Part 1—Maddow also explains: In his award-winning novel, The Plague, Albert Camus explored the way a moral and political pestilence made its way across Europe.
He did so by way of a story set in Oran, on the sun-splashed Algerian coast. In his story, the pestilence in question is a literal plague, a deadly disease spread by rats.
At one point, Camus' narrator explains the way Oran's citizens had averted their gaze as their plague took hold. The description bears obvious relevance to the spreading cultural and political plague eating away at our own alleged nation.
Dr. Bernard Rieux is the main character in Camus’ novel. In the passage shown below, it suddenly occurs to him that a series of fatal illnesses in Oran may be part of a much larger problem.
Could it be that those seemingly random deaths are part of a literal plague? Just like that, the horrible thought occurs to Rieux, who isn’t prepared to believe it.
In what follows, Camus' narrator explains how the pestilence called Nazism managed to take hold in Europe. He also explains the pestilence which started invading our own failing culture many years ago:
CAMUS (page 34): The word “plague” had just been uttered for the first time. At this stage of the narrative, with Dr. Bernard Rieux standing at his window, the narrator may, perhaps, be allowed to justify the doctor's uncertainty and surprise, since, with very slight differences, his reaction was the same as that of the great majority of our townsfolk."Plagues always take people by surprise"—or so Camus' narrator says. We people are never quite willing to see the rats as they make their way into our sun-drenched communities.
Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.
We humans find it hard to believe that a pestilence is crashing down on our heads! As Camus' text continues, this reluctance is further explored:
CAMUS (continuing directly): In fact, like our fellow citizens, Rieux was caught off his guard, and we should understand his hesitations in the light of this fact; and similarly understand how he was torn between conflicting fears and confidence. When a war breaks out, people say: "It's too stupid; it can't last long." But though a war may well be "too stupid," that doesn't prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.Does stupidity get its way? That's what the narrator says. He says stupidity gets its way because we people are too wrapped up in ourselves to believes that a terrible price will be paid for our lack of vigilance and our immodest self-involvement.
In this respect our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven't taken their precautions.
He says the townspeople of Oran were "humanists." He says this made matters worse.
For ourselves, we wouldn't describe the people who have enabled our own culture's plague that way. We refer, of course, to the plague we "humanists" now tend to describe as Trumpism.
The pioneers of the current plague have been crawling into our cultural life for at least the past fifty years. These pioneers began to spread the current plague long before Donald J. Trump announced he was running for office.
These pioneers aren't "humanists" in any observable way. Neither are the enablers within the mainstream press who kept ignoring their work.
These pioneers weren't and aren't humanists. But they were laying the groundwork for our own plague long before Trump won office, partly by agreeing to ignore his pestilent behavior.
Camus had more to say about the way his plague invaded Oran. In the passage shown below, his narrator continued to explain the way townspeople refused to take action against its spread.
According to the award-winning author, this is the way a pestilence spreads in a lazy, immodest land:
CAMUS (continuing directly): Our townsfolk were not more to blame than others; they forgot to be modest, that was all, and thought that everything still was possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible. They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views? They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.It couldn't happen there!
Indeed, even after Dr. Rieux had admitted in his friend's company that a handful of persons, scattered about the town, had without warning died of plague, the danger still remained fantastically unreal...
According to Camus' narrator, the townspeople "went on doing business" even as the pestilence was taking hold in Oran. So did the biggest stars of our mainstream press corps as the pestilence they've finally spotted ate its way through our own land.
On Friday night, Rachel Maddow described the way Donald J. Trump does politics. She also described the way decent people feel forced to respond to his conduct.
She described the way Donald J. Trump traffics in disgust and "shock." She described the way his "repulsive" pronouncements lead decent people to feel that they must respond.
Maddow gave a good account of this syndrome. She's also a person who likes to chat with the person she has described as "my hero," shock jock Howard Stern.
All this week, we'll explore the way our current pestilence ate its way into our culture. Along the way, we'll look at Maddow's presentation in more detail.
We think her 22-minute statement is well worth watching; to do so, just click here. We also think that, although she certainly didn't create our plague, her complicity in its spread is clear.
"I don't know what the cure is to this," Maddow said at several points. Luckily, we do.
We can't say that we expect that any such cure will take hold. But we'll explore the rise of our cultural plague in our reports all this week.
Tomorrow: For starters, we'll start with Les Crane, star of KGO