"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Corona Snitches And Neighborhood Accusers–Suspect Morality And An Erosion Of Trust

The Corona lock-down has had consequences.  It has ruined the economy, at least temporarily, forcing many small businesses to close, driving up the unemployment rate to levels unseen since The Great Depression, and put enormous pressure on families who must work at home while caring for young children who cannot go to school.

Image result for images corona businesses closed

It has taken its social toll as well.  With little or no contact with friends and family; with churches, parks, restaurants, and recreation areas closed, people are understandably frustrated, irritable, and depressed.  Equanimity has its limits in an open society, and even the most well-adjusted, patient, and tolerant are restive, impatient, and angry.

Worse is the widening of the political divide.  Progressives and conservatives see the world in very different terms, and their disagreements have less to do with partisan politics than they do political philosophy.  Their reactions to Corona have been in keeping with their world views.

Progressives value community over the individual, civil rights over individual rights, and cooperative action over individual enterprise.  Not only do they profess these values, but invest them with higher moral authority.  Those who do not endorse this philosophy are apostates.

This reaction is understandable, for if belief is based on absolute, ordained truth, then those who reject is are ipso facto, deluded heretics.  In Corona terms promoting a philosophy which promotes individual responsibility and free association over communal values - is tantamount to heresy.

The Governor of New York famously said that those who did not wear masks were responsible for the deaths of others.  Wearing a mask is not for oneself but for others.  It is our collective moral responsibility to do so; and those who do not are immoral, anti-social renegades, obstacles in the way to a more pure, ideal, and progressive Utopian society.

However there will never be Utopia.  Human nature has remained unchanged, permanent, an ineluctable for millennia.  History has shown that societies have always been ruled by ambition, self-interest, territorialism, and militant defense of social, economic, and historical perimeters.  History will have its ups and downs but society will never change.  The difference between centuries is cosmetic.

Despite the historical record there are still many who refuse to accept such biological determinism. Man can improve, evolve, and progress if only enough resources, energy, and determination are applied. The Corona virus, for all the disruption it has caused, has been a wake-up call.  The empty, morally bereft demands of those citing individual liberty in the face of a devastating pandemic show that such moral corruption is endemic. It is capitalism itself which is the breeding ground for the most selfish, venal pursuits, and unless it is dismantled and discarded, there will be more anarchic protests in the future.

Image result for images milton friedman

In the time of Corona, say Milton Friedman adherents, it is up to the individual to assume responsibility for his own actions, and to determine whether the risk justifies the draconian measures enforced by government to lower it.

Although some claim that science is the handmaiden of political reform, the locus of fact and truth, and the facilitator of right moral judgment, history has shown that science is never settled and always a work in progress.  Ptolemy and Aristotle were convinced that the Earth was the center of the universe; 19th century anthropologists made conclusive judgments about the intellectual inferiority of Africans.  Infection was caused by ill vapors, hot and cold foods, and temperament.  Morality has no handmaidens nor any claim to higher authority.  It is relative and always will be.

Masks, scientific experts said at the beginning of the epidemic, did little good; then, after some time, they were considered essential; and now, according to the most recent report from the WHO, only those who are sick or caring for the sick should wear them.  The virus could be spread by physical contact, said scientists early on in the epidemic, so be sure to wash hands, scrub surfaces with chlorine bleach, leave packages outside for three days, and spray down your mail; but now the scientific wisdom is that no, this is not the case.

Claudius Ptolemy - Biography, Facts and PicturesImage result for Images Ptolemy

Given such relativity - the subjectivity of both science and moral judgment and their susceptibility to culture and environment - then any absolute conclusion about either challenges history. In such a relativistic universe, the only legitimate and valid response is individual expression.  Nietzsche said it best - in an amoral, randomly arrayed world, the only validation of humanity is the expression of individual will.  The conservative approach to society and to Corona is consistent with these philosophical principles.

What has been especially worrisome and troublesome in the Corona nightmare is how sanctimony has infected the most morally insecure.  Wearing a mask everywhere, at all times, in all circumstances has become not simply a protective measure, but a symbol of political solidarity.  It is an icon, a symbol, a banner of Doing the Right Thing.  Those who prefer to assess risk and personal liability – for example, wearing the mask by law or where people congregate but not wearing it in the open and among those who respect and maintain social distance - are, in the eyes of social reformers, acting selfishly, ignorantly, and immorally.

Shopping at Whole Foods, Giant, or Safeway is equally questionable when home delivery - the only way to reduce human contact - is easy, fast, and safe.  Stopping at the local deli or liquor store, even with a mask is considered suspect through this distorted progressive moral lens – was the trip really necessary? Was it worth the risk? Most importantly aren't such forays just signs of disobedience and  selfishness?

Worst of all has been the erosion of trust between those once trusted.  Friends who were socially close and frequent guests of each other have been split.  Association with friends who advocate a quick end to the lock- down makes them suspect to those who believe in a communal, universal response.  Even if these outspoken politically conservative friends take proper, intelligent, and reasonable personal precautions they cannot be trusted.  They must be vetted first to see how far their political infection has spread. The are to be interviewed, to be questioned on the influence of their doctrinal purity on personal behavior,to be  morally challenged, and finally never to be trusted and ultimately dismissed.

Snitches – those who take it upon themselves to judge other people’s behavior during Corona – are increasingly common.  They're phoning police and municipal hotlines, complaining to elected officials and shaming perceived scofflaws on social media, and even turning on neighbors. Actor Kevin James has produced a hilarious video about Corona snitches that has gone viral

Image result for images corona snitches

The Corona virus and the hysteria surrounding it will end, hopefully sooner rather than later; but a certain paranoia and fear is likely to remain, and deep suspicions will endure, after in crisis-hit times neighbor so easily turned against neighbor.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.