There have been two ways to designate responses as to what we should do in the midst of this pandemic that I have been aware of. The first seems to be one concerned primarily with the safety of people: Stay home and continue social distancing for as long as it takes to thin the infection rate to a manageable degree, then gradually re-open public areas and services so that we don’t reintroduce carriers to the general public en mass. The second seems to be primarily concerned with the range of free choices that can be made and the influences, mostly economic, of keeping society all but shut down. As for what the government could have done, could do, and should look to do, I will not say too much, as I am not an expert in politics. However, I think there are some basic goals that the government should prioritize as the entity responsible for the integrity of the country as a whole. My concern is with what people should do, so I will address the available attitudes ordinary citizens can adopt.
In regards to concerns about limits on freedom, as always, I suggest that people get familiar with the idea of perpetually limited freedom. The degree to which our freedoms are limited will change over time, and I think there is a certain balance that would be optimal as far as how limited or unlimited our allowances should be, but so long as one person has the ability to respond to another person’s actions, our choices are never completely free of potential repercussions, be they positive or negative. I would debate the notion that any of us have absolute freedom except in whether or not we make our own choices, but as for what choices are available to be made, there will necessarily be limits per the circumstances of whatever situation you find yourself to be in. Currently, we are facing a pandemic that has already killed more than a hundred thousand people world wide, and more than 40,000 people in America alone. I would expect the responses and actions of the authorities to limit individual freedom, but I would also expect the vast majority of individuals to comply. What’s at risk is not just the death and/or illness of yourself, but potentially also anyone you could spread the virus to directly or indirectly. I think it would be wise not to make yourself a channel for the virus’s spreading.
Now I mainly wanted to address the concerns regarding the economic impacts of this shutdown and pandemic response. It is fundamental to my philosophy that all value we have and can enjoy is derived not only from the ability to live, but the ability to live without alienating limitations to the personal freedom of the individual. I do not mean in the same way as others have protested, that we should have the freedom to endanger ourselves for the sake of going back into public areas of society. I am most concerned with the freedom of the human mind and spirit, and the ability to live a meaningful life unrestricted by economic, civil reality itself. So many people have lost their jobs as a result of the public closures that in many areas it is illegal to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent. This is a vitally necessary protection for the individual, and emblematic of the argument which I will give as to what should be valued most of all during this time.
For the sake of value itself, I suggest that we try to save as many lives as possible and that we all take responsibility to ensure that we are as successful as possible in doing so. I do not see anything to be gained in these circumstances; rather, I see losses to mitigate. Our government has already had a less than appropriate first response to the pandemic, so our political leaders should focus on remedying their mistakes and prioritize the safety of the public and the efficiency of the efforts in halting the spread of the virus so this pandemic does not worsen unnecessarily. Local governments should be hesitant and cautious in regards to potentially re-opening cities and states. Individuals should try to refrain from going out in public and visiting others as much as possible, though sharing resources and food during these times would be one way to mitigate losses and suffering on a smaller scale. Protests against public closures should end immediately. It is foolish not just to expose yourself to contact with so many other people, but it is also foolish and destructively cruel to inhibit efforts to save those most affected by this pandemic, those who are actually sick and their caretakers. Nothing is gained from preventing medical professionals from reaching hospitals.
Also, put aside your political ideology for the time being. This is not a political crisis. This is not an economic crisis. This is a pandemic. It affects humans, and society is only affected indirectly through the changes in the actions of us people. That is why the virus spread so thoroughly before any public areas were closed to begin with. It does not attack our markets, our malls, stores, or schools. It attacks us, so we must be protected if we want anything else to be protected.
Lastly, what are you willing to risk your life and the lives of others for? In the face of what danger are you willing to make decisions based on ideals? In the face of the regular limitations and alienation of society due to the actions and ideas of people, I understand resistance on the basis of ideological principles as that is where the conflict is derived from. But in the face of an indiscriminate, deadly virus, I suggest we put ideologies aside and look to understand that the suffering is contained, as it always is, to people. Governments do not suffer. Markets do no suffer. Economic entities do not suffer. Circumstances change, but nothing as lifeless as an abstract organization that is nothing more than a conceptualization of the bureaucratic habits of people could consciously suffer like a human person could suffer. Be considerate of others not because it is right, but because to others you yourself are an “other”. If you expect others to be considerate towards you, they must be able to expect the same from you; otherwise, there is no reliable reason to expect cooperation and compassion from anyone. Recovering economically will be a matter of work and time, but recovering physically or emotionally from suffering caused by the virus is not at all guaranteed. People will be dying for decades after this pandemic ends from complications caused by the virus, and everyone’s lives are drastically changed from simply having to go through such a crisis, even if they are never personally affected. Be mindful of the suffering of others for the sake of peace and our ability to cooperate. If enough people do this, I believe the compassion that may rise as a consequence will help to remedy any economic and societal losses faster than if such problems were only viewed as crisis of numbers in civil society. Once again, it is people who are affected directly and primarily, not any of our civil entities. Please don’t make this worse any of us than it’s already going to be. Stay safe.