Washington DC TV station WTOP News and other news media posted, on April 4, 2020, an article titled, “A classic ‘Twilight Zone’ episode warns us how not to behave during a pandemic.” The article early on says,
“If life during the Covid-19 pandemic makes it seem like you’ve entered “The Twilight Zone,” that seminal sci-fi series about dread and paranoia, than you’re more right than you realize. On March 4, 1960, it aired a classic episode that’s a cautionary tale about how social order can quickly break down when an unseen threat causes fear to go viral.”
The Twilight Zone season 1 episode 22 show was named, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”. However, unlike the 1960 television program, the current pandemic, food shortages, and the fear people feel are all very real.
On March 16, 2020, the Brookings Institute posted its article called, “Lessons from past pandemics: disinformation, scapegoating, and social distancing.” It said,
“One common element across historical pandemics is widespread disinformation, and COVID-19 has already spawned an impressive crop of conspiracy theories. Widespread panic, especially when it involves a disease with unknown and lethal consequences, lends itself perfectly to fringe notions reinforcing already-held world views.”
Nations blame each other and, within them, people tend to be targeted if they don’t look, or think, or worship exactly the way everyone else near them does. It’s not a great time right now, for instance, to be an Asian in parts of Europe or a Muslim in a predominately Hindu India.
The Brookings Institute added,
“The most notorious historical parallel was the massacre of Jews in Western Europe during the Black Death, with suspicions of well-poisoning resulting in mass murder across several hundred communities.”
Don’t Deflect, Reflect
The fictional Maple Street story shined a light on how easily our minds can lead us to wrongly turn on someone else with tragic consequences.
Charlie Campbell, author of the book, “Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People,” explains that from the beginning humankind has always blamed their action on others. He stated,
“… it’s just an inbuilt system we have to deflect guilt elsewhere and make it easier to live the unexamined life. But now it’s working overtime; nothing is our fault, it seems. … Whatever’s wrong with us, there might not be a cure, but there’s always a culprit.”
“Man has achieved so much … We are taught all about these achievements but rarely about man’s stupidity and the ways in which he deceives himself.”
People like to joke there is no cure for ‘stupid’, but actually, there is. For starters, humankind must begin to look within and see ourselves more clearly.
Image credit: Corona by iXimus, License: CC0.