“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”– Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan in 1651. It’s reading was required if you were going to take any political theory class. Usually, it was paired with John Locke and his Treatise’s of Civil Government because both men made use of the state of nature. The above quote addresses what living in the state of nature must have been like.
These theories are nice and all, but the state of nature is a theoretical construct. I’m not sure it ever existed. People are too power hungry to exist in a system of perfect equality and absolute freedom. Someone with a bigger stick likely exerted control, but the governor of Mississippi seems to have stumbled on the state of nature.
When explaining why his state had more positives, more deaths, and more hospitalizations per capita he uttered the following:
“When you believe in eternal life—when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things.”Gov. Tate Reeves
I’m almost certain the good governor of Mississippi wasn’t thinking of Hobbes in this moment. People don’t normally make that connection. However, the connection with religion is unmistakable. In one quick burst of word salad, Mr. Reeves managed to muddy the waters in the world of the religious and the world of political ideology.
Not to get overly technical, but people left the state of nature because they discovered they could live longer if they surrendered some natural freedom in exchange for safety and security. When we act collectively and agree to honor certain rules and authority we guarantee our mutual benefit. In other words, it really does take a village.
Reeves also misunderstood religion all at the same time. The idea of wearing masks and taking vaccines (notice the plural) is as much about the safety of others as it is about yourself. Since this is my space here, I can delve into the religious for a moment if you will indulge me. If you won’t you can click to another site now.
The crux of the argument above is that God will protect us. Protestants differ from Catholics in a few key areas. The chief difference is in what they call justification by faith. In other words, if you make an open and public statement of faith in God and Jesus then you will be saved. I’m not here to piss on that notion, but there are a few holes in that theory.
The main hole involves the mechanics of it. A quick 30 second statement can outweigh a lifetime of bad acts. While this seems good when it comes to all prior bad acts, it also is connected to future bad acts. The trouble with this is that a true and heartfelt profession of faith should involve some kind of personal conversion. A personal conversion would also transform outward behavior. It is something we Catholics would call “faith justified by good works.”
This becomes important when we consider the notion that one gets vaccinated and/or wears a mask to protect others as much as they protect themselves. God may protect you from the virus, but does he protect me from you? Moreover, what is that protection based on? Is it based on a simple profession of faith or is it based on whether that faith has triggered a conversion of action?
If we are called to love one another as we love ourselves then we are called to consider the safety and health of others as much if not more than we do ourselves. This is where the words of Jesus and the words of Hobbes intersect. A family, society, and community (however one wishes to define each) can only run if all of the members agree to follow a common set of rules and look out in a very basic way for the safety of others.
Those who refuse to get the shot and refuse to wear masks are refusing to look out for their fellow man. It is tough to stomach an argument that they do this as a matter of faith. The very faith they profess is being perverted for selfish ends. It is also tough to stomach an argument for freedom. The so-called freedoms we enjoy are only possible through shared sacrifice. It’s sad when our so-called leaders misunderstand both precepts. Leaders should inspire us to seek the better angels of our natures. Instead they seem to want to inspire us to seek a life that is poor, nasty, brutish, and short.