Phobos, φόβος, fear. We see it in our research, we see it expressed via a myriad of ways in the community, through the media and across the world.
The first casualty of any pandemic is actually rational thought. People will lunge towards any narrative that may alleviate the fear that is bouncing around in their heads.
The 5G conspiracy nuts, the down playing of deaths, the downplaying the severity of the disease are all about φόβος.
Ever noticed that the most dominant demographic that distributes and absorbs Covid 19 conspiracies are largely men, mostly in their middle age, nearing the actual period where their general mortality actually is becoming a reality to them? Covid 19 has simply triggered a mid life crisis for many blokes.
It’s certainly a modern twist to what has accompanied plagues since humans have walked this earth. An unseen pestilence triggers the most primal φόβος in most humans. Most of us rationally respond to this threat by taking precautions but there has always been a section of our society that simply cannot get over their φόβος.
Pandemics have long bred prejudice and mistrust, and fuelled longstanding biases, as traumatised communities have looked to blame others as unclean or malicious spreaders of disease. Hence why we are seeing an explosion of hatred levelled towards Chinese people.
Throughout medieval Europe the Black Death became an excuse to scapegoat and massacre Jewish people. Medieval Christian mobs attacked Jewish ghettos with virtually every wave of the disease, claiming that Jewish citizens poisoned wells and conspired with demons to spread the disease.
Right now, Covid 19 has made its way into our migrant communities (Melbourne). If it breaks out within these communities, we should expect these people to be unnecessary vilified. The reality that Covid was transported by wealthy travellers has already been forgotten.
In the absence of scientific certainty, and there is a lot of that around atm (justifiably) pandemics have often inspired people to grasp at answers based on whatever they immediately observe around them. During the Russian flu of 1889, bizarre theories evolved quickly into widely disseminated rumours. One American newspaper, The New York Herald, speculated that the flu could travel on telegraph wires, after a large number of telegraph operators seemed to contract the disease. 5G anyone???
But these people who spread conspiracies, vilify others, downplay the disease are in fact very dangerous players in this crisis. Thankfully, most will never get to make a critical decision that will impact millions, as most only have to worry about their own mid life crisis. But occasionally they end up in powerful positions.
The Brazil and U.S Presidents come to mind. So too the local government officials in northern Italy, where they encouraged people to keep practicing their Italian culture and mingle.
After refusing to take action, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro simply used two words to describe the mounting deaths – ‘so what’. Like the U.S, that country will become another epicentre for Covid 19, as infections and deaths sky rocket.
The University of Säo Paulo Medical School, estimate the true fatality figure to be 15 times higher than official figures suggest. Brazil is only testing people who end up in the hospital and like the U.S the undercounting is immense. Mortality figures in the U.S can easily be over 100,000 as many poor people early on in the pandemic could not afford to go to hospital and just died at home.
Next time you bump into a Covid 19 conspiracy nut, or as some call them, Covididiots, tell them to deal with their fear and respect the work our health workers are doing right now. They are the ones with the most to fear atm.
My advice to men my age. Your time is limited on this planet. A fast car and a conspiracy wont bring back all those years. Face your phobos. (Apologies to all and many blokes out there that don’t have this problem).