Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Friday, June 5, 2020

Was the Lockdown Effective in Stopping the Spread of the Coronavirus? The Aztec Dilemma

This post was inspired by a post by Chuck Pezeshki on the Aztec civilization, highly recommended as an introduction. 

Scene: Inside the temple at the top of the great pyramid of Tenochtitlán

Characters: the ArchPriest (Master) and the Young Priest (Prentice)


Prentice: Grand Master, where are you? (walks around, looking). Grand Master?

Grand Master:  Uh...? Prentice, is that you?

Oh... there you are, Master. It's me. Yes. I am sorry to disturb you when you are praying, but...

Hmmmm... I was taking a nap. What's happening?

Master. I need your advice.


See, Master. The time of today's sacrifice is coming.

Yes, of course, I know... I know. We have to start preparing. I must have my obsidian knife somewhere.... By the fangs of of Xipe Totec, it is already getting dark. We have to prepare. . . 

Master, you see, I wanted to tell you something.

Ah...?  Yes, Prentice. We still have some time. But where the Xochiquetzal is my obsidian knife.....

Master, I have a problem....

Oh, yes, here it is. Good old knife... So many hearts I took out with it! But what were you saying, Prentice?

Master, I was thinking of something.

Hmmmm.... Now I need my Mictlantecuhtli mask, should be around. And what have you been thinking?

Master, we always say that if we don't sacrifice a person every day to the sun god Huitzilopochtli, the sun will stop moving in the sky.  

Eh... yes.... that's the point of the ritual of the human sacrifice, of course. You studied that during your training. But where the heck is that mask....

Master, how do we know that?

How do we know what?

That the sun' won't rise tomorrow if we don't perform the sacrifice.

Prentice, you are a smart boy. You know that the god Huitzilopochtli appreciates our sacrifices. And that's proven by the fact that the sun rises every morningWhat the great Xochiquetzal have you been thinking? 

Thinking that, well, what if we skip it?

We skip what?

The sacrifice, master.

We skip the sacrifice? Are you mad, Prentice?

No, Master, listen to me. I mean, have we ever missed one of those evening sacrifices?

Prentice, we have always been sacrificing at least one prisoner to the sun God every evening, and the Sun has always risen the morning after. 

That's what I mean, Master. We could skip the sacrifice for once.


See, I have always been wondering why we never tried that.

I mean, of course, I know that if we don't perform the sacrifice, the sun won't rise tomorrow morning. Then, people will be scared. But then we do a few more sacrifices and the sun comes back. Don't you think that the people will be happy? 

 Ah... here is my Mictlantecuhtli mask. I needed it.

Master, what are you thinking of my idea?

Prentice, listen to me. 

Yes, Master?

Prentice, you know that the fact that the sun is coming out every morning is proof that the sacrifices work. 

Yes, Master, I know that. But, actually, you see, I thought that, maybe, we could do a test. . .

Prentice. I always said you were a good boy. Now, suppose we don't sacrifice tonight, as you propose. What if the sun comes up anyway tomorrow morning?

Master, that cannot be. The sun god will be awfully angry and. . . .

Just suppose that, you idiot!

Ah.... well, Master. But you taught me. . .

Never mind what I taught you, you dumbfuck moron. You know what would happen. The people of Tenochtitl├ín would climb this stupid pyramid, then cut our hearts out and eat them. 

Master, but I am sure that the god Huitzilopochtl wouldn't push the sun out if we don't perform the sacrifice.

Sure, Prentice, sure. But now, I have a good idea. I go to organize the sacrifice for tonight. You stay here until I come back.

Master, but I should help you with the preparations...

Stay here, I said.

Master, but why....?

Just stay here and wait, Prentice. And thanks for volunteering for tonight's sacrifice.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)