The coronavirus, Hegel and the builders of the tower of Babel


The mainstream media information on Covid-19 is full of contradictions: there is no doubt about this. One virologist says A, the other Z; a doctor says something and immediately a colleague of his denies it; in Italy, we are the best in the world in antivirus measures but we have the highest number of deaths. And so on. Everything is true and the opposite of everything. However, if you pay a little more attention, you realize that under this layer of inconsistencies there is a disturbing uniformity. The mass media, after all, always repeat the same thing, with few variations and exceptions: deaths increase, contagion spreads, we are under attack from an unknown and terrible virus... The human mind easily mistakes this uniformity for truth, but in doing so, it falls into a dangerous illusion. Truth is not a question of conformity but, rather, of a dialectical relationship. This is why Hegel said that contradiction is the rule of truth, while non-contradiction is the rule of falsehood (“contradictio est regula veri, non contradictio falsi”). It should be noted that the word contradiction is not intended here as a violation of the second principle of classical logic, but in the sense of dialogue between different positions.

The ridiculous language of Single Thought

Hegel was a theologian as well as a philosopher. In the Bible, which he knew very well, there is an episode that fully agrees with the above maxim. This is the story of the tower of Babel (Gen 11,1-9), which is not only a criticism of the human hỳbris, of the claim to reach heaven with one's own strength, but also a warning against the temptation of uniformity and of the undifferentiated, of the flock. In Gen 11,3 the narrator laughs at the foolish language of the builders of the tower. The CEI [1] translates the verse as “come, let's make bricks and cook them on the fire”, but the Hebrew text says something different: “Havah nilbenah lebenîm venisrepah lisrepah”, which literally sounds like “come on, let's brick bricks and cook them in cooking”. It is the typical way of expressing the Single Thought and propaganda: repetitive, tautological, ridiculous. As for COVID, we had yet another shining example in TG3 [2] at 7pm on February 27, 2021: “The third wave is coming, but we cannot speak of a third wave because in reality the second one has never passed” (!).

A providential intervention

The God of the Bible does not like this way of speaking. Indeed, in Gen 11:5-7 we read: «But the Lord went down to see the city and the tower that men were building. The Lord said, “Look! They are one people and they all have one language; this is the beginning of their work and now what they plan to do will not be impossible for them. So let's go down and confuse their language, so that they no longer understand each other's language”». This is not a punishment but a providential intervention aimed at saving man from himself, from his impatient and superficial egotism. The monochord language of propaganda is only apparently unifying: in reality, it is divisive, because it denies any dialectic and possibility of relationship. It is the exact opposite of the creator Logos, of the biblical dabàr, the word/event that accomplishes what it says. It is a language that de-creates, confuses, stupefies, and separates thought from action. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus categorically condemns such a way of expressing himself: «Let your speaking be “yes yes; no no; more comes from the evil one”» (Mt 5:37). The next time we hear expressions like “let's brick bricks and cook them in cooking” or “the third wave of COVID is not-incoming because the second one has never passed”, therefore, we will know for sure that those words are not telling us anything true or good.

[1] CEI is:

[2] TG3 is the news on RAI 3, channel 3 of Italian Broadcasting Television.


Original column by Marco Galloni:

Traslation by Costantino Ceoldo