The Virus as Simon Phoenix (Part 1 of 2)


(My avatar: An interesting mix of my Jewish mother's side and my father's Viking side.  This is my default lead-in image for my essays.)

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Here are my last five posts (multi-part essays count as one):

Three from the past, chosen at my whim:

Speaking of the past: Volume I and Volume II.  (If I get inspired I may just fold them all into one…)

Do look for my RANDOM THOUGHTS posts.  And my CARTOONS.  An example cartoon chosen at my whim:

If you’re a blogger and like any of these cartoons I’d greatly appreciate your using them.  All I ask for is:

1. No alterations to the image or notice on it
2. Give me credit for it
3. Give a linkback to my blog

And for those interested in such things, every Friday I do a Rule Five picture post.  The last two (I know, I know, the images are clickbait… deal).  First, a notice about my use of such materials:

And a blast-from-the-past Rule Five:


Ever since I watched the movie SEVEN some years ago, which used the Christian concept of the Seven Deadly Sins as a central plot device, I’ve found that concept to be a very useful tool in talking with my children about life (and, on the flip side, attempting to emphasis the Seven Cardinal Virtues as guideposts to aspire to).  In discussions with the older one, in particular, I’ve highlighted that it’s my belief that every one of us has one “primary sin” that they wrestle with, and a secondary one that is also highly noticeable. The others then fall off almost Pareto (80/20) style.  I full well understand my own primary and secondary sins, the remaining five being merely nagging irritants, and that older child and I agree on my wife’s primary and secondary as well.  Not sure about the kids yet, but they’re young.

But if you reconceptualize these not as sins per se, but more broadly as human weaknesses, one can fold in other things as well.  Emotions, in particular, can be a weakness.  E.g., my younger child has some significant emotional control issues.  They are aware of it even if they can’t control it yet, and we’ve started therapy to get them to an understanding of how they can control these “emotional storms” as well as giving my wife and I some tools to help them rein their emotions in.

One of the things that I keep telling them both repeatedly, almost relentlessly: a person that can get you hyperemotional, a person that can then direct those emotions to their ends, is a person that can control you.   Thus, controlling and surmounting emotions to retain higher cognitive control is an essential part of being master of one’s self, not just in the individual sense, but in not being manipulated by others.  A lesson reinforced, among others, in this great book specifically discussing Judaism (warning, Yiddish terms aplenty) from which I learned a great deal about my faith as it has returned; between the first and the second book I’ve noticed some striking parallels:

And, parenthetically, I’ve used some of the techniques from this book, just below, to “snap” that younger child from storm to rationality again.  Not perfect but often getting them to do a couple of math problems in their head works.

Ironically, I’ve had far better luck using these techniques to de-emotion that child than I have with most adult liberals:


Profit-making interruption



So I was food shopping the other day in the mandatory mask town close to me; I was going to switch to another grocery chain that I don’t like as much, because they weren’t in a mandatory mask town, when I saw they had – by corporate policy – also gone mandatory mask.  So I went to my standard store, wore my “mark of the beast” to get in, and then pulled it down.  I also systematically, and occasionally intentionally, ignore the traffic arrows on the aisles.

Every other person in the store was masked.  There are some employees that pull their masks down to breath, there being oxygen-deprivation reasons for doing so:

A good and informative link as well:

But the shoppers were masked with only eyes visible.  And, seeing me without a mask, over the course of several trips I’ve had multiple gestures about masks, a few comments, and a fellow congregant got into my face about it.  From a proper “social distance” of course; I looked back, and there was but one set of tracks... (bolding added):

Now, parking at the Federal Park for this beach is about a half mile from the actual beach, we were walking back to the car and we were passing a young mother with three about 6 years old, one about 5 and one about 3 years.

As we passed, the middle child reminded her "6 Feet social distance, Mommy".

I must say I was taken aback that the kids, who have not been in school for the past 120 or so days, have been conditioned so strongly already, with -out the aid of school to help program their thinking.

The Mom was embarrassed, and looked at us (from a safe distance, of course) and said "I just hope that when this is over they can forget all this"...

But what struck me were the eyes of my fellow shoppers.  Fearful, panicked eyes at seeing someone defy the orders of The Authority to not wear their slave mask.  Someone who dared smile openly, and talk with others, instead of fearfully trudging up and down the aisles in the proper direction (a week or so ago I engaged with a Cuban couple while waiting at the deli; I pulled down my mask, so did they, and we had a real live conversation complete with facial expressions!). 

A couple of days ago one older woman looked at me, then down at the arrows on the floor to see that I was – yes – going the “wrong way”.  Fear, utter fear, in her eyes and subsequent avoidance of me.  I keep expecting there to be a police officer waiting for me outside when I’m done shopping because someone called 800-IMA-NAZI to turn me in.

Human weaknesses are the levers by which tyrants pry people loose from their freedoms.


Generally, emotions are exploitable and, particularly, fear is exploitable.  Fear of a virus.  Fear of being hungry.  Fear of riots.  Fear for one’s family.  And so on. 

Fear is valuable; it is a survival emotion.  An animal that does not have fear usually does not live long enough to reproduce… discussed early on in this article on first impressions and interviews; 7 seconds - why that's all you may have to succeed or fail at interview (bolding added):

Two animals meet – in a diorama played out countless times across hundreds of millions of years. Within seconds, each must size the other up. Is this a friend or foe, predator or prey? And if of the same species, an ally, a rival, or a potential mate? Each animal must make an instinctive judgment about the other based on sight, sound, and smell with three drivers that are axiomatic:


3. A bias towards fear and dislike. Any animal that gives another the benefit of the doubt risks not living to pass its genes along.

So making snap judgments about another is hardwired into us with a bias towards being distrusting.

I learned just how emotional decision-making really is. Most people… make decisions emotionally – and then seek out facts and information to rationalize this emotional decision.

And curious how emotions drive decisions.  With more background, this next article shows that the brain unconsciously processes decisions before final conclusions are made; Unconscious decisions in the brain.  I hinted at the emotional aspect in my essay The Power of the Information Flow (original formatting removed, bolding added):

I am fond of stating what I refer to as “Rules One and Two”, the first of several thoughts on propaganda that I’m still in the process of developing.  Let me be explicit:

Rule 1: It doesn’t matter what’s true, it’s what you can get people to believe.

Rule 2: If you control the information flow, you control what people believe.

I’m still tweaking the others, but they refer to the Overton Window, the use of emotion in formulating propaganda arguments, and so on.

Making people afraid of a threat, whether a virus, a group of people, etc., is a critical lever in subjugating and propagandizing.  Just consider the Othering that’s involved in this video:


as people get angry and feel hatred - other exploitable emotions - with masks drive an unmasked person from a store out of fear of the virus, in altruistic punishment to enforce the “new normal” (bolding added, link in original):

It's normal to want to hurt others whom we understood to have hurt us. In August, 2004, scientists published "The Neural Basis of Altruistic Punishment" in Science magazine. Researchers instructed two subjects to play a game. If player B cheated player A, player A was offered a chance to retaliate against player B. Player A was attached to a PET scanner. The researchers discovered that while player A contemplated revenge against player B, his dorsal striatum would become active. If player A decided on a large punishment, his dorsal striatum fired intensely. "Many people voluntarily incur costs to punish violations of social norms," they wrote. "Evolutionary models and empirical evidence indicate that such altruistic punishment has been a decisive force in the evolution of human cooperation … people derive satisfaction from punishing norm violations"

Fear can be an asset to survival.  It can also be a tool to those wanting to shift behaviors and societal norms.  A fantastic line from this blogger’s post, Reversal of attitude, applies – which I’ve attempted to make into a meme:

(If you like this meme please do share / post.)

Part 2 here (link to be activated once posted)



  1. over the course of several trips I’ve had multiple gestures about masks, a few comments, and a fellow congregant got into my face about it.

    You need to move down South to the country.

    1. About 4 years ago I had a great interview (at least I thought) in a small town in Texas. Liked the town, like the Rabbi, job was OK... but the wife put so many conditions on it taking it was not feasible. Same about a year later. Not as much of a fan of the town, but... still viable. Ditto.

      I have a fear, come Nov. 4, we may be needing to move in a hurry. Alas.


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