmitted through touch in the first place.  

It’s a rejection of deep thought that defines this latest pagan fascination. We are simply looking for a god that gives us what we want materially, just as the Crusades-era pagans were. Modern pagans don’t believe there is divine value in our existence; we are nothing but an amalgamation of impulses and emotions in search of stimuli. We’re loyal to any “god,” even if they’re an ineffective and insecure ruling class, as long as they keep giving us carrots to chase. We’re good boys, aren’t we? 

This is why disobedience can’t be tolerated under this new religion. Pushing back on the forceful ways of our leaders shows the pagans what we’re capable of. More so, it reminds them of the richness of being human, that there are things worth cherishing beyond only what can be consumed, such as freedom, trust, and dignity. 

We’re lucky enough to still have ground to defend in this ongoing crusade. And you could say we’re about to mount our advance. But nothing is guaranteed as the two weeks-going-on-two years of this pandemic have shown us.  

One thing is for sure, though: we have made our case that we are, in fact, humans. We can only hope it’s convincing enough to win over some pagans.

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Matthew Delaney


Matthew Delaney is a local journalist based in Washington, D.C. When he’s not questioning why he joined the media, he’s doing his part to restore some of its credibility with quality work

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