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COLM MEANEY: Are More Awakening than we Think?

Occasionally I read articles regarding the state of the (Catholic) church in Ireland and elsewhere, post-Covid (whenever that might be). They always strive to be upbeat, looking for the “bright side” after our current drawn-out and not-soon-to-end shambles; the church will be “purified”, the upcoming synod will be a welcome beacon, peoples’ motives for their beliefs and practises will have been strengthened, having endured the furnace of lockdowns and other miseries, etc. They all seem to me to be entirely unaware of the rather large elephant in the room, and trying to salvage some consolation from the ruin we now inhabit. The elephant is the reality that the damage done to the church since about March 2020 has been largely self-inflicted, when practically every clergyman and woman in Ireland (and globally) swallowed, hook line and sinker, the narrative proclaimed by our health officials, the government, the media and the WHO.

No, make no mistake about it, post-March 2020 has been mostly a disaster for the church, in Ireland certainly, and from what I’ve read, globally also. The initial and continuing calamitous mistake was to take as gospel truth whatever our health or government spokesmen pronounced, and to accept every media message as infallible. Disastrous. But that is history now.

And yet…maybe all is not lost. Could it be that the Covid-induced paralysis was mostly at the level of the “powers that be”, be that our so-called “leaders” in Leinster House, the lads at NPHET coming out with one more preposterously inaccurate prediction after another, or the “leadership” of the Catholic church? Could it be that the rank-and-file remain largely (not completely) unconvinced by the controlled silliness which has half-ruined our country, and completely-ruined individual lives since March 2020? Probably not, because the fear- and obedience-inducing propaganda has been exceptionally successful. And yet, there are hints that a significant minority are less and less credulous of the entire storyline. Compare two recent church events.

I recently had occasion to celebrate two liturgies in our parish church: the first was Mission Sunday (Oct 24, 2021), the second was the funeral of a neighbour. The contrast was quite instructive.

On mission Sunday I was asked to preach at our parish church, seeing as I had spent 30 years as a missionary in the Philippines. I gladly accepted the task, but when I walked onto the sanctuary, I really thought that I had strayed onto the set of some futuristic sci-fi horror film: I mean, all the people had half their faces covered, as if they were terribly afraid of some lethal virus. I witness this spectacle every day, of course, in the church or in the streets, but I cannot prevent a visceral reaction at what seems to me to be madness. Whatever about the efficacy of masks, do people not see the symbolism of obediently covering their faces, hiding their identities? At any rate, they don’t seem to be aware that the confusion and fears they are stoically enduring are being constantly exacerbated by the panic-stoking of the media having been ramped up to the nth degree.

The simplest explanation for this, of course, is that the churchgoers, like the majority of the Irish population, still tune into the mainstream media. They still believe that we are living in the throes of some deadly disease which, if we don’t take draconian measures (masks [!], etc), is sure to wipe out a huge swathe of the citizenry. I certainly don’t condemn such people; I feel sorry for them. To have been brain-washed into such fear is surely an insult to any person. In that same church, some patrons have said that they will not return if some of the pews are still not cordoned-off; nor, if the collection basket is passed among the worshippers – in case they may contact the virus! What a shambles! Their minds have surely been infected by a virus – emanating from the mainstream media.

But maybe the faithful have not so entirely swallowed this disputed pandemic storyline; maybe there is no fantastically fatal pathogen on the prowl, looking for victim after victim, just waiting to pounce if the Covid “guidelines” are in any way lessened, but instead a bug which poses a threat to a limited section of the population. Indeed I have proof of this good news. The second liturgy I celebrated recently in our parish church was the funeral of an elderly neighbour. All went according to plan. After the Mass, I said (as is customary) “people may now like to offer their condolences to the family”, not knowing that this lovely tradition had now been discontinued in our current dystopic climate. I did not know that, in this way, I might unwittingly be causing a possible “super-spreader” event (going near the bereaved, and, God forbid, actually shaking hands). Neighbours lined up as they always did at funerals, a few nervous individuals with their masks on, but the majority without any face covering, and handshakes were widely exchanged. No “super-spreader” event ensued. I heard afterwards that the majority was glad of my invitation to greet the bereaved, to express their sorrow and comfort those in mourning.

What can we learn from this comparison? Those attending the Mission Sunday Mass were regular church goers; many of them may well be daily Mass-goers. That means that, since March 2020, they will have imbibed and copied the behaviour patterns driven into their minds relentlessly by the media: wear your mask, stay apart, no handshake, etc. We are, after all, creatures of habit; and what we do habitually eventually becomes “second nature” to us. And because so many of them are quite naïvely trusting of the mainstream media, it seems that, for them, the truth of the Covid-19 penny will never drop.

Most of those attending the funeral were of an altogether different category. Funerals & weddings are generally attended by people who are not regular church-goers. Not only do they not know the sequence of the liturgy or the responses to the parts of the Mass, but this gathering seemed to be entirely unaware of, or at least unresponsive to, the Covid-connected shenanigans we’ve been subjected to, for far too long now. And therefore, they happily approached the bereaved, mostly mask-less, shook hands heartily, and expressed their condolences.

This was not the “new normal”; no, this was the normal we have always been used to. It is surely in danger of becoming simply a memory.

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I remain entirely unaccepting of the so-called “new normal” – at least in the behavioural patterns so far prescribed by our “leaders”, and dutifully exhibited by the majority: not shaking hands but touching elbows; covering half one’s face; measuring the distance from home one may travel or how many visitors one may entertain in one’s home, etc. To my mind, these are all forms of behaviour unbecoming of rational human beings, and I cannot reconcile myself with accepting them as anything less than aberrant. Even if we were in the throes of a deadly pandemic (spoiler alert: we are not), I didn’t grant authority to any health agent or politician to dictate to me how I may live my life; or indeed if I should be coerced into taking an experimental vaccine into my body.

Yet, as I’ve said many times before, I am in a minority in all of these views. So I want to try to understand the mindset of the majority, those who acquiesce to each and every rule, no matter how absurd.

I can at least grant that the elderly may be wary of the times we’re living in, because presuming there is some bug doing the rounds, then they would be the group more susceptible to attack. But when, for example, I see younger people, alone or with others, in the street or in a car, and they are masked, I wonder as to the reason. I asked a friend and he said “fear”, but I have my doubts. The younger generally don’t engage with the mainstream media and therefore would have been spared the non-stop bombardment of propaganda messaging over the past 20 months. Could it be virtue signaling? To be seen as really belonging, because not being “accepted” is a source of horror for many. Maybe. Or it could simply be second-nature by now, having been practiced for 20 months; and they are entirely unaware or even curious about any more sinister message being inculcated, as they walk around half-hidden, hard-to-recognize.

I gained insight while reading Neil Postman’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity (published in 1969) where he quotes Ernest Hemingway. The latter was being interviewed about what quality is essential in becoming a great novelist. Having dismissed all the options presented by the interviewer, who was getting frustrated at this stage, Hemingway said: “In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector”. Postman continues as follows: “One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continual struggle against the veneration of ‘crap’…Our intellectual history is a chronicle of the anguish and suffering of men who tried to help their contemporaries see that some part of their fondest beliefs were misconceptions, faulty assumptions, superstitions and even outright lies”.

What an accurate description of the madness we have endured since March 2020! Have we not endured an endless series of “faulty assumptions” (see NPHET & Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College, London, for copious examples)? Much of the so-called “science” that has been paraded before the trusting public has been nothing more than “superstition” dressed up with intellectual-sounding jargon, geared to stupefy an already perplexed public.

So what happens when a person or a society lacks a “crap detector”? I think it leads to the unthinking acceptance of, and conformity with, whatever the powers-that-be dictate; not so much the inept government, but the nearly-all-powerful media, and whoever or whatever powers are pulling the strings behind that.  I sense that many people who I would formerly have regarded as reasonable and erudite have somehow morphed into something else: their critical thinking faculty has either been deliberately manipulated or unconsciously de-activated – at least when it comes to anything pertaining to our current weird, dystopian times. It truly bamboozles me that so many otherwise intelligent people still grant such authority and credibility to the loud voices in our midst: most notably the mainstream media.

 

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