XOTV WEEKLY: The Wicked Convenience of COVID-19
As of November 8th, the US has over 10 million confirmed cases of covid and 239,093 deaths. By the time you read this, that number will have already increased. We are once again reminded of how our preference for convenience and individualism yields dire and deadly impacts.
The toll is not only shockingly apparent to the whole world but undeniably devastating. Despite the U.S. making up about 4% of the world’s population, approximately one-quarter of all COVID-19 cases and mortality apiece are from U.S. citizens.
Growing up, we are repeatedly told to “do the right thing”. It was socialized to us as the learning lesson of every TV sitcom, the theme of most movies, books and messages from teachers and parents. It still comes as a surprise that when it comes to the “right thing” to do regarding our Covid response, our definitions are so divisive.
Nine months ago, I would have assumed that the majority of people's “right thing to do” was anything that would help prevent other people from dying. Nine months later with friends, family members, neighbors and acquaintances dead from this disease, I see that this was naive thinking.
As a nation, we have interpreted ‘doing the right thing’ to equate to ‘doing what is easiest and best for me.’ Collectively, our culture prioritizes a model of individual convenience over our founding principles of hard work and creating a healthy civil society. The novel coronavirus epidemic is another example of how many Americans willfully choose to ignore facts and science in order to maintain personal freedoms-rebranded as “civil liberties”-over the safety and lives of others.
We are the nation where simply wearing a mask was viewed by many as controversial.
People would not cover their faces, even if it could potentially save another person's life. People protested stay at home orders and continued to go out and gather because the value of life- especially those most vulnerable among us, is not worth more than even the minimal inconvenience.
We witnessed several examples of people becoming enraged at any suggestion that their actions should take other’s people’s welfare into account or consideration. This is hardly a phenomenon, but remarkably American.
Consumerism is responsible for the trade-off between economic growth and controlling the disease, as well as leadership and lack of directions under the Trump Administration. Many other various levels and branches of leadership were more concerned with economic vitality; they were willing to accept the loss of life that came with opening up too early. It’s important to recognize how they too were enabled by many single actors and the collective social attitudes used to justify their negligence.
Our individualistic culture paints us in bleak contrast to other countries like Singapore, Canada and New Zealand; countries that are more culturally collective, altruistic and handled the epidemic with minor fatalities.
According to VeryWellMind’s analysis of individualistic cultures, “(i)ndividualistic cultures are those that stress the needs of the individual over the needs of the group as a whole. In this type of culture, people are seen as independent and autonomous. Social behavior tends to be dictated by the attitudes and preferences of individuals. Cultures in North America and Western Europe tend to be individualistic.”
It is so extreme that we believe the rights of an individual take precedent over the very right to life and the health of others.
Alison Dundes Renteln, professor of political science at USC Dornsife, said that coronavirus challenges the concepts of American exceptionalism and individual liberty. Americans tend to share a worldview that is future-focused, energetic, youthful and prefers happy endings, which doesn’t jibe with pandemic-driven lockdowns and social isolation.
Conventionality has become a by-product of American consumerism that in turn shapes all wicked problems making it the most wicked issue of all. Its subtle wickedness was exposed through what can only be described by the principal as selfishness.
“You see, the modern U.S. right is committed to the proposition that greed is good, that we’re all better off when individuals engage in the untrammeled profit maximization by businesses and unregulated consumer choice is the recipe for a good society,” wrote Paul Kregman in his column The Cult of Selfishness is Killing America.
Even now, with the election of a new President and an entirely new administration, the path to overcoming Covid will be long. It is easy believing a solution will come about with new leadership; blind faith is the most convenient mentality to foster and an insoluble replacement to hard work required to actually bring about change.
My father, someone who is at heightened risk to covid, always added a follow up to the end of his daily ‘do the right thing” reminder. “Do the right thing, even if it is hard. Majority of the time doing the right thing will not be easy.” It seems like this part of the message didn’t make it into the hearts and minds of the rest of the nation. One can’t help but wonder if we would have allowed this disease to ravish our communities so easily if it had.
About the Author:
Jayla Hodge brings her experience as a writer, editor and consultant to her work as a storyteller. Jayla's work generally specializes in diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Previous experience includes working in communications and community outreach for the City of Fort Collins and serving as the Opinion Editor at The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Jayla also has experience studying policy, laws, and is passionate about social and racial justice.