Well, I don’t know about you, but since the entrance of the Coronavirus into public awareness, I have acquired PhD-level expertise on washing my hands.
In truth, I am thankful that something good will come of this whole mess. I don’t want to be the cynic who scoffs at the deluge of PSA’s if it means seeing a man step back from a urinal and walk straight out the door will become a less frequent occurrence.
However, there are some reactions to the outbreak that I will gladly scoff at for your reading pleasure, and hopefully it will also double as a lesson in what will henceforth be referred to as ‘pandemiquette’, the etiquette surrounding pandemic hysteria. You see, since I have no actual expertise on anything relating to health, I can only be authoritative with regard to my own made-up words.
There are people on this planet who seem to really hate it when you care about something. I suppose I can relate, to a certain extent, when it comes to trends. I’m one of those pretentious losers who will avoid wearing things that I notice are popular so that I can feel unique. So, I now extend a plea to my fellow pretentious losers that we all refrain from carrying this attitude into the realm of things that actually matter. A viral outbreak is not a fidget spinner; it isn’t a new cool thing you need to exercise your will to hate. It is something that leads to real deaths.
I’ve seen so much content comparing the impact of the Coronavirus to completely unrelated global issues. The most popular of these illogical suggestions is that because the deaths attributable to world hunger are very much higher than those attributed to COVID-19, one should not be concerned with the latter. Statements like these are almost poetic in how concisely they describe the intellect of the people who utter them.
“Coronavirus: about 1000 dead worldwide in 2 months, worldwide panic, daily messages in the media.
World Hunger: around 24 000 deaths a day, 3 in 4 deaths are children under 5 years.”
This message suggests that people cannot be concerned about a virus and world hunger simultaneously. I’m trying to imagine the reaction I would receive if, following a terrorist attack, I published a similar statistic. I could point out that terrorism has killed about half as many people in the last year as hunger does per day. Why, then, should we be so concerned about terrorism? The answer, of course, is that terrorism is one bad thing, and starvation is another bad thing, and that we can fit both in our brains at the same time. Although, after having seen these hot takes, I suppose I won’t speak for everyone.
Additionally, this attitude causes one to completely miss the legitimate reasons to be concerned about the Coronavirus. As a young and/or healthy person, you may not fear a 1% death rate, but just because you can acquire a virus and make it through without a hitch doesn’t mean your 80-year-old grandmother or diabetic uncle would have the same odds as you if you were to transfer it to them. So, if your belittling of the risk influences others away from caution and towards apathy, you augment the odds against the more vulnerable demographics.
Furthermore, it is because of the temporal nature of a pandemic that it calls for swift, decisive action to minimize potential casualties. The frenzy around the specifics of those policies is what fuels the controversy and hysteria, and this phenomenon is not entirely baseless, even though buying all the toilet paper certainly is. But to take issue with that reaction on the basis that it is not akin to how we handle ongoing, long-term challenges such as poverty and hunger is unfair and inappropriate. When a vaccine is developed against COVID-19, it will be administered in Bangladesh and in Iceland, and to much the same effect. But the solution to poverty is not the same in Venezuela as it is in Rwanda, and the market for human trafficking in Cambodia is not the same as in the United States. The
Now, I’m about to make an accusation, but I am going to back it up with a confession. The things to which people choose to compare the current health crisis are not coincidental. In all likelihood, the choice of comparison, be it world hunger, human trafficking, slavery, or anything else (I’m listing those which I have personally seen on social media), stems from the individual’s real concern for these issues. Why do I believe this? Because I remember feeling the same tendency back when I first became aware of the North Korean crisis.
Around that time, my church held a special prayer event for countries around the world. In this event, the names of countries were printed and spread out in a large room. Not every country was present, but many were, particularly those where Christians are persecuted or where there had been recent catastrophes (this was around the time of the earthquake in Haiti). I searched for North Korea, since it was on my mind at the time, and I remember feeling indignant that it wasn’t one of the countries we were going to pray for. This sentiment came from pride, because I allowed myself to believe I was better than other people because I was aware of an issue about which others were not.
I know I’m attributing bad motives, but I do believe it is this sentiment which tempts people to belittle important world events in order to draw attention to something they feel everyone should care about as much as they do.
I won’t deny that I’ve also found some of the incessant updates on local confirmed cases to be a bit excessive. My city of Montreal released a statement that one confirmed case had taken public transit in a certain place at a certain time, and it was sad to see people stressing out about whether they had possibly been there at the same time. Certainly panicking over a risk factor that low is not helpful at all. The irrationality with which people are hoarding basic commodities is an astounding example of mass hysteria and a lamentable consequence of cherry-picking the most panic-inducing facts. As of the date this article is posted, eggs are almost nowhere to be found.
Still, it’s obvious that caution is preferable to carelessness. Predictably enough, some of those whom I’m criticizing have begun to change their tone on the issue over the last few days. There a lot of articles and videos which were made based on very early and very incomplete data which have not aged well, to say the least. Part of that is that content creators capitalize on trending topics for clicks, much like I’m doing, and there is a market for saying something, anything at all, about the topic, even in an information famine. And, even though we have learned a lot in the last two weeks, we are still starving for many critical details.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Wash your hands and cover your mouth. If you have any symptoms, don’t visit your grandparents.