If it hadn’t started two world wars last century, Germany would likely have a stellar reputation. I don’t say this because of my own Teutonic blood, but rather because as a nation they seem both intelligent and troubled. Philosophical, if you will. A story in Times Higher Education explains how Germany is planning its reopening with the input of humanities experts as well as scientists. The stance is driven by ethics. We know that when strictures are loosed more cases of COVID-19 will break out. More people will inevitably die of it. Germany realizes that this makes it an ethical issue as well as an economic one. And ethics are best discussed by those who study humanities. I noticed that they’re even including theologians on their panels. This seems smart to me.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson’s reopening team in Britain is secret. Not wanting the public to know who’s making the decisions that will certainly kill some of them, they prefer to act under cover of darkness. The thing about the cone of silence is that it never works. Historians will scratch their heads over how, in the course of one century, the good guys became the bad guys and the bad the good. Have the Allies become an—to borrow a phrase—axis of evil? The wealthy alone are worth saving, and the economy takes presedence over the welfare of the greatest number. Back in my philosophy classes we learned about utilitarianism and also its problems. You see, being a humanities specialist means learning to think through thorny issues, looking at all different angles. Being a conservative means looking only at the bottom line.
Humanities are related to the concept of humanitarianism. I know that’s a big word, and it doesn’t bring in much mammon, but still, it encompasses all of us. This crisis could bring out the best in humankind, or we can let the narrative go to the Clorox-eaters and those who believe winning elections are all that’s important, even if there’s nobody left to govern when its all over. Being a politician is a zero-sum game I guess. Looking at the numbers, Germany seems to have brought the number of deaths down when measured against the count of established cases. That to me seems like a human goal worth striving for. Of course, we could just incite riots in our own countries to infect even more people. Being reelected so as to give oneself even more tax breaks is all that really matters. At least among the axis powers.