The Old Testament, the Torah, perhaps also other holy texts, 'inform' us that there were Ten Plagues visited upon the Egyptian enslavers of the Israelites. The Jewish festival of Passover, celebrated every April, today marks also the Exodus, the liberation, of the aforementioned Israelites, a joyful concept (liberation) that humanity should long since have visited upon all races and all creeds.
When acknowledged as a justifiable right (liberation) it all seems so very clear, so very simple to achieve. And why not? It is so blindingly obvious. Humankind is an intelligent species, we so love to keep reminding ourselves. With our self-appointed intellect we have created laws, embedded them into numerous national constitutions, to be recognised as such, to be demanded of its citizens, in turn embraced by them, theoretically protecting the rights of the peoples and faiths that are thereby enshrouded. Therein lies a concept of collective betterment for our entire species and, by association, our entire planet! Just so long as one group's liberation does not impinge upon that of another.
Simple! Simple... ish! Doable then. Workable? Achievable? No?
Except! Instead, look at where we find ourselves! An unholy dog's dinner, right?
The Jewish Faith is but one of many. And the aforementioned plagues, by and large, tend to lend themselves well to the religious text. Me, I do not really care to know quite how many faiths there currently are. I would imagine that the globe's theologians likely disagree on the point. I would imagine also that any precise definition of a 'faith' could bring about heated debate amongst many of those who would call themselves religious scholars. Theologians espousing one faith might fiercely dismiss another as a 'cult!' I wouldn't be unduly surprised to 'learn' that there will be, or will have been, more recognised faiths upon the completion of this ramble than there were at the outset. And I feel absolutely certain that whatever that number happens (or does not happen) to be that it will be disputed.
Whereas, for example, 'Falun Gong' is likely to be recognised as such by most, or many, scholars, unless it could instead be argued that it is more a branch of Buddhism, it is less likely that certain other, here unnamed and more cultish, groupings, will be so magnanimously 'embraced.' What about those of us who are edging-towards secular types? Are we also, in some minds, not also a faith? Or are we instead outside of faith? I would contest that my elected 'beliefs' are more groundable than are almost any of those others that may, at any point, require the invocation of that questionable sanctuary of 'faith,' or perhaps the act of 'having faith.' But maybe that's just my secular take on 'having faith?'
Just so long as recourse to violence is not going to result I will quite 'happily' listen to, and/or debate with, anyone of any faith, should the invite be proffered. Any impasse is only likely to occur the very instant that either party is given to retreat behind the phrase, or approximation thereof, of 'having faith.' Beyond this strategic withdrawal there is really nothing meaningful that can be added. The ground has effectively been removed from under our feet.
Could 'science,' or at least 'scientific rational,' be regarded as a form of faith? In another couple of millennia could we imagine those who have today elected to favour science over 'faith' perhaps being conveniently pigeonholed as 'a sect?' Is it possible to envisage certain groupings of the faithful as having been proven right after all? In which case what, do we suppose, will become of those holders of alternative trains of thought? With a further two thousand years in which to contemplate our species' 'superior intellect' can we imagine a relatively peaceful assimilation?
In the 1970s, when I was but a high school pupil- perhaps today's Year 8- I rather enjoyed learning about Christianity. Other than those specifically referenced in either testament, alternative faiths were barely even acknowledged. The same teacher also 'instructed' us in history. My recollection is that, wherever possible, her manner was to suitably enmesh the two subjects such that they were often almost interchangeable. The teacher in question favoured ancient history; any more contemporary subject matter was then the domain of other, less fondly remembered, teachers.
I wonder whether such an enmeshment of subject matter might once again be made feasible, at some point in the future, affording the current era also something of a Biblical flavour? Assuming our superior species chooses to leave us with any- 'a future' that is!
The aforementioned Biblical and/or Jewish Plagues to which I refer were rained down specifically upon the people of Egypt, some time in the region of 1620 BCE. So, excepting the Israelites and the Egyptians, the telegram service not then being what it later became, it is unlikely that the vast majority of humankind was even aware that any such plagues had taken place.
So, travel with me if you will, a further two thousand years onward and into the globe's questionable future. And, having reached our destination, imagine there a retelling of current times, from the perspective of any religious or more-cultish group or individual. Which specific appellation do we suppose will accommodate the refashioning of Covid-19? Maybe it will be the ultimate, the Tenth Plague, the 'Killing of the First Born Son?' Hopefully any label will have been suitably amended, perhaps, the 'Killing of various Sons and Daughters?' Certainly Covid's potential to reap its human crop seems to lend itself better to Plague number Ten. It's definitely not 'Frogs,' nor 'Boils!' Not 'Lice!' If Covid is to be written up as the Tenth Plague, will those who armed and enabled its greater power to harvest its human crop so efficiently also feature in any text or scripture; will Trump and Johnson appear by name? Will they be afforded a well-earned Herod-like distain?
There are extensive figures, compiled globally, to enable us to deduce inaccurately, vaguely how many lives have been lost to Covid-19. But, with all nations currently vying for 'respectability,' instead of cooperating on medical grounds, it is most unlikely that we will ever discover the true cost. Belgium may be the one western nation to buck the trend. Here in the UK official government misinformation puts the figure at just under 43,000, certain ONS figures place the total at at least 10,000 more! Calculating the figures with the honesty of the Belgians could see the figure in excess of 63,000! Instead, political misrepresentation is demanding that we be grateful to the Conservative Party for achieving quite possibly the globe's worst per capita death toll! Imagine the dystopian horror that would need to have played out for Boris Johnson to have owned this 'pitiful failure of civic duty!' By rights it truly does belong to him, written large into his dysfunctional legacy, unless somebody else is really pulling the strings!
Of course, as with any pandemic, travelling internationally and at whim, the most effective means of engagement is only ever likely to be achieved through a correspondingly wide-ranging international cooperation from all nations. Whereas neoliberalism, we are forever being misinformed by our disingenuous 'leaders,' holds itself to a higher standard! The standard in question is painfully uncooperative, demonstrably illusory! In the UK our misfortune has been doubled down upon, through the insanity of the nation's blind insistence upon further distancing itself from its continental neighbours!
The UK's 'going-it-alone' 'track and trace' program has crashed so fast that Hancock was busily spinning the umpteenth government lie, whilst the lagging 'ads' were still imploring people to download the app. The farming out of Covid-positive patients to care homes- who couldn't have guessed at the outcome here?- can only have been an act of desperation, from a cabinet that has always prioritised economy over lives, desperate to pretend that the NHS was in fine fettle. 'Ramping up' something! Then, fire-fighting with their arses on fire, the cabal were driven to employ the worst of their media misinformants to insist that decimated care homes were being adequately shielded... at which point the Daliesque-liescape was barely able to shuffle the cards into a coherent enough trail of lies for the next briefing! The human cockroaches squirm, whilst the latest excreted 'scientific' decree feasts upon the previous. Even Sagely cherry-picking from amongst its more Goebbellian disciples, mitigating this debacle into a positive has to make even the least discerning of observers wince! It's no wonder that Johnson is not a fan of Britain's daily half hour with its very own interchangeable Lord Haw Haw. Weren't Churchill and Haw Haw on opposite sides? Guided, as ever, by 'the science!'
Never was Johnson's Churchillian two fingers, one for each holiday week, going to pay dividends! Especially if the 'replacement bus service apology' fails to distinguish between the 21st century reality of The Second Plague, 'Racism,' and (it really is fiction, Dom!) Game of Thrones.
If Covid were not so busily killing our citizens, care of this and other populist governments, then another, that of 'Locusts,' the Eighth Biblical Plague might, even now, be receiving far greater publicity. Affecting eight-and-counting countries in Eastern Africa- Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda- the vast plagues of these creatures, it is estimated, could drive as many as five million Africans into famine. Neither is this plague restricted wholly to Africa; Pakistan has declared a national emergency due to locust infestation. North-west India is already affected and the swarms are fast approaching China! In Pakistan's Punjab Province children are being paid 20 rupees per kilogram, to collect the insects throughout the night when the locusts do not fly, to be repurposed for chicken feed. Hundreds of tonnes of the creatures have been gathered! Without massive international intervention mass starvation surely looms!
Australia has thus far this year escaped the swarms but, in 2008, at a time when the country was not so fortunate, it was given to battle with Biblical swarms of the insects, one ravenous cloud of which was measured at approaching four miles in length! The threat of human famine, specifically through locust infestation, is estimated to affect one tenth of the global population.
Prior to the current dominion of the Coronavirus (Plague number Ten) certain parts of the industrialised world were also fast gearing up in pursuit of their own particular versions of the Ninth Plague, although the resultant murkiness had already significantly overplayed its hand! So, maybe the culpable cities hadn't yet achieved actual 'Darkness,' instead more of a choking 'gloom,' but in terms of the plague's duration they've already far exceeded the stipulated 'three days'
Whereas Covid-19 now appears to be in the process of a covert downplaying, amongst the worst of the populists, pollution in its various guises seems to have been sitting in the G20's pending tray for several decades. Perhaps that is why Elon Musk has been so very blinkered in his plans to ferry various multi-billionaires beyond the smog, where the thinner air is clear? That the consequence of one of the Ten Plagues could so easily usurp that of another has been presented as one of the briefer and more positive consequences of lockdown. Cleaner air, clearer views and returning birdsong! But, already, we're on the grubbier road to fuller economic recovery and eventual eternal growth. Perhaps the neoliberals will be able to keep both plagues up in the air and on the go? In 2015, in the UK alone, it was considered that no fewer than 64,000 premature deaths were brought about as a direct consequence of heightened air pollution. Plastic, where it is not of a consistency fine enough to be ingested, is generally buried for another generation to worry about, or it may be sent, indirectly, to join one of several 'continental' masses that are currently slowly rotating at various locations within our mighty oceans. Another one for somebody else to deal with!
Plague Number Seven, 'Hail,' well that's surely got to be 'global warming,' something else that the G20 were forever having to sacrifice to the Gods of eternal economic growth. That's what air conditioning's for, they presumably muse at those increasingly dreaded meetings? Air conditioning and patio heaters rule! Scott Morrison was ever so briefly given due cause to consider the consequences of global warming, earlier this year, but we shouldn't hold our collective breaths! Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, demonstrably another of the globes's most culpable clowns regarding global warming, has yet to display any significant outward signs of free thought. Deaths attributable to 'global warming' will inevitably gather greater momentum the longer that the nations of the globe (G20) continue to obfuscate. Ultimately, we could achieve totality here!
Plague Number Three, 'Lice' or 'Gnats,' that's surely got to be the media? The paparazzi is one of its various guises! The infestation that's forever hatching and breeding misinformation! Plague Number Three might seem to slot in, almost incidentally behind the bigger boys, but it's the enabler! Without majority neoliberal control of the mainstream media (Plague number Three) neither Seven, Nine, nor Ten would have been able to assume anywhere near such an 'impressive' scale or force.
There has been something of a blitzkrieg from the media and certain political forces in recent years and the record of its ability to invoke vested change speaks for itself. Deal with racism, then we can address misogyny and sexism, then we can address inequality and inherited privilege, then we can address global inequality, etc, etc. But we won't! Those who own the largest chunks of the media have their own agendas and also the wealth to circumvent democracy. Investigate society's given power flow-chart and we invariably find that those at the very top benefit from a greater number of forms of discrimination. Perhaps then, more accurately, Plague number Three, 'Lice,' may be encapsulated within the idea of 'political misrepresentation!' It's only more recently universally coming to light that we're still being encouraged to celebrate such things through our given history. It's written into our blood, or rather with the blood of others! Divide and rule! Attributing premature deaths directly to given misinformation is really a no-hoper, significantly hampered care of a highly rigged mainstream media.
'Boils,' Plague number Six? Could that be a health issue? All of those parasitising Private Finance Initiatives, feasting upon the provision of health! Certainly we could think of those who are seeking to forever monetise healthcare as festering boils. Watch Matt Hancock's face as it attempts to approximate a smile and one can almost feel the approaching eruption. Certainly underfunding, privatisation, private-profit margins, and outsourcing have all contributed to the growing death toll in the NHS. Squabbling over whether to apportion deaths to Plague number Ten, or to Plague number Six seems somehow to rather miss the point!
Plague number Five, 'Pestilence' or 'Diseased Livestock?' Cite humanity- that part steering the course- as the 'disease' and maybe the ongoing seventh mass extinction becomes the 'pestilence?' Why, it's almost like a massive jigsaw puzzle, every piece somehow reliant upon another. The death tally is beyond calculation, branching out to encompass every species upon the planet! But, that's how ecosystems work! Recent studies by groups such as the WHO and WWF have drawn a clear link between humanity's destruction of nature and the emergence of diseases such as Covid-19, thus they have also illustrated how perfectly The Plagues (Four, Five, Seven and Eight) feed off of one another. Yet, they are all too frequently misrepresented to the general public via Plague number Three. 'Disharmonising,' if you will.
'Flies' or profusion of wild animals such that they become a pest, Plague number Four! If flies are ever the problem, then it's far more likely that any such infestation is the result of something humanity's already damaged, Plague number Nine, or Plague number Five? Where have all those wonderful fly-catching birds gone! If Mother Earth can be imagined figuratively swatting at a particularly bothersome species I think we can all guess which one it might be! Is it ironic that certain factions of the human species seems so hell bent upon bringing about such a bloody and drastic reduction in different factions of the same? Surely we are enacting a case of 'survival of the least deserving!' Definitely not the Meek Inheriting the Earth (Matthew 5:5)!
Plague Number Two, 'Frogs?' I have quite a fondness for frogs. I can't imagine the creatures causing undue concern, unless it is the ecological concern that frogs, as with so many other of the UK's native species, are threatened through habitat loss? The link is a more tenuous one! Think of the image of a frog, perhaps a caricature, and you have none other than Nigel Farage! He might be one of the minnows but we all know what he represents and none of it is very attractive, friend to Trump- also a curious specimen- friend of racism! Tommy Robinson, Stephen Christopher Yaxley Lennon- and we really do not care to learn why he's snaffled more than his fair share of names- isn't by any means an attractive man, especially if we peer beyond the sneer. He currently has more friends in the government than does Farage, he's also very well practised at stirring up racism and hopping it before things turn even more ugly! Certainly racism is currently of plague proportions, one means by which one section of society mistakenly perceives itself to be superior to another, for the betterment of that one section of society, at the expense of all others.
It would be wonderful to think that the current 'Black Lives Matter' protests might bring about meaningful change, but I'm not hopeful. No more hopeful than I am that the Grenfell inquiry will properly resolve anything, or Windrush, or Hillsborough, or the 851 page leaked report into the Labour Party's hobbling of its own attempt to address the tiny number of genuine anti-semitism issues within the party.
And then, and finally, on to the very First Biblical Plague, Plague number One, 'Water Turned to Blood,' something that Enoc Powell gained more than an element of infamy for invoking in his 'Rivers of Blood' speech. Powell is regarded by many as having been something of a racist, perhaps then more pertinent to the Second Plague. With regards to 'Water, or Rivers, Turned to Blood,' the Biblical appellation is of the First Plague! Perhaps in my imagined futuristic retelling, we will need to reorder things, to sit this one at the head of all things humanly dreadful, although this human plague does feast quite heavily upon others, most notably number two 'Frogs,' or more specifically 'racism!' I really do think we'll have to rethink that particular label.
With weaponry being, more than anything else, a twenty-first century business opportunity, the flip side of 'Water Turned to Blood' so often seems to usurp all other considerations. Two days ago I listen, via BBC Radio 4, to a French border control guard voicing her frustration at the inability of so many Middle Eastern refugees to observe 'social distancing within the refugee camps.' The lady was well intentioned, eager to process the maximum number of the desperate thousands who had left absolutely everything behind in search of a more peaceful existence, another sorry fact of Western pseudo-Imperialism that our racists and much of our mainstream media seem determined to mitigate. Yet she just couldn't seem to understand why the the refugees continually acted so 'dismissively' towards the prospect of a Covid death! But really, were they? Dismissive?
Hadn't they instead simply replaced one very real and daily threat of death, on a massive scale, with another of an immeasurably smaller, entirely more abstract and less bloody threat of the same? When they'd set out to change their circumstances many of them had been part of a far larger Exodus! It was all a matter of perspective! Those who had been in the refugee camps the longest were already starting to recalibrate, but those who had recently arrived were often just grateful to be able to sleep without the ever-present fear that the next bang could be their last!
The term 'Water Turned to Blood' could almost be synonymous with 'US foreign policy.' 'Rivers of Blood' is certainly something with which many of the people of Iraq, Syria and Yemen are familiar. A highly pertinent question for the twenty-first century might be, 'are the US, Israel, France and the UK giving more in humanitarian aid to these countries than they are profiting from selling arms to them?
The United Kingdom currently sells weapons, honed to a killing perfection, to 39 of the globe's 51 'non-free' countries, including 22 that feature on its own 'human rights' watch! In 2018 UK arms sales rocketed by 300%. £173 million was the tidy profit made from selling to 'human rights priority countries' alone. Is this what certain of the UK's politicians meant by Brexit business opportunities?
Taking a sizeable leaf from the US foreign policy tome, Boris Johnson has very recently 'unilaterally,' we are informed- difficult not to see at least an element of Patel's claw in here!- decided to close the government's Department for International Development, wishing to tie vital aid for countries to their political subservience and compliance to current UK government interests. He terms this requisite cowering as an act of 'diplomacy' but those paying closer attention will have instantly recognised it as 21st century, US style, colonialism. "To promote Global Britain," were the PM's cold words. See how so many of The Ten Plagues feast upon and sustain one another; here we have elements of Plague number Three and also, but more specifically, Plague Number Two! If Johnson is really so hell bent upon 'immortalising' himself, rumour has it that there's soon going to be a suitable space in the grounds of Oriel College, Oxford.
But, returning to theme, nowhere is the hypocrisy of utilising arms against those with its own borders more well documented than in the dubious State of Israel. Yet again we find the US's foreign policy having brought about a deepening of the bloody hue, within those 'Rivers of Blood' in the occupied lands of Palestine. Despite Israel's well documented implementation of an apartheid regime, an ongoing illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Eastern Jerusalem, ongoing since 1967, perhaps the globe's most shameful instance of systemic persecution and certainly its most universally recognised program of ethnic cleansing, the UK issued licenses for £364 million in arms and arms-related sales to the country! No, seriously! Wow!
I give you 'a futuristic retelling of the Ten Plagues,' refashioned for the forty-first century! With the possible exception of Plague number Eight, 'Locusts,' every single one has been routinely rained down upon the human species by humanity itself. In that soft afterglow of self-proclaimed intellect, are we not then entirely a contradiction, unfit for purpose?
Humanity playing at God! Replacing the God that the species pretends to revere! Will we also be repurposing or refashioning the Ten Commandments? In raining down nine of the Ten Plagues, humanity routinely disregards, at the very least, the Second, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Commandments! It is effectively written into 'neoliberal constitution' to, One, 'Worship Profit!,' Four, 'Work Unquestioningly at the Behest of One's Employer!,' Six, 'Revere Above Life the Arms Trade!' Eight and Ten, 'Covet and Monetise All Things!' and Nine, 'Misrepresent the Truth as Required, in the Interests of Procurement!'
The Ten Commandments- whether they be those of the Torah or the Old Testament- may almost be read as a list of human frailty. In blitzing the repurposed Plagues upon both its species, also countless others, and its habitats, directly or else in consequence of something equally indefensible, humanity has then figuratively shattered the stones into which the Ten Commandments were chiselled. If either take on the pronouncement counts for anything at all, other than as a cosy fireside fable, should we not be considering that their alleged creation, three-and-a-half thousand years ago, was a mighty powerful instruction to, by any means possible, avoid ending up where we find ourselves now!
Unless Covid-19, or another yet more powerful 'flood,' has its own designs upon our less well-considered ones? A figurative Arc, what would that look like?