Original artwork by Dr. Nicolasora's talented friend Marko Bello.
This piece was written in response to Coronavirus and the Fallacy of the False Dilemma | American Council on Science and Health
The conundrum we are experiencing is by all means due to the drastic deviation from our norm, and the challenging, adaptive measures that we initiate to continue functioning as individuals, and as a society. The very opinionated will, understandably, react in a more dramatic and diverse fashion, oftentimes expressing concerns about the extent by which our individual liberties, motivations, and goals are affected.
As we continuously navigate through this crisis, the protracted and strenuous measures that people endure will generate significant stress upon certain segments of the population, especially those who find their personal interests--including one’s economic status, in jeopardy. Not surprisingly, after months of lockdown, we observe an outpouring of various opinions. Moreover, the release of questionable data, whether in favor of or against the lockdown, has created a further divide within our society, comprised of different special interest groups.
Patience and acceptance of discomfort/inconvenience represent quite a challenge to those who typically function best under more optimal conditions, subject to minimal annoyances and struggles. The novelty of every pandemic will always test a society’s capacity to adapt, and how it responds is not necessarily culture-specific. This is further magnified by preexisting, polarizing beliefs amid a collective distrust towards those in positions of power and authority, along with individual and group perceptions about the available facts, news, opinion, or scientific data. Unfortunately, the existence of misinformation, or lack of good information, often influences our political views and proclivities, and how that corresponds to personal experiences and socioeconomic status.
Being an adult immigrant who came to live in this great country, I think I offer a slightly different perspective from what the author conveys, certain aspects of which I have already outlined. One has to take into account that digital technology now plays a significant role, greatly intertwined in the lives of at least a billion or so, among the world’s 7+ billion population. This phenomenon appears to be more pronounced in the United States given its socioeconomic status, in particular, allowing for relatively easier access to electronic platforms, often for the purpose of expressing ourselves. Incidentally, it seems that the author partly undermined the very same platform used to propagate his message.
It is not unusual in this day and age of information explosion that social media becomes the driving force for disseminating various points of view, and making these easily accessible. We can surmise that the opinion of just one individual, catering or even pandering to the personal feelings and beliefs of a particular group or groups, can easily go viral on Twitter, FB, YouTube, and other online media environments, thereby triggering strong, emotional reactions that can translate into accompanying behaviors.
I have never seen a “virus” with a R nought higher than what I have observed as it pertains to the spread of certain ideas on social media, and how that can affect human response actions. The transmissibility of opinion can now be accomplished with just a short, written message and the click of a button. On serious topics of discussion, like the controversy surrounding this lockdown, we may feel empowered and/or influenced by available information, which we can then use to formulate our own personal opinions, allowing us to even cast votes as to whether we believe this policy is doing more harm than good, whether it was actually necessary in the first place, and whether it remains necessary moving forward.
How did Americans actually respond to these lockdown initiatives? Have we been more compliant or belligerent? Have we noticed a decline in public transport or movement, public gatherings, and/or hospital visitations? Have we freed up the supply of masks by not masking when initially told not to do so or have we started masking, in compliance with the supporting wave of data and opinion?
Now, I think we should tolerate certain contrarian views as a way of conforming to our democratic ideals, although extreme recommendations or suggestions should be construed as outliers that are, sometimes, seen as inevitable. Situations that call for draconian policies in the interest of the public good could border on violating individual civil liberties no matter how well-intentioned they are. These also have the power to cause dire consequences to the economic, social, and personal well-being of those who are already marginalized. We are operating within tight or limited windows of opportunity, related to this unique environment.
Personally, I think the best we can do is to support measures that, hopefully, will lessen this widening social divide that has existed even before the outbreak of this pandemic.
Attaching disparaging labels to members of our society certainly does not help. The author who, with all due respect, may be a hundred times more eloquent than many of us should have expounded more on his “3rd option,” however, he falls short of doing so. His interest in what the 3rd option has to offer was also not evident as he failed to solicit other ideas or pose a rhetorical question that would have encouraged viewpoints similar to what he proposes, an important feature of a good op-editorial. What good are observations that analyze society as a whole if they only seek to elevate the author or the audience that endorses the opinion presented?
What we should work on during this pandemic is to call for more transparency and more concise messaging from our leaders and public health officials. We should demand facts and work on the logistics and accurate scientific process to gather the much needed data (e.g. well-conducted immunoprevalence/immunoprotection data followed by longitudinal surveys to see how robust the post-infection antibody response is). We should harness creative forces to help protect the vulnerable segments of our population (e.g. HCW, the elderly, those with comorbid conditions, and those affected severely by the economic downturn).
We should implement measures that would allow different parts of the economy to resume their functions. We should support and utilize technology, alongside government, as well as non-governmental measures that will help keep the economy afloat, assist our young population in becoming properly educated, the vulnerable population protected, and the able-bodied citizens, employed and generating income. We should also be gearing up to prepare for the next wave of infections, whenever it may be and in whatever magnitude it may present itself.
A crisis can always bring the best and, unfortunately, the worst in us. I fervently hope and pray, that we can agree that in the process of achieving our goals, most of us need to be part of the solution.
Follow artist Marko Bello on Instagram.