Corona virus and the power of the state

Martyn Iles, on the nature of truth, how it is suppressed in totalitarian political systems, and the price we pay for the suppression of truth.

COVID-19 has given us an object lesson in what can happen when the state becomes the arbiter of truth, as in China.

For a communist government, there is no higher authority than the state.

When the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened in 1986, the official position of the Soviet Union was that such a disaster was not possible in the Soviet Union. Therefore, it was not happening.

Of course, another concern quickly became greater: embarrassment in the eyes of the world. Therefore, something was done. But not before lives were spent.

Likewise, when whistle-blowers began raising the alarm on COVID-19, the Chinese authorities arrested them, accusing them of subversion… in other words, spreading a version of the truth that the State has deemed impossible.

It was not until much later – when the world was to be affected by the crisis – that China slowly confessed.

But their struggle with the truth is never fully solved. The government still suppressed memorials to the death of the young, Christian doctor who had been the principal whistle-blower (he died of the disease)… and many doubt their ongoing transparency on COVID-19.

When it came to repelling coronavirus, Taiwan has arguably done it most successfully.

They were successful precisely because they understood this reality and acted accordingly.

Despite having direct flights to every major Chinese city (including Wuhan), generating massive cross-border traffic, they have stopped the disease in its tracks.

Steven Mosher says – “Taiwan’s leaders, led by President Tsai Ing-wen, know from long experience that the Beijing regime is run by pathological liars who will always put their own political survival ahead of all other considerations, including the lives of those they rule. They saw in the Wuhan Virus a replay of the SARS epidemic of 2003, which China’s leaders lied about as well until the mounting death toll made it impossible to do so.

That experience caused the island nation to create strategic stockpiles of items that would be useful when — not if — a future epidemic emerged from China. And when it did, they did not hesitate. They acted.”

They acted even before the Chinese government had properly revealed what was happening.

See, they did not wait for Beijing to tell the truth. They never assumed Beijing would do such a thing. They get it… lies are coded into the communist government’s DNA.

Here are the lessons:

First, the West faces a huge moral crisis. The reason we are often willingly blind to the lies and their bitter fruits is because there’s bags of money and near infinite economic growth opportunities available for us when we do. This an Australian Achilles heel. Insanely prosperous, yes. Why? One word: China.

Taiwan has accepted the cold hard truth about China more comprehensively than we can afford to.

Second, the West once believed the highest authority was God Almighty, with the State as His servant. We believed in God and Caesar and rendered to both their dues. But rising godlessness is also leading to a rising state. We look to government to solve everything from toilet paper, to family breakdown, to bushfire season, to my own mental health. Christians too often even look to the government to love our neighbour on our behalf.

Beware when there is no higher authority than the government lest it become the author of truth rather than a servant of truth… ours is in the throes of a great hypertrophy which is getting rapidly worse.

Finally, sometimes we encounter moments that serve as powerful object lessons concerning just how important truth is. This is one such moment.

We live in days when truth is not highly valued, but we let that belief rub off on us at our peril. There is nothing more important – and I mean nothing – than truth. Without it, we are all doomed.

“Every time we tell a lie, we incur a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt must be repaid.”

COVID-19 and Chernobyl are staggering “debts” – but this principle applies not merely to geopolitics, but also to the sweet little lies we believe each day for ourselves. The pain will come.

It’s high time truth was fashionable again. Seek it with all your might.