It is said that in Athens, a millennium BC, city officials kept prisoners of war in reserve whom they could sacrifice in times of crisis.
In the event of famine or epidemic, when the authorities had tried everything to regain control without succeeding, when frustration and incomprehension grew to the point of threatening social order, we would draw from the reserve a few prisoners whom they were executed in the public square. The goal was simple: to make the designated victims bear the brunt of all the problems. This is how the ancient communities rebuilt their unity and managed to accept the evil that struck them. Then someone had the brilliant idea – we call it progress – of replacing humans with animals, a pig or a lamb, and that’s how the rite took on a new form to continue down to us. , that of the sacrifice of the scapegoat.
Why sacrifice a human or an animal? To try to attribute a precise cause to our misfortunes, to give meaning to an ordeal which in truth has none. Because they abhor a vacuum, human societies are always looking for reasons to explain what is happening to them, they need targets and outlets. Someone always has to pay. Here we are in 2022, two millennia after Christ, and again confronted with this need. The crisis we are going through is hopeless, because there is no end in sight and the means to resolve it are limited, and the solutions imperfect. An invisible evil spreads like wildfire and manages to mutate each time we believe we have mastered it: a little more and we would think that the virus is laughing at us. And we are coming very close to a breaking point, where exasperation pushes us to look for those responsible on whom our wrath could fall.
Much like in Athens, it seems these days that stocks of prisoners are being built up, knives are sharpening, and executioners are getting ready as the disgust grows. .
I remember that in the early days of the pandemic, it was in April 2020, a week after Easter, Prime Minister Legault felt the need to take upon himself the anger that agitated the population, while the dead were counted by thousands, that the disaster struck the CHSLDs: “Today, I admit, I take full responsibility for it, I should have increased the salary of the beneficiary attendants more quickly, even without the agreement of the unions “. Obviously, this act of contrition was not innocent, but there was nevertheless something Christlike about it: the Prime Minister agreed to bear upon himself the weight of the evil that struck us. He knew that finding fault was dangerous, that violence begets violence. His long experience had perhaps also taught him that politics is a cruel game, where you always end up naming the guilty, whether they are guilty or not.
I read everywhere this week that Quebec was doing much worse than elsewhere in the fight against the virus. Without a doubt, the passage of the first wave was disastrous, and the commission of inquiry appointed by the government is there to prove it. But for subsequent waves, including this one, that remains to be seen. In France, hospitals are overflowing, with more than 24,000 people hospitalized, including 4,000 in intensive care 1. New Brunswick has just reconfigured itself. And Ontario, this standard province to which we constantly compare ourselves (as if joining Ontario, becoming like it, now constituted our project for society), is struggling with a marked increase in admissions to intensive care. , which are now nearly double those of Quebec 2.
I don’t claim that the Dr Horacio Arruda was perfect, far from it, and perhaps he should indeed be replaced. But we should not believe that his departure at this point in the crisis is simply due to scientific disagreements and communication problems.
What he has done in handing in his resignation is accepting to direct some of the frustration born of this very pandemic, of this terrible and frightening thing called disease, the eternal servant of dead. Of course it is necessary to analyze and criticize, to distinguish the good from the less good measures, to question the choices which are made, to wonder if the roles and the powers are well defined. But we also have to ask ourselves which aspects of the pandemic are not attributable to anyone in particular, which are simply the equivalent of a act of God, as the insurers say.
Because otherwise popular anger, which is a very bad adviser, risks seeking new targets, and finding them. Summary executions and executions by social network – it is our own small progress: the death we inflict is a virtual death – risk multiplying, with serious and long-term consequences on the balance of our society. We can have excellent reasons for resenting each other, the brainless young people of Sunwing, the government and even more so the unvaccinated, whose refusal seems less and less understandable, but we must remember that in this pandemic, the “real” culprits, those whose sacrifice would make it possible to give meaning to the ordeal we are going through, do not exist.