The pandemic reveals what has become of humanity

As Don Quixote thought windmills were giants to be jousted with, so we regard Covid-19: a   plotting, stalking goliath.  The analogy could not be closer – the Middle Ages were a time for plagues. The Black Death of the 1340s killed more than 40% of Europe’s population. Still, amid the terror and superstition common sense was not discarded. Those who could afford it fled city death traps to quarantine in the countryside. 

In 1529 the ‘sweating sickness” dropped Londoners like flies. In Hilary Mantel’s novel, Wolf Hall I read: “The rule is for the household to hang a bunch of straw outside the door as sign of infection, then restrict entry for forty days, and go out as little as possible.” Had our architects of lockdown taken a leaf from medieval common sense, the lives and livelihoods of billions of victims would have been spared.   

Worse than jelly-brained, we have been poltroons kidding ourselves that ‘better to be safe than sorry’ is a noble guide to life. To believe Lancet, we lack the stoicism of a generation ago. “Revisiting the 1957 and 1968 influenza pandemics” speaks of the “stoicism” of both the common people and policy-makers.

Befitting a medical journal, Lancet compares in measured tones the craven behaviour of today with the level-headed behaviour of those who went through worse pandemics in the 1900s.

Where we lack common sense, they had it. Where we panic, they kept sane; where our media sensationalizes, theirs informed. Where our modellers of disease are out to make a name with pronouncements designed to propagate dread, their medics wanted to learn and understand. Where our parents put coddling before relatively safe schooling, their parents knew kids were at risk going to school, yet made them go. Where our politicians play god, theirs let the medical fraternity handle crises of public health. And where our politicians close down business and cut off cross border trade, theirs understood that economic suicide could make no impression on a virus. All in all 20th century humanity did not go berserk, and believers prayed to their Gods in the time honoured manner.    

Consider the no-nonsense Prime Minister of Britain, Harold Macmillan. It was July 1957. There he stood telling a Tory Party rally that the British “had never had it so good”. The world was in the grip of a pandemic worse than our Covid-19. Influenza A, virus subtype H2N2, known as the Asian Flu, had surfaced in China in the winter of ‘56. By April Hong Kong had a quarter of a million cases. By June India crossed the one million mark. The British and the Americans were basking in a boom when the pandemic made landfall. By the time it was contained in ‘58 more than a million had departed this mortal coil, of which 30,000 were British and 100,000 Americans. For a crude comparison with our Flu, double the fatalities to allow for the smaller populations than today.

But then people were redoubtable. They learned to live with a pandemic. They did not put their lives on hold. Neither did they succumb to a new normal. Owners of businesses were not prohibited from earning a living. No one cowered at home waiting for some invalid curve to flatten. They did not become hypochondriacs.   

What of our political, cultural and moral leaders? Did they keep their heads while all around were losing theirs? They can’t have done. Not when they put their money on the likes of ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson whose doomsday prediction of 1 million British deaths spurred on the lock-downers of the world. Would his science have been respected had it been known he would break his own rules by smuggling a married woman into his home during London’s lockdown?

The lockdown – if you want to call it that rather than a bazooka to kill a cockroach – zapped just about everything except the pest, which repaid the favour with a second wave of prolific spite. It’s no mystery why the losers from lockdown learnt before the experts who lost nothing, that it was a weapon of indiscriminate devastation.  

European governments were next to be taught the lesson. They won’t be locking down again in a hurry, no matter how bad the second wave. Taking example from Sweden, Europeans have come to terms with living with the virus. Not so Britain, Israel and Australia which imposed draconian second lockdowns. Many Israelis, so I’ve been told, would flee the country if airlines were airborne.

Naturally enough lockdown proponents were under pressure to scapegoat the blame. And the handy scapegoat was the villain of the peace, the voiceless coronavirus. Loathe it but be sorry for it, taking the consequence of closing down society on its blameless back.

Rabbinic authorities and their observant flock are blame-shifters in chief. The cultural devastation they wrought by forbidding Jewish gatherings drove rabbis to distraction. The law making the sanctity of human life paramount drove them over the edge of reason.

The social cost and the economic cost from isolating Jews were horrendous. Saving one life involved sacrificing maybe 100 others. And so language, to scapegoat, had to bend to the task. “The Covid pandemic forced people apart.” Or, a rabbi who himself banned communal gatherings, blamed a secretive force. “We could never imagine that our synagogues would be closed”. What closed them is left to the imagination. Or this deliberately obtuse statement in a periodical: “The whole world is reeling from the virus and the economic crisis that inevitably followed.” As if politically imposed lockdowns were blameless.  

Not to forget the other scapegoat: ‘Follow the science,’ is the refrain of those who made the rules. Mute science is a handy blame-taker for all too human scientists. The rule-makers, cutting corners, mean, “follow my scientific advisors who agree with me that lockdown is the remedy.”  

G L Gomme in The handbook of folklore defines myth as “the science of a pre-scientific age.” Folklore, says Gomme, offered our ancestors a comforting sense of control over nature. Dry spells were addressed by rain dances and by offerings to Helios. The pre-science folk just had to sit back and wait. The rains came. The sun reappeared. Wisdom and the illusion of control were verified. 

Proponents of using a bazooka to kill a cockroach have not had their myth verified. After lockdowns laid the world to waste, corona came back to bite.

There are Jews who can be hated – and who should be

A consolation to the Jewish people is being reminded that hatred of the Jew is not their fault. No one expects the victim to cure the anti-Semite villain.

But wisdom deep and wide can debunk this reminder for not being true, all the time. It took Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks to debunk it.

Writing on hatred in the Torah, the Rabbi delves into Pharaoh putting the Israelites into bondage, with infanticide and all.

When hate is rational, based on some fear or disapproval that – justified or not – has some logic to it, then it can be reasoned with and brought to an end.”

The fear and hatred of Pharaoh had some logic. By reproduction alone the Israelite settlers could overwhelm Egypt. (‘Two Types of Hate.’ Covenant and Conversation, 29 August 2017)

On the other hand, Rabbi Sacks identifies hatred of the irrational brand – the hatred we believe, wrongly, to be the only type. Without logic hatred of this type has neither beginning nor end. To illustrate, Rabbi Sacks points to the Amalekites attacking the vanguard of Israelite columns en route to the Promised Land. They attacked without cause or strategic purpose. It was hatred pure and simple.

 An example in our times? Firebrand anti-Zionists would be the Amelekite crazies. 

And the Pharaoh type of today? Anti-Semites who hate with logic, and even with justification?  

Witness the American case, a philanthropist and trouble maker supremo. Mr George Soros (ne Schwartz György) might be the Jew who can be hated by anti-Semites – and who should be.  

“The revengeful and well-funded coalition of Trump-hating insurrectionists is preparing the battlefield for a post-election civil war; threatening to extend the 2020 election into 2021 and to weaponize every tool to make sure Joe Biden assumes the presidency even if President Trump legitimately wins. The same sore losers who still refuse to accept the results of the 2016 presidential contest are preparing to do whatever it takes—including promote the secession of western states—to force the removal of Donald Trump next January.”

Could it be written off as the fantasies of people still mad about 2016. Far from it.  

To believe  American Greatness the plot is backed by some of the wealthiest people who walk the earth. The insurgent masterminds rely on the storm troopers, the BLM and Antifa rioters to do the softening up. The money of Mr Soros and Master Zuckerberg, Jews among the gentile plotters, could make it happen.

If they draw anti-Semites out of the woodwork, can we blame the anti-Semites?    

Not long ago Mr Soros drew the Hungarian strain out of the woodwork. A meddling Jew flinging billions at bringing on his godless vision of utopia for a country he’d no business to meddle in, was guaranteed to draw ‘Kike’ haters d like sugar draws wasps.

Bank breaker Soros is no symbol. More than the House of Rothschild could do in bygone times, Hungary-born Soros can summon the capital, buy the alliances, educate disciples, and trouble every corner of Europe with mad visions of a borderless world.

Backwater Hungary is nothing to the financier and his Open Society Foundations, with mountains of capital and a bottomless cause. Love or hate Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, only the dishonest could deny the bind he was in consequent of a Jew gambling with countries, and even a whole bloc of them.     

The crux of Orban’s bind involves the sanctity of borders. Whither are they going? Not in Hungary alone but the whole of Europe?

Some forty years ago a president of America seemed to anticipate the question. To quote Ronald Reagan: “A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.” Today anti-Semite and Jew face off on either side of the border issue. Hungary’s freely elected leader versus Mr Soros. For his part the latter is perfectly candid. He wants to reshape a country across the Atlantic. He’d be a meddler even if Hungary were a failed state. But what is he doing with a fully functional democracy, a paid up member of Europe and the United Nations! Soros calls it a Mafia state. Viktor Orban might be closer to the mark if he called his antagonist a Mafiosi.      

But Mr Soros is not secretive. He tells the world what’s in his mind. Talking of the resister Viktor Orban, he said: “Orban treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.”

Could it be the definitive meaning of Jewish chutzpah? No question, it’s the perfect example of, ‘Who pays the piper calls the tune.’

From when the philanthropist set up the Open Society Foundations in 1993 he’s flung in excess of $11 billion at feel-good groups, staffed or loved by the Left. It could be with tongue in cheek that Soros named the foundation after the 1945 book by Karl Popper, ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies.’ The meddler operates as the enemies do in Popper’s title, and not just in the open society of Hungary. In the bastions of freedom, in America, Israel and Europe, Soros busy as a bee is undermining the will of the people spoken through the ballot box. And the disciples he bought do their utmost to push back on behalf of the great Paymaster.   

Rights groups and watchdogs lambast Hungary’s elected government for cracking down on Soros and the civil society NGO’s proliferating on his money. Balint Bardi, a Budapest journo says, “We have pushed for greater acceptance of refugees and migrants, putting us at odds with right-wing governments and far-right political parties,” Bardi believes that Hungary’s government is waging a campaign against Soros as part of a broader strategy to exploit xenophobic feelings. His opponents, according to Bardi, want to deflect attention from a government crackdown on civil society in order “to gain popularity for the government”.


[i] A watchdog decrying the xenophobia its master orchestrated by pushing Orban to open borders to untold migrants who, learning from Britain, France, Spain, will not assimilate into a Judaeo-Christian culture, let alone the risk of security, PC for outbreaks of terror using bombs, knives, trucks for murder and mayhem. [ii]“Right-wing governments and far right political parties.” When did Bardi the journo qualify a government as ‘Left-wing’ or a political party as “far-left?” Only left-wing is good? Democracy is only acceptable when voters return governments the left-wing like?  [iii] “To gain popularity for the government.”  Is it not precisely what a political party in a democracy is supposed to do: get elected by popular vote? What does Bardi want of the successful party: to make itself unpopular, to please foreign meddlers?

For an astute reader of markets who broke the Bank of England, Soros’ investment in disciples has returned products of asinine quality with faulty brains like Bardi.

Another Soros product of sub-quality is a human rights expert named Nora Koves. It’s not playing fair, she complains, to require transparency of NGOs receiving $26,000 or more from outsiders. What business is it of government and citizenry to know that her NGO is controlled by a foreigner out to make Hungarians, like God made man, in his own image“.”Basically,” says Nora Kovos, “we are the last critics standing in Hungary. We are the professional criticism of the government.”


[i] Who or what is a ‘human rights expert’? Could it be Nora Koves describing herself?  [ii}Is there even a talent known as human rights expertise? [iii] Nora Koves works for Budapest-based Eotvos Karoly Policy Institute, another outfit surviving on the bottomless pocket of the meddler. [iv] “We are the professional criticism of the government.” Yes they are. Professionals live on what they get paid to do.

Meanwhile Hungary’s government styles itself as the defender of “Christian Europe” against a surge of  migrants incentivized by Soros and his EU cronies to pick Hungary as a likely place to settle down, all the while educating Europeans to regard borders and sovereignty as unwonted vestiges of bygone days.  

Hungary is not alone. All over Europe leaders and parties blame Soros for the mess. A former Prime Minister of Poland, Jarosław Kaczynski, blames the entities he funds for advocating “societies without identity”. Anti-Soros laws and rhetoric are part of the landscape in Serbia, Bulgaria and Slovakia. Who shall cast the first stone at Viktor Orban for plastering billboards with the face of the instigator all over Hungary: “Don’t let George Soros have the last laugh,” it pleads.

Of course Jewish watchdogs are aligned with the pro-Soros circus. Aren’t they aligned with every circus going. Jewish activists get good money from Mr Soros, so why not? “There’s no doubt,” an activist Jew declared. “The vast majority of American Jews live with what we would call white privilege.”

If being privileged is sinful, if the more privileged you are the greater your sin, well then. Zionists and the tiny country they support are culpable. Then hating Zionists is more than the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do, and those of good conscience are duty bound to hate Zionists.

A moot point: are we dealing with Amelikite crazies or Pharaoh rational types?

The myths and madness of hate are indiscriminate. Watchdogs seem to be a susceptible group. Meddling Jews are the fox guarding the henhouse. And the empire of the greatest meddler of them all is camouflaged by a veneer of nonsense.

SA Inc can’t be rescued without knowing the problem

CEO’s can’t rescue SA Inc.

Do you know one CEO who knows the problem? CEOs having to run businesses profitably can never be part of the solution. They can only be part of the problem. Business wise is not wise period. For exaample:

Jeff Bezos of Amazon turned his toy the Washington Post into a handout of the Democrat Party. The CEO of American Airlines turned flights into a BLM promotion. The CEOs of Twitter, Face Book, YouTube block medical opinion on Covid treatment as ‘disinformation’ because it is not the opinion of the politicized CDC. Nike appointed a brand ambassador on the strength of his labelling policemen “Pigs.”

One who pins faith in business leaders to rescue SA Inc. is the opposite of wise.

To know the problem takes Wisdom  

To rescue SA Inc, if it can be rescued at such a late point, is to know the problem, is to have wisdom.

Wisdom takes understanding. Understanding takes knowing exactly what dropped SA Inc. into the league of muck; therefore what will keep SA Inc. there.


Wisdom                                   =          Understanding

Understanding                              ≠          Acceptable PC opinion

Understanding                              =          Identifying the problem

Identifying the problem          =          Identifying the solution

Understanding 1

The President as part of the problem cannot be the solution. The P will do what he always did. He will oversee and enable the rot.

After the P acted this way under Zuma; after he has acted this way in power; after he allowed Mugabe to run riot; after he allows the new tyrant of Zim to run riot –

The P like the Leopard can never change his spots.

Ramaphosa on Tuesday said that he would implement an employment stimulus plan within the next month.”

What’s wrong here?

In two decades has any P seen one plan through to completion? Inept and dishonest leaders are always going to do something, which never gets done. 

Ramaphosa said that, “Countries across the world are facing significant economic disruption as a result of the pandemic, leading to the worst global downturn in decades. South Africa has not been spared these realities.

What’s wrong here?

The P is evading responsibility. Did it come down from Heaven that he must impose a state of emergency with 5 levels of lockdown? And who told him to keep lockdown at level 2? Science?  

The P, not some inanimate pandemic, damaged the economy.

Ramaphosa said that “there were two important processes before he could implement his employment stimulus.

What’s wrong here?

According to his modus operandi the P plays for time. When you see that word “process” it’s the ANC way of saying, ‘forget it.’

One who pins faith in R is the opposite of wise. 

Understanding 2

A prominent judge understands.

“Corruption is not our only problem. John Kane-Berman has identified what we need to do to save our beloved people from disaster. We are on the point of becoming another Cuba or Venezuela or, God forbid, Zimbabwe.”

Long before Kane-Berman, I identified the same nub of the problem:   “The bed rock of the rot is tossing merit out the window. Economic signals headed to hell in a basket when merit became the last consideration for filling jobs. A merit-free economy and a doomed society are wedded closer than a horse and carriage.”

Understanding 3

Kane-Berman has understood in detail what I understood in essence. Click here

“If appointments are made not on the basis of professional competence, but on the basis of political loyalty or to fill racial quotas, you end up with the public service we have got, pervaded by both corruption and incompetence.

So even if Mr Ramaphosa seriously intends even to begin to start trying to stamp out corruption over Covid-19 – a big if – he faces the challenge of finding enough officials who are both honest and competent. It is impossible to disentangle corruption from the other two factors, cadre deployment and racial demographics. Eskom. SAA. Prasa. The SABC. State schooling. Government health care. National departments? Provinces? You name it.

With the exception of the Western Cape, South Africa’s municipalities are packed with people, many of them deployed cadres, who are sometimes crooked, sometimes incompetent, sometimes both. If all the crooks were weeded out, millions of people would still have no clean or reliable supplies of water, because they would still be at the mercy of incompetent cadres.

Yet even though the Constitutional Court warned that beneficiaries of affirmative action had to be “suitably qualified in order not to sacrifice efficiency at the altar of remedial employment”, its decision in the Barnard case gave more weight to racial requirements than to “effective” public administration. The court thus lent its imprimatur to racial policies which have undermined the public sector and also the constitutional rights which depend on an efficient public sector, among them the rights to life and dignity, the right to security of the person, the rights of access to housing and health care, and the right to a healthy environment.

Apart from being criminal, the theft of public funds undermines all these rights. But so do the ANC’s cadre deployment and racial policies, which also handicap efforts to combat such theft and other types of crime. It’s about time (to connect the dots). And for the Constitutional Court not to be complacent about the consequences of racial “transformation”.

Understanding 4         The one and only solution

A colour blind society and economy.   

How can lockdowns be kosher

To make one pray, in synagogue or privately, for something, morning noon and night, life without it must be intolerable. Thrice daily a Jew prays for פַּרנָסָה – for sustenance, a livelihood. Bereft of פַּרנָסָה life is burdensome. Can the heart or head get used to being a charity case? Can a breadwinner make peace with depending on those who kept their livelihood?

Lockdowns rob people willy nilly of פַּרנָסָה. How can a practice that tells a man he may not earn a living be kosher? That he may not support a family. That he may not keep his head above water as long as others are contracting a virus. Take away a livelihood and you take away a life. Often not a figurative life – I heard that an Israeli committed suicide when the lockdown put paid to his food stall.

Lockdown imposers forget the law of unintended consequence. It is not difficult to forget  when you lose nothing. The comfy in the Knesset and the health department keep their livelihoods. It took an Erel Margalit to remind members of the Corona Cabinet that, “Another general lockdown will lead to mass layoffs, and the collapse of businesses across the country.” Families and businesses on the skid, never mind the unemployed, are at the mercy of tax-supported technocrats who live very nicely, thank you.

Those who run lives, or ruin them, are not paid to think that by helping Group x to stay safe they rob Group y of livelihoods and lives. And the next meal.  “COVID-19 is about to force a food insecurity reckoning in Israel,” warned a headline on Arutz Sheva. “The strain on Israel’s piecemeal network of food banks and charities is growing daily. At the same time the closures of hospitality and other supportive businesses have robbed (food banks) of reliable sources of surplus foodstuffs.”

It would be bad enough if the technocrats had Science behind them. They do not. Doctors, journalists and ordinary Israelis are suing the Health Ministry over a number of unmentionables.

  1. “Disagreements about the severity and extent of morbidity and mortality caused by the virus.
  2. The link between measures taken and prevention of infection and morbidity
  3. The degree of health burden.

The litigants had to remind bureaucrats that “every decision, step, and policy affects the lives, health, and future of millions of Israelis. Therefore reliable information and true data are critical.”

Lockdowns are kosher?

It cannot be that Jews full of heart and soul, love and understanding have grown hard-skinned and thoughtless. It does seem very uncharacteristic. Besides which, it goes directly against the obligation to set up a fellow Jew to earn a livelihood which is better than to live on handouts. 

There can be two explanations: the scary news feed, and one-eyed vision. The technocrats  are culpable on both counts. Everyone and the rabbinate are prone to fall into line, and afterwards do the mopping up from treating the health crisis and the scare-mongering as a call to lockdown. The Corona fear cycle I coined is a perpetual wheel.

News feed to scare people stiff numbs the brain. New infections, hospitalized cases, ventilator cases, mortality counts: the parameters of a virus, the excitable though lesser part of the story; the part given over to healthcare professionals and the media; the part where scientific terms get bandied about.

I know of no bulletin broadcasting, side by side, the vital stats of the virus and the lockdown. In Column 1 virus metrics, in Column 2 lockdown tolls, the bigger cut of the pie – the cut you can verify. There can be no doctoring the businesses gone broke; hotel staff laid off; street vendors that failed to re-open, travel agents given up waiting for aircraft to get airborne and cruise liners to go to sea; papered-up windows in mute malls, turnover at food banks; the  unemployment number. So to the bottom line: lives taken by the lockdown.

The last metric gives practitioners of lockdown itchy backs. In the parlance of medical science there are ‘excess deaths’. The term, you’d think, means too many deaths from Covid-19. No. It involves too few. No expert quite knows why, but the government toll falls short of the number of deaths that exceed an historical norm. The experts can’t explain the shortfall. They only know that people died in vast numbers while locked down.

Take South Africa. Excess deaths from May to August stood at 33 478. The death toll from Covid-19, the toll driving people to distraction, stood at 10,000 or just one-third of ‘lockdown deaths.’ But it did more than kill people. The lockdown cut 3 to 4 million people adrift from their jobs until those who did not earn a living were as many as those who did – a 50% unemployment.  

Yes, people die obeying warnings to stay home. Scared stiff people neglect their cancer or diabetes or blood pressure or their physical and mental fitness. Survivors of neglect often have nothing to celebrate either, being invalids or amputees. Face facts. Lockdowns can be three times more lethal than Covid-19. Worse. Covid-19 kills the sick while lockdowns kill the healthy.

Yet lockdowns are kosher certified?

They are because of lives they may save – the sanctity of life principle or pikuach nephesh. Has anyone tracked down an elusive scientist, one who calculated how many lives a certain lockdown saved? We never hear an expert swear by the Hippocratic Oath that a lockdown saved (x) number of lives in a given period. We do know that residents of care homes have died even when held in solitary confinement. Yet our faith in the lockdown is not shaken. We stick to our scientific ‘betters’ like burr.

What they did do, exceptionally well, was to oversell the pandemic. Polls confirm the impact of the sales campaign. Respondents in the UK thought that Covid-19 had killed 7% of the population. That would be 41/2 million fatalities. North of the border Scots were more bamboozled. They were under the impression that 10% of the UK had died, which equals 7 million. Americans were little better. They believed the virus had killed 9% of America, or 30 million. The reality, bad enough, is a toll around the 0.2 million mark.

Oversell a toothpaste and no one gets hurt. Oversell a pandemic and people die. The fear cycle kills. But alarming the public is held to be the right thing to do. Lockdowns are kosher because consideration for others is derech eretz.  

How the twin pandemic got born. The supreme sanctity of human life created a death trap. It predictably collapsed the parameters of the world we knew.

Everyone knows the health risk. Few know the risk of bondage. To certify a lockdown kosher is to certify a political coup. Angelo Codevilla, Senior Fellow at the Claremont Institute and Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, calls it the “Great Covid coup of 2020, achieved by lies and fear.”

“In March, the WHO and the CDC presented coronavirus to the world as a danger equivalent to the plague. But China’s experience had already shown that it was much less like the plague and more like the flu. All that happened afterwards followed from falsifying this basic truth. Rulers took the opportunity to extort public compliance with their agendas. The claim to speak on behalf of “science” is an attempt to avoid being held accountable for the enormous harm done. Rulers will continue doing harm because they want to hold on to the power the panic brought them.” A hair-raising but obvious scenario. When lockdowns were novel I warned repeatedly of power grabbing.

How could we go there when economic collapse and tokens of bondage were all around? Fright is a blinding tool. The panic stokers in power did their work well.

To believe that lockdowns can stop a pandemic is to believe in a myth. G L Gomme in ‘The handbook of folklore’ defines myth as “the science of a pre-scientific age.” Folklore, Gomme says, offered our ancestors a comforting sense of control over nature. Dry spells were addressed by rain dances and by offerings to Helios. The pre-science folk just had to sit back and wait. The rains came. The sun reappeared. Wisdom and the illusion of control were verified. 

The lockdown folk are not so lucky. They’ve not had their myth verified. After their device laid the world to waste the virus came back to bite.

South Africa’s dreamy emperors

A satiric masterpiece

Long after the ‘dark continent’ salvaged independence and respect from the horrors of colonialism, now and then African rulers seek to emulate the ways of the European. The desire is deep and suicidal. The former colonized will do whatever it takes to copy the former colonizing powers.   

A 1932 satiric novel by Evelyn Waugh proved to be starkly prescient. In “Black Mischief” the Emperor of Azania, identified with Zanzibar, may be an overdone caricature, but the way it portrays a syndrome has to be marveled at.   

“Another thing,” said the Emperor, “I have been reading in my papers about something very modern called Birth Control. What is it?” 

Basil explained. 

“I must have a lot of that. You will see to it.”

What does it all have to do with South Africa today, expiring and on life support?

ANC party bigwigs have been allured by modern ideas. European ideas. They have bought into round pegs for square holes. They read about “something very modern” called National Health, and they “must have a lot of that.”

Scandinavia is the model for the ANC. Party bigwigs want its flawless health system and not the tumble down hospitals it made – death traps run by comrades and cadres who’d make a mess of managing a spaza shop. Only the best of Europe is good enough for African pride, for a country where a third of the people live below the poverty line. The Swede’s proficiency is to be transplanted into the heart of corroded Africa. 

Reality is not even a consideration.  South Africa is well on the road to a Venezuela or a Zimbabwe– total wrecks.

  • A contracting economy
  • Mass unemployment  
  • Unserviceable debt
  • Treasury bare as a Mother Hubbard’s cupboard
  • Corruption rot from the head down
  • Utilities and departments run by clueless cadres
  • Government workers who don’t work but who the President thinks can’t be dispensed with.
  • Resources that could uplift every desperately poor person, are diverted to luxury living for the politically connected
  • Exodus of  capital, both assets and human
  • Not one cogent plan to completion in twenty five years
  • Law and policing more conceptual than real
  • An ethos that dirty money buys a ticket to heavenly living, not a quick ticket to the jailhouse.

A plan to install the best health system in Europe just has to be thought up and it will happen.  Ripe and ready for picking. No thought is given to the contract for submarines that idle in Simonstown dock because no one knows how they work.   

Can Evelyn Waugh’s Emperor of Azania be alive in South Africa? If life imitates art he can be. When a character in a novel is so life like, it means that each part of the character coincides with a bit of real life. We can certainly tear an Emperor out of the pages of a book and paste him in a rundown country besotted with modern ideas. There are Waugh’s Emperor’s galore at every level of the ANC, comrades deranged by the prospect of wealth acquired at a wink and a nod.

“The Lord Chamberlain came to consult the Emperor about the banquet. He had forbidden raw beef. What was he to give the guests?”

 “Raw beef, said Basil. Call it steak tartare.” 

“That is in accordance with modern thought?” 


To mix politics with religion may be wrong but justified

A look at America, Britain and South Africa

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, emphatic that rabbis were wrong to bless Biden or Trump, says that mixing politics with religion is “an absolute and total outrage. It’s one of the greatest things Judaism ever taught the world. You mix religion and politics, you get terrible politics and even worse religion.”

With a clarity that makes him distinct from the herd, Lord Sacks tells American Jewry it is    “making a big, big mistake. This is not a small thing. It’s a very, very big thing.” Or is it shadow boxing with his own British rabbi? Mirvis the Chief Rabbi had broken the golden rule and dipped into politics. In November 2019 before the ballot he ordered British Jewry to not vote Labour because the party leader Corbyn was unfit to be a Prime Minister.

“Allowing that convention dictates that a Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics – and rightly so – the forthcoming elections constitute an exception since the very soul of our nation is at stake”. At stake because anti-Semites packed the Labour party.

Lord Sacks agreed that Corbyn the leader was a threat to the community of Britain. But he never told it how to vote. Rabbi Mervis went right in and did the great sin that Judaism taught the nation not to do. He mixed religion with politics. Did the Almighty let him get away with doing that? Looking at the backlash on social media, no. The Chief Rabbi got terrible politics and even worse Judaism for his trouble.

The anti-Semites had a field day. They said Mirvis didn’t like the platform of the Labour party because it condemned Israel for emasculating the Gaza strip. They scoffed that Labour’s support for a Palestinian state bothered him. They hinted at the rabbi being an arms dealer for Israel. He wanted, they said, to cover up violations of human rights in the occupied territories, where Mervis trained in a yeshiva. The anti-Semites got a kick out of airing their anti-Zionism as much as they got a lift from tossing a rabbi into a mound of manure.  It would be better had Rabbi Mirvis heeded the Lord Sacks. Had he kept out of politics Jews would probably have deserted Labour at the polls anyway.   

American Jewry is not so threatened as to need a rabbi to tell them which way to vote. The Trump ticket that the “Election will decide whether we save the American Dream and the American way of life” is every minority’s concern. If you’re a rabbi you don’t bless the Trump campaign. A gala dinner would be the kosher way to show appreciation; or a private donation to the Trump campaign.  

No doubt Trump in the White House will be better for Israel than Biden in it. That’s for communal bodies to help make happen. Campaign and lobby. AIPAC and the Israeli government can lend a hand, just as Obama lent an interfering hand to get Israeli parties on the Left elected.  Unless Rabbi Lord Sacks is wrong, an American rabbi would need a hotline to God to mix politics and religion and emerge with a tallis laundered for Yom Kippur. If Britain’s Rabbi, facing the worst case scenario for a community couldn’t do it, let the rabbinate of America beware. You mix religion and politics, you get terrible politics and more terrible religion.

No rabbis more than the rabbis of America’s temples demonstrate what you get by diluting Judaism with the dregs of politics. Temple Beth El in Salinas California is one of many. Cantor Margaret Bruner declared her temple a ‘Sanctuary Congregation’. The Sanctuary City idea in the bible drove her to follow suit. Let all who hop the border fence into America – drug dealer or child trafficker don’t matter – find safe haven in Temple Beth El. Cantor Bruner pledged financial and legal support into the bargain. “The Jewish people strongly believe that since we were once slaves and strangers in a strange land it is incumbent upon us to offer a safe haven for those fleeing persecution.” Quite how the cantor identified a persecuted fence-hopper from one looking for a lifestyle supported by the taxpayers of California, she kept private.    

Her type of chessed, if you call it that rather than infantile make-believe, gives a warm and fuzzy feeling. Mores the pity that cantors and clerics may get the feeling without contorting Judaism into another human rights enterprise. Hence the temple recipe they live by:

Religion + Leftism = Tanach + Tikkun Olam

South Africa could be a case on its own. It was never a fair country. A rabbi in South Africa can scarcely avoid mixing politics with religion. There was Apartheid and after it a hybrid system of elected comrades to gulp down wealth as fast as capitalists could produce it. 

A year ago when the country knelt on the cusp of no return I warned it was up to President Trump. Should Trump not slap sanctions on the comrades in crime, the country was a goner.  Yes, the innocent could be fallout. But the alternative, to be kind to the guilty, would make it worse for the innocent. A beggar country in the making is no time to think of fallout. Sixty five million victims of crime  want not a cruel future but a kind one. 

President Trump did not slap sanctions. Arguably South Africa is a goner. Comrades and cadres took a promising country that began with Mandela and made a meal of it. Today they banquet off the dying scraps of meat.

The despoiling got going when a President named Zuma took the rule of law and hollowed it out so that comrades could feast till they burst. A President named Ramaphosa took up where the deposed Zuma left off. His style is different but the results are the same. Where the greed of the former was personal and shameless, the enabling of the latter is cloaked with good intentions. There are times when words stop trying to make a point and let a cartoon do it graphically.

When a regime tears up the implicit agreement between government and the governed as to the rights and duties of each (the Social Contract) what is a Jewish community to do? Petition God to bless the government? Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein suspended that part of the synagogue service when Zuma was the head Comrade in Crime, then reinstated the prayer  when Ramaphosa deposed Zuma. Either way it won’t make a jot of difference. The free for all will hasten a messy end and probably replace the president with a tyrant like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. 

Civil activism is the one hope, though faint. Smart activism could break the feasting and birth a  beginning from which to rebuild. To be smart it has to be kosher and smarter than marching arm in arm to the Union Buildings.   

I see a four-pronged activism.

  1. Stop asking God to bless a government that exists for criminals. What if our prayers are answered and they become better at crime? The President is no more than an overseer and enabler of crimes against humanity – unsurprising after he did the same under the former President and allowed Mugabe to brutalize Zimbabweans. Our President is more than a wimp; he hardens his heart and allows the rich to steal from the poor. .
  2. Close ways for comrades to splash out. Target car dealerships that cash in by selling  Bentleys and Rolls Royces, Ferraris and Masseratis. File criminal charges against  dealerships that fail to verify the source of money. The same for real estate transactions. Make agents and auctioneers duty-bound to distinguish clean money from dirty. Picket swish country clubs that accept looters as members.    
  3. As the ANC made the Apartheid state a polecat, make their gangster state a polecat. Lobby for trade boycotts. Lobby the UN Human Rights Commission. The WHO already declared ANC looting of PPE tenders equivalent to murder. Lobby the US Administration to slap financial and travel bans on leaders of the ANC.
  4. Promote a tax revolt. Withholding tax is the way to say to the criminal state, “You have broken your part of the social contract and made it null and void.
  5. Campaign on social media. Here is a tweet for a community rabbi. “President Ramaphosa. Explain how your seizure of land is consistent with the willingness of investors to invest.” Or this Tweet: “Give an example or two of countries where land seizure has not damaged agriculture.” Or how about this for a Tweet? “President Ramaphosa, lead by example. First expropriate land that you own.”

You mix religion and politics when conditions look existential. You may get terrible politics though better to try than be left with nothing

The great peace blocker

President Trump cannot help being willful and impulsive. He likes to call the shots; whatever advised to do he does the opposite. Critics think because he is not obedient he’s a brute. Despite or because of prickly traits, there’s been no incumbent of the White House more likely to bring down the curtain on a conflict that defies a deal. Could the smirking face under the yellow coiffure make Israel and the Palestinians smoke the peace pipe?

It all depends. If ‘Mr Not Nice Guy’ is not blind to the elephant in the room he could be the one. He mustn’t be as myopic as, in his Trumpian brag, “All prior administrations from President Lyndon Johnson on, who tried and bitterly failed.”

Trump could do the impossible. But to do it he would have to spot that lurking mammoth. It alone knows what caused decades of peace proposals to be archived.

The peace camps haven’t a clue. They like to blame four problems of little bearing.

(1) Antipathy of Palestinians to the idea of a Jewish flag in the neighborhood;

(2) Israeli settlement building in the West Bank;

(3) Israeli occupation; and

(4) Palestinian insistence on the time bomb labeled ‘Right of Return.’

Peace-seeking diplomats are so consumed by these blockers that the elephant in the room, signalling they’re wasting their time, goes unheeded. More’s the pity. The great blocker is nothing more complicated than money.

Money has institutionalized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Money has made it more an economic than a diplomatic problem. How so?

No deal, miracle and all, would stop a money mechanism like no other on earth..The elephant in the room would hum and ha long after the diplomatic file had gone to the archives.

You don’t stem billions of dollars, make a million jobs redundant and condemn thousands of activists to obscurity by brokering an agreement between two peoples. Yes, big fat beneficiaries sup at the table of the world’s favorite conflict.

At the head of the table sit kleptomaniac terror– crazies. Taps gushing dollars do not predispose the suits lording it over Ramallah and Gaza to make peace. Why would it? Why disturb a state of limbo if it meant no more filthy lucre. Billions of dollars, with no strings attached, have gushed into the coffers of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. That’s only from Western donors. How much Arab countries and Iran have sent is anyone’s guess.

Largesse never incentivized leaders to get off their butts. Ask the World Bank. Its report in July 2012 complained that “the Palestinian economy cannot sustain statehood as long as it continues to rely heavily on foreign donations.” So on what did Palestinian leaders splash billions?

Some of it went to pay some 140,000 workers that swell its payroll.’ They are the breadwinners for a third and more of the Palestinian population. Nearly half work in security, which has a sufficiently broad meaning to allow militants of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad and other groups to draw a salary. If they happen to be behind bars, still they get their monthly transfer. Mahmoud Abbas uses around 6% of the budget to keep ‘political prisoners’ and convicted murderers in clover. In this upside down world prisoners never go short, while teachers and health workers are left waiting for their money.  More billions go into ‘development aid’, though what this means depends on what cronies ensconced in Ramallah and Gaza City like it to mean. Other billions go down a few deep pockets.

“Chronic Kleptocracy – Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment” was the title given to a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held in July 2012. Analysts testified before Congress on crony capitalism, endemic corruption, distortions of the market and other malpractices.

For Gaza, aid from abroad is the economy. Under the PLO much of it came from the US and Europe, but after Hamas came to power the Arab League was forced to step in. Iran on its own has become an important donor, funding Hamas to the tune of hundreds of billions. Since there can hardly be tax revenue from an economy with practically no taxpayers, reliance on donations must be total. On what, and on whom, the money is spent no one knows, and cares even less.

Until the money tap is turned off no power on earth would impel super-rich, unaccountable leaders to smoke the peace pipe with Israel.

And how, unless by the hand of God, will Team Trump decommission a planetary system? If two states do get born from the ‘Deal of the Century,’ what happens to the orbiting bodies? So many livelihoods; all the reputations and careers; such behemoth planets and moons, so much wild spending, orbit the conflict.

Take UNWRA. When the UN agency began in 1950 it had three quarter million Palestinian refugees to care for. Today it looks after some five million. There are 700 UNWRA schools teaching half a million children; 122 clinics and more welfare centres provide better care than Arab host countries offer their citizens. But it doesn’t come cheap. UNWRA’s budget is around $2 billion.

What if the miracle happens? What if the Trump formula gets accepted by the side that has said, “No – a thousand times no?’ How would UNWRA workers react – some 30,000 Palestinians who believe in entitlement as they believe in Allah? Just talk of cutbacks led to riots in the territories.

And no one in their right mind expects Arab leaders to surrender their potent weapon against Israel: refugees. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan putting up their hands to absorb five million? It won’t happen. For seven decades Palestinian refugees haven’t known what human rights mean. No deal made in Jerusalem and Ramallah can change that.

Who the will continue to look after the millions in permanent limbo? No force known to man could make the United Nations disband UNWRA.

Other bodies, playing for bigger money, orbit the conflict. Who’d bet on the human rights industry supporting the peace plan and packing up. This is an industry in every sense of the word. Look at the sustainability factors driving the civil society businesses (NGO’s): mountains of cheap capital; global reach, well-connected stakeholders, media channels beating a path to the door, and last but not least: a traded commodity called Israeli misdeeds, for which the world has a gluttonous hunger. If those are not conditions for big business what are they?

Nominally NGOs are autonomous, not-for-profit and apolitical. In real life they are none of those things. There are not hundreds but thousands of entities, a bewildering number of them operating in the tiny areas of Israel and the West Bank, all competing to supply human rights product. And on the industry people depend for jobs, in their tens of thousands.

Trade is brisk, the money big and the players earnest. There are billionaire private investors, Euro zone countries that practically fling money at NGOs, ecumenical coffers, flush Arab potentates and proverbial Joe public. The Ford Foundation is one of the bigger investors, with an annual grant budget exceeding $500 million. Christian Aid, with branches in 50 countries, brings in €100 million and more a year, while Human Rights Watch received $100 million for 10 years from George Soros. Oxfam is bigger than them all. With affiliates it attracts €900 million annually, a third of that from Euro Zone tax money.

These and lesser NGOs operate a particular business model which gives them a vested interest in human right abuses. Real or not is not important. Israeli misdeeds are levered as stock-in-trade; they are assets convertible into cash.

Exactly how popular is the Israeli brand? One of the big-five, Human Rights Watch, devotes three times more resources to policing and reporting Israel than to Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority combined, and six times more resources than to Syria and Libya. Amnesty produces 255 reports per million Israeli people compared to 60 reports on Syria, 23 on Iraq and Iran, and a mere 9 on Saudi Arabia. When the Syrian regime slaughters 70,000 of its own people, Oxfam pays lip service by issuing three statements. At the same time Oxfam condemns Israel, stable and free and going about its business, nine times.

And the king of human rights kings? The United Nations trades in hardly anything but the Israeli brand. Seventy five percent of that body’s condemnations and sixty percent of its emergency sittings relate to Israel. For human rights violations in the whole world the UN keeps just one permanent item on the agenda. It keeps one other permanent item for Israel alone.

Not to leave out the foot soldiers. How will boycotters take a deal that absolves the country they love to hate? Would they accept an Israel that comes up smelling of roses? Limelight, book sales, career opportunities and, for the lucky few celebrity status, would evaporate like the dew after dawn. Take away the unresolved conflict and you break the magic money machine. ‘Israel-bashing is the contemporary key to acceptance,’ said Professor Robert Wistrich. Even a humble saxophone player may aspire to overnight celebrity status. ‘It is Gilad Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than his music that has given him an international profile,’ the Guardian explains.

Good luck and all to a President half the world loves to hate. Were Trump to smash the   blocker of peace a Nobel Prize would be a miserly reward.

The plan for getting back to shul

Medical science?  Rational?

According to the Chief Rabbi and his panel:

Shuls can reopen because of improvements in provincial Covid 19 trends.

Lately in the media, experts cast doubt on the validity of government stats. Mortalities could be higher than reported by tens of thousands due, the experts say, to unaccounted or ‘excess deaths.’ It brings into question all the official data: infections, hospitalized cases and ICU cases. The corrupt ANC understandably wants to downplay the real problem. The Economist reports that doctoring Covid-19 stats is happening throughout Africa.

Another problem – the Chief Rabbi’s team takes a leap of faith. It assumes that official stats can approximate the risk of reopening shuls. What the scientific basis is for assuming  that provincial data is connected to that risk, the panel has not disclosed.  For this problem, ref. “Turning synagogues into mausoleums makes no sense.”

The panel couldn’t or wouldn’t provide data on the Jewish community. It seems to have no stats to support a thesis that the curve for the community is flattening.

The panel states that houses of worship in many countries have been fertile breeding grounds for spreading the virus. How fertile compared to other venues? What % of infections are picked up in shuls? The team was not able to give stats.

The one study I know of was conducted in Israel. It reported a tiny 2% of infections  were picked up in shuls. By comparison some 66% of infections were contracted in the home. The study was made before the national lockdown, No later study has been released.

According to my source in Israeli media, shuls are now open, “but people are staying away voluntarily and davening outside or 10 for a minyon inside.” It is therefore apparent that Israeli shul-goers don’t trust safety protocols at shuls.

The Chief Rabbi’s team seems to share that distrust.  It warns that despite all the protocols it wants shuls to adopt, “Safety is not guaranteed.”

Neither is masking to prevent transmission guaranteed. America’s most respected medical journal, NEJM,  published a  study  on the efficacy of masks.

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic. (My italics)

The plan for getting back to shul is not therefore a plan based on science or reason. It must therefore be a matter of expediency.

Rabbi Meyer Twersky, if you read his essay, would share my conclusion.  In his  Go my nation, come to your rooms: an essay concerning the prohibition at present to assemble minyanim or other gatherings,” Rabbi Twersky writes: “It is a foregone conclusion that the medical standards of risk and safety will not align with those of the Torah.” (I will send the essay, on request, to

Halachah? Pikuach nefesh?

The Chief Rabbi states that everything is being done according to this supreme principle in Torah. At the same time he and his team admit getting back to shul is not risk-free. That’s a problem for Rabbi Twersky:

It is self-evident that even if the calculated risk to specific individuals within a minyan were negligible, it would be entirely immaterial because of the danger posed to the k’lal as a whole by convening minyanim. …It is therefore categorically prohibited to establish such minyanim.

 Why may Rabbi Twersky be wrong?

He would be wrong if his analysis and conclusion were based on the wrong story. The spies that Moses sent got the story wrong, with calamitous consequences.

“Me versus We”. Torah Thought by Rabbi Yossy Goldman.

(JR, 7-14 Aug)

Why may Rabbi Goldman be wrong?

He applies the rule of the Rambam to our situation with coronavirus.

“Covid-19 has taught us the supreme preciousness of every soul. We closed all our shuls to save even a single life. But it also taught us how much we need our community.”

It involves a trade-off (Rabbi Goldman calls it “a tension at play.”) So, you cannot have both: save a single life and value our community. Do one and you harm the other.

But the Rambam derives the rule from a different, a  hostage, situation. You can sacrifice one hostage for the sake of the community, and you can sacrifice the community for the sake of one hostage.

Our public health problem is not of this nature. Closing down shuls and making Jews stay home react the same way. There is, I submit, no trade off involved. Both acts harm the individual and the community simultaneously.

Closing shul harms Jews by them not having minyanim. Keeping Jews at home also harms Jews,  in many ways: medically, physically, emotionally. To open shuls you need Jews to leave home. To close shuls you need Jews to stay home. These choices go in one direction. They are beneficial together or they are harmful together. They are not a tension at play, as Rabbi Goldman puts it.

Empirical evidence

Why Pikuach nefesh is the wrong principle to apply to a communal lockdown and shul closure

Ref “Covid-19 is one part public health, one part palaver”

The pulpit has nothing to offer communal conduct – a matter of ‘what should we do?’ To use the pulpit on the community is to enter politics. Dealing with a population involves striking a balance between conflicting objectives for the good of all. Warning a community to observe social distancing and to shut down houses of prayer and stay home is for a political platform. Has the Almighty, in so many words, told us what to do about collateral damage that accompanies a lockdown? If the Mayor of New York declares that saving one New Yorker from Covid-19 is worth destroying the lives of millions of New Yorkers, does canonical law have something to say about it?

To use pikuach nefesh is to get into bed with anti-Semites.

The Governor and the Mayor of New York; the Democrat state governors and mayors; the ANC; they are no Jew-lovers.  Yet they all work, knowingly or not, on the supposition that to save one life would be worth putting hundreds of millions, including the productive and healthy, under lockdown.

Look at the world around us

Question for the Rabbinic Association: Our calamity in economic and social terms came about from a conscious or unconscious adherence to pikuach nefesh. Agree or disagree?

Ref to “The forgotten equation wreaks havoc” When lockdowns were still a novelty I warned that socio-economic havoc would ensue from concentrating only on the medical side of coronavirus.)


The fundamental flaw in the decision to close shuls as well as in the plan for getting back to shul

  1. The Chief Rabbi relied on experts on the medical side. His panel lacked experts of another type: in economics, sociology, psychology and stats. You need those experts to make a cost-benefit analysis of the decision to shut down and to get back to shul.  A cost-benefit study would quantify the different forms of collateral damage and set them against the benefit in terms of safe-guarding the community.
  2. On the webinar it was painfully obvious that the panel of medics battled, through no fault of their own, with tunnel vision.
  3. There was of course no need for a panel to begin with. The quick and easy solution most likely would have got the same results without all the fuss and bother. Rather than closing and getting back to shuls by decree, why not leave the individual to decide what is in his or her interest – attend shul or stay away.
  4. Look what happened in Israel.  Voluntarily, a smattering of shul-goers daven outdoors and 10 make a minyan indoors. An adult knows best.

Why take a bazooka to kill a cockroach?







Covid-19 is one part public health, one part palaver

“Science,” wrote the philosopher Karl Popper, “begins with myths, and with criticising myths”. If you don’t start by proving an idea wrong, evolve through trial and error, and go forward to ultimate success, you have not followed the scientific process.

‘Where is the science?’ gets repeated like an echo. Where? Science went AWOL. Pandemic experts and panicky health officers never learnt through trial and error. Quite the opposite; they are today where they began half a year ago, belabouring myths handed down from Wuhan and a United Nations organ named, aptly, WHO.

Had Popper lived to see what scientists do in a pandemic, he would have blown a fuse. He would call it anti-science, the way they keep repeating methods which already crushed and spat out whole countries in round one. The way contrary opinion gets ridiculed and cancelled is more than anti-science. It’s a menacing nick off the block of freedom, and we can thank dogma, PC narrative, groupthink and cult behaviour for doing us that disfavour.

Blame what you will, a disdain for open inquiry takes us back to medieval times. How are cancelling doubters and closing Twitter accounts any different to the medieval church excommunicating Copernicus? What it all amounts to is telling the scientific process to ‘hop it.’ Medics are as guilty as model builders; politicians as guilty as thought police; bureaucrats as guilty as rabbis; epidemiologists as guilty as school staff.

Here we are – facing down a plague on humanity with anti-science.

But drugs are science. Drugs are politics. Drugs are dirty business. If you vote Democrat the protocol of hydroxycloroquine, azithromycin and zinc is quack stuff because You-Know-Who in the White House takes it. If you vote Republican the protocol is a life-saving treatment for Covid-19 infection in the early stage. Drugs, hard as it may be to grasp, are viewed as a marker of political identity.

If you happen to be Editor of the prestigious Lancet medical journal, new drugs are your bread and butter. So if Gilead the pharma is an advertiser you dare not cross, you succumb and fill Lancet with a study tailor made to discredit the cheap protocol,  allowing Gilead to market a costly drug for Covid-19 cases.

What if you just keep the Hippocratic Oath? You need a brave health professional to do that. Prescribe the politically wrong protocol and you risk being reported to a medical council and have your licence revoked, or lose tenure in your medical school. The not so brave break the Hippocratic Oath and let Covid-19 patients, in their thousands, lose the fight against the virus.

Well there’s PPE. Can’t be politics in equipment. Not very much science either. In a scientific paper  authors bemoan “the increasing polarised and politicised views on whether to wear masks in public during the COVID-19 crisis.”  One thing there is a lot of in PPE and that is money.

And religion? Surely the pandemic gives clerics or rabbis a pulpit for sermonising on moral conduct. The pulpit is for the moral matter of ‘what should I do? – an ‘either or’ dilemma. It has nothing to offer communal conduct – a matter of ‘what should we do?’  To use the pulpit on the community is to enter politics. Christianity and Judaism were never meant to address how a population should behave. Dealing with a population involves striking a balance between conflicting objectives for the good of all. Warning a community to observe social distancing and to shut down houses of prayer and stay home is for a political platform, not a pulpit.

When clerics or rabbis order churches or mosques or synagogues not to reopen even when lockdown rules allow them to, you have a different problem. It amounts to a specific lockdown on top of the general lockdown. It could be taken as one-upmanship;  as telling the powers that be, ‘we value life more than you do.’ And there’s the matter of a conflict with the constitutional right to freedom of worship.

But there remains an all-encompassing problem. Should religious approval be lent to a government-ordered lockdown that gobbles lives and livelihoods at will and spits them out. Has God, in so many words, told the faithful what to do about collateral damage accompanying a lockdown? If the Mayor declares that saving one New Yorker from Covid-19 is worth destroying the lives of millions of New Yorkers, does canonical law have something to say about it?

Leave it to elected officials to weigh up conflicting objectives. It’s what the social contract is for. Clerics and rabbis ought as well to be weary of walking lockstep with godless socialists, also adherents, so they profess, to the sanctity of one human life – a position that has given mankind a taste of hell.

Well then schooling. Where is dogma or PC narrative or groupthink or cult behaviour in keeping schools closed? Is science AWOL again? All those elements converge to make children pay a price both undeserved and of minor avail to public health. The experts agree. Schools must reopen. Celebrity scientist, Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Health and Robert Redfield, Director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, are emphatic that kids must return to school. Education experts come with scientific proof that school closure is a grievous error.

Reopening schools or keeping kids at home,as with all debates under the corona sun, divides according to ideology. You’d think science would decide the matter here more than anywhere, but no. Witness radical teachers protesting in Washington D.C against school reopening by dumping fake body bags at the education department, waving posters saying, “RIP your favourite teacher,” and “Killed in the line of duty”.

Teachers wanting to keep schools closed is more about them than about school-goers. Teachers kind of got used to getting full pay for relaxing at home.

Well – thankfully lockdowns are clean. Just about every country imposed one in some shape or form. Must be science somewhere in lockdowns. Controlling people by edict is possibly a science. You might not see it, but there could be science behind allowing you to stay in a hotel on a business trip but not on holiday. Or a dozen riddles of that stamp.

It’s not that humanity hasn’t been there before. In the year 1529 the ‘sweating sickness” dropped Londoners like flies. In Hilary Mantel’s novel, “Wolf Hall” I read: “The rule is for the household to hang a bunch of straw outside the door as sign of infection, then restrict entry for forty days, and go out as little as possible.” Our architects of lockdown might take a leaf from a book of medieval wisdom.

Did even the smartest lockdown stop coronavirus coming back to bite in a post lockdown flare-up? Did one lockdown yield a benefit to public health above what it cost the country and its people? Mayhem goes with a lockdown as flour goes into baking bread.

Imagine what will be with a really bad lockdown. Government at best is a necessary evil. Government at worst is an intolerable evil. South Africa’s lockdown, going on for 130 days, is the case two type – evil yielding no health benefits but creating new evils by the day. It’s a lockdown which makes the powerless poor, poorer and the powerful rich, richer.

Where are the poor

For a sour cherry on the top, the lockdown gives spiteful and petty touches of xenophobia an outlet. Linking foreigners with disease, South Africa’s first act to curb covid-19 was to build a border fence with an even more desperate neighbour. For a second act it made migrant-owned shops in townships close down, so making the poor walk long ways to buy their bread and milk, so helping to spread the virus.

Surely then, is there nothing and nobody with a respect for science? Experts even? Experts have turned a public health crisis into a cataclysm, an existential threat. Thanks to them, bureaucrats under the cloak of science invaded our civil liberties and might never return them.

It could explain why experts set the wheel of fear in motion. The apocalypse began with experts. It has ended with faith in their infallibility untarnished.

Covid-19 fear cycle




Job: Why God wrecked a man seemingly blameless and God-fearing

Job, brought down brutally, had been the Noah of his time. Both were righteous men in their different milieus. Job was living in Babel when the people took on God and built their tower. He gave the daredevil project a wide berth. Of the two, Job, for abstemious habits, clearly got the Almighty’s nod. The reward was great. Abraham himself did not escape life’s ups and downs like he did. Contemporaries could see that God would always protect and never test Job.

At the height of his career writs in the heavenly court are moved against the man envied from Babylon to Ramses. Job is accused of success. He is accused of taking God’s beneficence for granted. He is accused of fair-weather piety. How would he cope with a reversal of fame and fortune? A sentence gets handed down. It is open-ended: angels have carte blanche to act as they see fit. Job, they reckon, can be brought to book. He will be prodded and tormented until he blasphemes.

In quick time a localized apocalypse envelops Job and family. Deprivation, death and a skin disease are their lot. The mystique of a charmed life peels off with the ease of the skin of a snake. Everyone can see it’s not another bad luck story. Nothing is normal about the sequence of hits that convert a great magnate into a pauper. Pustule-ridden from the neck down, Job in a mourner’s sackcloth squats on a bed of cold ash. He has been taught the worst lesson that life can teach – that it makes no sense.

What occurs there in the city of Uz is not the common misery that catches up with mortals high and low. What makes it different is that it took longer than with others to catch up with Job. Still he’s up to the test. Against all odds, and the cajoling of a demented wife, he won’t curse God.

Great blessings, he tells her on her low stool cursing him for not cursing God, great blessings and great curses are two sides of one scale. The wife spits into the grey coals. From a household of more servants than they knew by face, they are left faring for themselves. Fate bitterer than bile is crammed down their throats.  

The pauperising process began with ordeal by theft and killing. Marauders came from Sheba and Kasdim; took the livestock and put workers to the sword. If it was any consolation the criminals were human. Not so the bolt of lightning that followed, eradicating every animal the raiders had missed. What precautions can you take against a bolt from the blue? He’s been felled by a double hit. The natural and freak occurrences have wiped out every movable asset to his name.

He tries to solace. “What God has given,” he tells the wife, “God can take away. If He made me a landowner and business magnate, He can make me a beggar.”  

She (people speculate about her real name and background) hugs herself and rocks. Bereft of property her spouse is no more that corporeal gent who caused people to step aside to let him pass. Overnight he walks and sits bent and lopsided. But the family is intact, and that is worth more than property.  They have ten sons and ten daughters.  

A note is on the way, a full day ride on Jezebel the retired mule, partially-sighted and forelegs that buckle at the mere prospect of hill or dale. The siblings have to be told. Their share of the estate must be sold to pay off debt and provision the different households. They will take it badly. The weekly feasting they take in turns to host, the bawdy entertainments, will become a fond memory.

There is something wrong when you send out a lame mule but a perspiring steed thunders up to your front door. A servant of one of the sons: out of nowhere a sirocco wind came and collapsed the house where feasting was in progress. All twenty children have perished under rubble.

Yet Job will not surrender. Belittled, he won’t blaspheme. Such fortitude counts for little in the court where sentences of life and death, of success and failure are handed down. It’s not proof enough of Job’s steadfast faith. The angel of death has taken the prosecutorial task. ‘My Lord, test your servant more. See if he won’t blaspheme.”

Fortitude has counted against the accused. Often he would ask friends, ‘Why are things the way they are? Why always perfect?’ As a precaution he sanctified the siblings daily. He would rise before dawn to offer burnt offerings for each, in case one of them had despised God in words or deeds. Apparently they all did – and too badly for roasted meat to make amends.  Twenty children in one swoop gone to purgatory.   

Even now the court has not finished with Job. The seal on the punishment is hideous as it is humiliating. The down-and-out mourner gets smitten by an ailment of the skin which alone would have tested the faith of Abraham. He squats on a pile of ash to absorb the discharge of wet pustules below the waistline. Dry sores higher up make him tear in frenzy at his torso. There is no separate discomfort he can pick out. He is tormented all over.   

The wife is made of stronger stuff. Calamity can be boiled up to make passion. When he holds off from berating God she flays him wordily, even as the deranged man pleads with his Maker to put him out of his misery. At the end of her tether she summons three close friends to share the nightmare.

They come prepared to sit with a household in mourning, not to be tossed into bedlam. When last together at the mansion, the hearty host warmed his back at a blazing fire. He was wearing a silken robe over a snow white undergarment fastened at the waist by a gold-brocaded belt and buckle stamped with the legend, ‘House of Job.’

“Holy smokes!” Entering the door hung with black fabric they are pitched into Gehenna.

“A man must have done…what!” hisses the first man to enter. “God would never chastise …” Their friend presents a contemptible sight squatting and fretting, moaning and crying. “May the day of my birth be dark. Why did I not die from the womb?’

Confronted with such morbid suffering it’s no wonder the mourners lose patience quickly. God, they tell him mercilessly, is waiting for a confession. “Confess?” he says. “Confess what?” “In his place,” whispers Bildad the Moabite, “I think we’d all be in denial.”

The visitors wolf down a boiled capon on the table, some oat cakes and mugs of beer. They cannot empathise until they get to the bottom of the misfortune. Earnestness makes them cruel. It’s no wonder. Eliphaz is a grandson of Esau; Zofar hails from the city of Naam where a victim gets worse treatment than the villain. Bildad as a Moabite is worse: Jacob’s seed, by God’s express command, may not marry into his nation.      

They tell Job the same thing. If God is just then evil befell the family because of guilt on their souls. To spare his feelings would be to spoil his chance for repentance. The wife dabs her mouth to cover glee. She swears at them under her breath, “You’re a big comfort to a house of mourning.” Her accomplishment has been to drum rebellion into Job’s skull and cruelty into her own, which gourds her to finish him off.  “Life in your condition, Sir! What use to anyone are you!” By ‘anyone’ she means herself. Job’s got nothing to give her now. “Renounce your faith. Blaspheme and die quickly. It will be better than enduring a prolonged existence of poverty and distress.”

The patriarchs could not have stood up to this. Job does. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken back. The children and property were given to me. It’s the Giver’s right to take them back. I was born naked and I will return to the earth naked.” Heroic. The test he has passed could be the most severe since Abraham introduced the world to one God. Dark yet steadfast, he is close to being superhuman.

He would have been had he kept it up. The problem is what Job feels. Feelings are inborn. A  donkey feels resentment when made to suffer. At heart Job blames the constellations. The star he was born under is at fault. To the visitors he curses the star on the day he was born for ruining him. A touch of bad luck. It would be better had he blamed God. Idolater. They nod at one another. He gives the stars power over events. At heart he renounces God. His thoughts have blasphemed.

Here was victory, of a sort, for the spouse. By cursing his luck and sins, he spares himself from prolonged misery. God terminates the life of a sinner quickly – a preferred end. Let purgatory greet him in the afterlife.

This whole dogma of reward and punishment has pitfalls. Those of simple faith take comfort that destiny, the oldest enigma, is controllable. Behave well to be blessed, behave badly to be punished. It makes life easy to understand, though it’s not what life really is.

Bildad, clearing his throat, goes at Job like a dog gnawing a meatless bone. “If you are righteous, which you say you are, why are you being punished?” The answer, “I told you what has punished me,” draws murmurs of protest. That wrong star business! 

Should he be told the truth? Would Job hate them for it? The righteous and the wicked suffer alike. Everyone has some of both in them. But there’s no telling it to someone down and out. Let Job blame his unlucky star, the lesser evil. Cursing God would be the greater. It’s a prickly predicament for a man who fears God. He is caught in a cleft stick. He must either believe that God allows the constellations to supervise the world, or that God is capable of punishing a blameless man. Which of the two would get His goat the most? Or would they be equally heinous?

“Let me be sure I have it right,” says Eliphaz grimly. “It’s beneath the Almighty to look after His lowly creatures. I think that’s what you said. Divine Providence over man, according to you, is not possible. God’s is infinite and cannot be interested in the problems of an individual. Hmm…How proper is it to believe that?”

Zofar is the pugnacious one. He goes right up to Job on the bed of ash, and looks down at him. So – God knows nothing of our deeds. Is that it? But look at you my friend. Every day you got up in the dark, trudged to your fields, slaughtered a fatted calf, let your servant string the carcase over your private altar. Every day a burnt offering. Every day you knelt. ‘Lord, pardon my sins. Pardon the sins of my family. Pardon pardon pardon.’ Not good enough for Almighty God?”

“Don’t do that, brother,” Bildad shouts. “Gently now. He is not to blame for the children dying. They had weekly feasts. There was too much levity. God took them out of the world.”

“A little harsh, Bildad?” Eliphaz has a moment of clarity. He says that reward comes to those who seek God with sincerity and not hypocrisy. Suffering first, reward later. You pay for reward with suffering. God makes it all worthwhile. If indeed Job is free from sin, as he insists, God has made him suffer so that He can reward him. The amount of prosperity at the end will be greater for the suffering. If Job lost twenty children and eighty thousand livestock, God could be waiting to repay him three times over.    

Eliphaz fails to see the stupidity. Is it really how he understands Providence? How can it possibly be? The wicked get prosperity for a punishment, the righteous get tribulation for a reward. Can the world be run so perversely? And how can two identical happenings – suffering – lead to different results? Like a wild storm that blows off both fruit and leaves from a tree, so God chastises both the wicked and the righteous. It cannot be.

There are all kinds of people,” says Bildad when Zofar makes that point. “There are people who do all kinds of evil which God rebukes with all kinds of punishment. Job – what do you think?”

Job thinks like a heretic. The saga of the wrongly punished. He doesn’t fear Divine punishment since he’d done nothing punishable. He’s been humbled and frightened into an obedient brain-dead beast for nothing. He now makes up a rule that no one there had heard before. It is better, he says, to deny Providence than to call God unjust. He has a clever answer to everything. He berates Bildad, shocks Eliphaz, and makes Zofar walk out in disgust.

Why are they hammering at me? says Job. Even if he had transgressed, it was not proper for God to be heavy-handed with the rod. And what about some leniency when the evil done had not been deliberate? To err is human to forgive divine.   

In fact they know more than they’ve said. The problem is they understand why Job has been brought so low. He had sinned not directly but by omission. How could they tell a mourner in his situation? They’d heard it from Balaam, who knew firsthand. At the time he and Job had Pharaoh’s ear. What should be done about the Israelites in Egypt? Bondage or expulsion? Balaam voted for bondage, and for tossing baby boys into the Nile. Job kept his tongue. It was his silence that marked him down in God’s book. 

The truth is – and they don’t blame Job for not knowing it – God expects man to intervene to frustrate the decrees He makes. Like a game. A man is judged favourably if he intervenes and guilty if he doesn’t. That a Divine decree is unstoppable means nothing. God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart. The bitter bondage would be implemented come hell or high water. Job’s sin, strange as it may sound, was to let God do what God meant to do.

So it was with the sale of Joseph by his brothers. Though God had decreed that the brothers would sell him, they were punished for selling him. Job lost everything by letting the Divine decree, the bondage happen. He was powerless to nullify it, but he sinned by failing to try.  

The visitors give the sufferer a fleeting grin. He doesn’t know why.

“Come and visit after the mourning period,” they say.

“Why my lords?”

They purse their lips. They don’t explain.


“No hurry. Come when you’re mended and know better.”