Bring Out Your Dead: Honouring Our Lost Ones

“To trouble the public mind by crying ‘epidemic’ was no light thing.” —J.H. Powell, Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793, Time-Life Books, 1949 (1965 ed.)

Part 1. The Sociopolitical

I predict that 2021 will become the Year of the Memorial. It will have to be, to commemorate all those who died in the Lost Year of 2020. Because government and health officials around the world have placed severe restrictions on the size of public gatherings, this has meant families have been faced with the appalling prospect of not being able to properly honour their dead.[1] Or in some cases, as in Australia, the even more appalling prospect of not being able to even bury their dead.[2] For a virus that has only a 0.2% Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) [3] and a 99.99% recovery rate[4] for all but the most elderly or immune compromised, this is unforgiveable. It illustrates that our technocratic elites are morally bankrupt. No civilization in history has ever allowed its dead to be disposed of without ceremony. In fact, it is a vital element of grieving for the survivors.

To indicate just what a genuine pandemic looks like—where people literally drop dead in the streets by the thousands—here’s a passage from Daniel Defoe’s classic Journal of a Plague Year, written just 50 years or so after the bubonic plague that struck London in 1665:

“London might well be said to be all in tears; the mourners did not go about the streets indeed, for nobody put on black or made a formal dress of mourning for their nearest friends; but the voice of mourners was truly heard in the streets. The shrieks of women and children at the windows and doors of their houses, where their dearest relations were perhaps dying, or just dead, were so frequent to be heard as we passed the streets, that it was enough to pierce the stoutest heart in the world to hear them.”

Classic woodcut image of 1665 London bubonic plague.

“Enough to pierce the stoutest heart in the world” to hear the anguished cries of the mourning. That is, unless you’re a member of the Billionaire Club, the technocratic elite who dream of becoming “trans-human” cyborgs with literal hearts of steel. The same club that has grown richer by between $300–800 billion thanks to the COVID lockdown.[5] The same club that has put millions of family businesses into bankruptcy, causing many to spiral into despair, substance abuse and even suicide. It’s estimated that there are now more deaths due to the consequences of lockdown, what medical experts call “deaths of despair,” than from the virus. Back in July, US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Robert Redfield admitted: “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from Covid. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose, that are above excess, than we had as background, than we are seeing deaths from Covid.”[6] Stanford University medical expert Dr. Scott Atlas adds even finer detail to the consequences of the universal lockdown:

“We must open up because we’re killing people. In the US, 46% of the six most common cancers were not diagnosed during the shutdown… These are people who will present to the hospital or their doctor with later stage disease—many of these people will die. 650,000 Americans are on chemotherapy—half of them didn’t come in for their chemo because they were afraid. Two-thirds of screenings for cancer were not done; half of childhood immunisations did not get done; 85% of living organ transplants did not get done. And then we see the other harms: 200,000 cases plus of child abuse in the US during the two months of spring school closures were not reported because schools are the number one agency where abuse is noticed; we have one out of four American young adults, college age, who thought of killing themselves in the month of June…”[7]

John Ralston Saul, in his essential work Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, predicted this heartlessness on the part of the technocratic elite nearly 30 years ago when he wrote:

John Ralston Saul

“The technocrats of our day make the old aristocratic leaders seem profound and civilized by comparison. The technocrat has been actively—indeed, intensively—trained. But by any standard comprehensible within the tradition of Western civilization, he is virtually illiterate. One of the reasons that he is unable to recognize the necessary relationship between power and morality is that moral traditions are the product of civilization and he has little knowledge of his own civilization.”[8]

The only time in history that the dead have been buried without ceremony has been during actual plagues and pandemics. For example, the bubonic plague (“Black Death”) of late 14th century Europe, when deaths came so fast and numerous, gravediggers couldn’t keep up. Even then, in London a priest was required to be present at the digging of the plague pits (mass graves) to ritually bless the dead. This was far from the usual ceremony offered to console survivors, but these were after all highly unusual circumstances. Something similar happened in Delhi, India when the Spanish Flu struck that city in 1918, as recorded in the historical novel Twilight in Delhi:

“A new cemetery was made outside the city where people buried relations by the score. The Hindus were lucky that way. They just went to the bank of the sacred Jamuna, cremated the dead, and threw away the ashes and unburned bones in the water. Many were thrown away without a shroud or cremation. They were mostly the poor.”[9]

Illustration of the ‘Black Death’ c. 1348: Fear and hysteria run rampant.

Although the centrally located plague pits of 17th century London have since become a boon to 21st century archaeologists, one can imagine the heartbreak for ravaged families unable to properly consecrate the bodies of their loved ones. The cry “bring out your dead” is no mere invention of Monty Python but was a cry heard daily on the streets of London in 1665. Moving forward into our own time, nowhere on Earth have we seen a similar daily piling up of bodies due to “novel coronavirus.” Many of our “experts” have simply allied themselves to the chain of command hierarchy whose head is the World Health Organization (WHO).

Here in British Columbia, our Chief Medical Officer Bonnie Henry has failed to respond to data made publicly available by Stanford University and some of the 45,000 doctors, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists who signed the Great Barrington Declaration.[10] The Declaration calls for a “compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity,” noting that, “current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health…” Echoing Dr. Atlas, BC physician Dr. Stephen Malthouse has written Dr. Henry: “…your decision-making … has led our provincial government, health ministry, regional health officers, hospitals, medical staff, WorkSafe BC, businesses, and everyday citizens to follow pandemic policies that do not appear based on high-quality scientific research and, in fact, appear to be doing everyone a great deal of harm.”[11]

During times of real plagues, mortality rates can be as high as 50%. This medieval image shows the wagons that would go from house to house collecting dead bodies.

One of the recurring features of human reactions to plagues and pandemics—real or perceived—is the sudden abandonment of rationality, even on the part of medical authorities. Reason goes out the window as the limbic brain is activated by the survival threat, causing fear to bypass the frontal cortex and its capacity for higher reasoning. In practical terms, this means that no amount of science or research will make a dent in the public consciousness, at least not until long after a pandemic has passed. It also makes people susceptible to manipulation by those who are able to keep their heads, whether motivated by political or commercial interests.

Medieval plague doctor: more superstition than science.

History is littered with examples of such irrational responses to disease, whether it’s 14th century plague “doctors” wearing their now-iconic bird’s-beak masks filled with herbs to ward off disease; the mistaken order given in 1665 London to kill all the city’s cats and dogs as suspected disease carriers, leaving the real carriers—rats—to prosper; or the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, where doctors insisted that bleeding patients and giving them violent purgatives were the pathways to a cure. Because the superstition that plagues were caused by “poisoned air” persisted well past medieval times, in Philadelphia they even tried firing off cannons and muskets in the streets as a means of dispersing it. The city council had to put a stop to that for obvious reasons. But as historian Philip Ziegler presciently observed: “What vanities of today’s science will not be repudiated in AD 2103?”[12]

Another consistently recurring feature of plagues and pandemics throughout history is the destructive social effects caused by quarantine. Whether the cause of confinement is due to disease or an authority such as a jailer, humans simply do not function well in isolation. In fact, according to both psychologists and civil rights advocates such as Amnesty International, solitary confinement is a recognized form of torture.[13] In Australia, the human rights NGO censured the Queensland government for putting children in correction facilities into solitary confinement due to a single positive test for COVID, calling it a “human rights abuse.”[14] The BC Civil Liberties Association has fought a long battle to end all forms of solitary confinement in prisons.[15] And the longer confinement goes on—solitary or not—the worse a person’s mental health becomes. As noted above, it leads to what Stanford University scientists such as Dr. John Ioaniddis, Dr. David Katz, Dr. Scott Atlas and others have dubbed “deaths of despair” from increased rates of suicide, drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, etc. induced by lockdown. Again, all this for a virus that has an IFR similar to seasonal flu, as Dr. Atlas affirmed in May this year: “By now, multiple studies from Europe, Japan, and the US all suggest that the overall fatality rate is far lower than early estimates, perhaps below 0.1 to 0.4%, i.e., ten to forty times lower than estimates that motivated extreme isolation.”[16]

This mounting collateral damage is over and above the divisive social effects resulting from the polluting of the information stream with misinformation, often from formerly trusted sources. This keeps the public alternating between fear and confusion, fostering an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality. Fear is a great deterrent to social unity, especially when you suspect your neighbor might have a ‘plague’ or virus. Again, this is nothing new in history. In his history of the Black Death, Philip Ziegler writes:

“…to the medieval mind, the speed with which the Black Death passed from man to man was its most alarming feature… The inevitable result of this well-founded if somewhat exaggerated terror of infection was that the victims of the plague more often than not found themselves abandoned to their fate and even those who had endured some slight brush with the disease were likely to be shunned by their fellow men.”[17]

One Australian man who recovered from COVID-19 reported being “treated like a leper,” adding: “If I so much as cough, people freak out that I’ve got it again. I had one person who just jumped up and ran straight out of my office. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Had such shunning been for a disease with a similar Infection Fatality Rate as bubonic plague or yellow fever, one might understand such reactions. But for what amounts to a slightly worse than average flu, it amounts to a dangerous mix of hysteria and paranoia.

Medieval illustration of bubonic plague: victims abandoned by society.

And the impacts on social cohesion can be fatal. As journalist Steven Corby noted in the above quoted RT News report from Australia: “Dr. Richard Bryant, a professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, says the stigma that people who have recovered from the disease are now facing is something common to previous pandemics.” It’s not hard to see the guiding hand of the One Percent at work here, pumping the fear response in the amygdala in order to foster social division, thus neutering any cohesive opposition to their grand plans. The late historian William H. McNeill, whose magisterial book Plagues and Peoples should be required reading, sums it up:

“The disruptive effect of such an epidemic is likely to be greater than the mere loss of life, severe as that may be. Often survivors are demoralized, and lose all faith in inherited custom and belief which had not prepared them for such a disaster…When an initial exposure to one civilized infection is swiftly followed by similarly destructive exposure to others, the structural cohesion of the community is almost certain to collapse.”[18]

It remains to be seen whether our civilization will recover from the mortal blow that has been dealt to its psyche and economy. One thing is certain: recovery will only begin to be possible when people learn to adopt habits of critical thinking and stop mindlessly doing whatever they’re told.

Indian activist and scholar Dr. Vandana Shiva, in her new book Oneness vs. the One Percent, has done a deep dive into the finances of the One Percent, showing how their corrupting influence has its tentacles in all forms of governance. In the updated 2020 edition of the book, Shiva cites Bill Gates as stating that the pandemic is akin to a “world war.” Her response is unequivocal and worth quoting as the final word:

In fact, the pandemic is not a war. The pandemic is a consequence of war. A war against life. The mechanical mind connected to the money machine of extraction has created the illusion of humans as separate from nature, and nature as dead, inert raw material to be exploited. But, in fact, we are part of the biome. And we are part of the virome. The biome and the virome are us. When we wage war on the biodiversity of our forests, our farms, and in our guts, we wage war on ourselves.[19]


[1] “Funerals limited or delayed by COVID-19,” MSN News, March 20, 2020: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/funerals-limited-or-delayed-by-covid-19/ar-BB11tXPS

[2] “Bodies remain in storage for months as families delay burials due to coronavirus,” Erin Parke, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), May 29, 2020: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-30/bodies-are-banking-up-due-to-funeral-delays-amid-coronavirus/12297124

[3] NOTE: “Case Fatality Rate” (CFR) is not the same as “Infection Fatality Rate” (IFR), which includes deaths calculated from all known positive cases whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. CFR calculates a mortality percentile based only on deaths per number of confirmed cases of those actually ill. IFR is thus the more accurate metric.

SOURCES: “Fact check: CDC’s estimates COVID-19 death rate around 0.26%, doesn’t confirm it,” USA Today, June 5, 2020: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/05/fact-check-cdc-estimates-covid-19-death-rate-0-26/5269331002/ In September, an Indiana study performed by the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health and the Indiana University School of Medicine reported: “For the overall non-institutionalized population in Indiana, the IFR came out to be 0.26 percent.” “What Is The Death Rate For Covid-19 Coronavirus? What This Study Found,” Forbes magazine online, September 26, 2020: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2020/09/26/what-is-the-death-rate-for-covid-19-coronavirus-what-this-study-found/#50fc789c5c46 A study published by Dr. John Ioannidis concluded: “Across 32 different locations, the median infection fatality rate was 0.27% (corrected 0.24%).” SOURCE: “The infection fatality rate of COVID-19 inferred from seroprevalence data,” July 14, 2020: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.13.20101253v3

[4] “CDC shows COVID-19 has high survival rate,” Wink News, September 26, 2020, reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as stating that, “…if you have the virus between the ages of 0 to 70, you have a 99% survival rate. And if you’re over 70, the survival rate is nearly 95%…” https://www.winknews.com/2020/09/23/cdc-shows-covid-19-has-high-survival-rate-doctor-still-wants-to-see-precautions-taken/ “CDC Data Shows High Virus Survival Rate: 99%-Plus for Ages 69 and Younger, 94.6% for Older,” Breitbart News, September 25, 2020, including a link to the CDC’s updated data: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/09/25/cdc-data-shows-high-virus-survival-rate-99-plus-for-ages-69-and-younger-94-6-for-older/

[5] “Billionaires Are Getting Richer During The COVID-19 Pandemic While Most Americans Suffer,” Jack Kelly, Forbes magazine online, April 27, 2020: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2020/04/27/billionaires-are-getting-richer-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-while-most-americans-suffer/#591611884804 Given that Kelly wrote his article in April, early in the lockdown, some analysts suggest that in the six months since, the figure is closer to $800 billion. “The 643 wealthiest Americans, including entrepreneurs such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk, raked in $845 billion in combined assets between March and September, growing their wealth by nearly a third, the report said,” states a more recent report, dated October 7: https://localnews8.com/money/2020/10/07/billionaires-have-never-been-richer-despite-the-pandemic/

[6] “Head of CDC Admits Lockdown Killing Way More Americans Than COVID,” Michael Thau, Red State, July 27, 2020: https://redstate.com/michael_thau/2020/07/27/head-of-cdc-lockdown-suicides-drug-ods-killing-way-more-americans-than-covid-n248959 “Research Finds Lockdowns Are Far Worse For Health And Lives Than Coronavirus,” James Lucas, The Federalist, June 16, 2020: https://thefederalist.com/2020/06/16/research-finds-lockdowns-are-far-worse-for-health-and-lives-than-coronavirus/ “…as many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide, according to new research released by Well Being Trust (WBT) and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care.”

[7] “Scott Atlas: I’m disgusted and dismayed,” Dr. Scott Atlas interviewed by Freddie Sayers, UnHerd, October 20, 2020: https://unherd.com/thepost/scott-atlas-im-disgusted-and-dismayed/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3

[8] John Ralston Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, Penguin Books, 1992, p. 110.

[9] Ahmed Ali, Twilight in Delhi, published in 1940; quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly, Volume XIII, No.3, “Epidemic,” p. 65.

[10] To read and/or sign the Great Barrington Declaration visit: https://gbdeclaration.org

[11] Dr. Stephen Malthouse, Open Letter to Bonnie Henry, October 2020.

[12] Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, Penguin Books 1969 (1982 reprint), p. 229.  

[13] “Solitary Confinement: Torture, Pure and Simple,” J. Wesley Boyd M.D., Ph.D., Psychology Today, January 15, 2018: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/almost-addicted/201801/solitary-confinement-torture-pure-and-simple

[14] “Amnesty International Extremely Concerned Over Children Being Held in Solitary Confinement Due to Covid,” Amnesty International, August 21, 2020: https://www.amnesty.org.au/amnesty-extremely-concerned-over-potential-human-rights-abuses-with-children-being-held-in-solitary-confinement-due-to-covid/

[15] “The fight to end indefinite solitary confinement continues,” Latoya Farrell, BC Civil Liberties Association, November 21, 2018: https://bccla.org/2018/11/the-fight-to-end-indefinite-solitary-confinement-continues/

[16] Dr. Scott Atlas, written testimony to Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, May 6, 2020: https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Testimony-Atlas-2020-05-06.pdf

[17] Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, Penguin Books 1969 (1982 reprint), p. 23.  

[18] William H. McNeill, Plagues & Peoples, Anchor Books/Random House, New York 1976 (1998 ed.), pp. 86, 87.

[19] Vandana Shiva, Oneness vs. the 1%, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont/London, 2018 (2020 ed.), p. 177.

About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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