The ‘every man for himself’ individualism that not-so-subtly defines America is why most people can only understand & evaluate social distancing in terms of bravery vs. fear.
We are conditioned to think in terms of isolated, solitary choices and consequences that exist in a vacuum. That’s our ‘freedom.’ I make choices. I suffer consequences. Everyone else is a non-player character in the IRL video game in which I’m the protagonist. For all of our love of comic books, that whole ‘with great freedom comes great responsibility’ was somehow missed completely. Or maybe it was misheard as ‘with great freedom comes great new jet skis.’
Conduct a simple test and you’ll see how this works.
If someone thinks about social distancing using the ‘bravery/freedom vs. fear’ schema try saying, “hey, this isn’t about being brave or fearful, it’s about choosing to either be selfish or to take responsibility for your impact on others,” and watch what happens. I know because I’ve been doing this. Most likely they will have a minor short circuit, sputter for a second or two and then reboot. They will then power through like a zombie, returning the conversation to ‘you’re scared, you sheeple chicken!’ Why? It’s simple. Communal thinking doesn’t work here. Sure, you might be able to get glimpses of it on a micro-level here and there (most overtly with the family unit), but try to take it macro? Fuck you, buddy. I’ve got shit from Pottery Barn to buy and I need it right now.
If you ever wonder why I assume we are completely doomed as a society, it’s because we have no ability to understand ourselves as interdependent, communal beings. All that’s up for debate is how long we can hold this shit together with duct tape and super glue. Because unless we have a massive shift in how we understand ourselves in relationship to others (not to mention the rest of our environment), we will rather quickly poison our own wells. And we will deserve it.
Happy Memorial Day!