America, like the rest of the world, faces an ongoing war against an invisible enemy, COVID-19. Prevention of its spread, though, is highly visible in the use of face masks. This prophylactic measure has split the public between those who refuse to wear masks based on their right of free choice, and those who regard face covering as an act of solidarity with others to limit the pandemic’s transmission. Thus, the virus has provided us with an exemplary exercise in mutual responsibility since we will all need to realize that, because we are in the same boat, consideration of collective wellness must supersede individual calculations.
“Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice — but if more wear them, we’ll have more freedom to go out,” said US Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Studies show that face coverings are critical to helping limit the spread of the coronavirus, and yet, many people still defy requirements to wear masks in public settings. Others follow the advice of medical doctors to the letter, while most are found somewhere in between.
Because COVID-19 is a new and previously unstudied disease, it has evoked in us fear of the unknown. It is not clear what would happen if, God forbid, we were infected. Therefore, uncertainty is causing a general feeling of hysteria.
The coronavirus disease is discussed on the media from morning to night, and every political and professional personality tries to take advantage of the situation to demonstrate how clever or important they are and that they know the best way for the country to go forward. If they happen to be correct, it is to their credit, but if not, it is somebody else’s fault. As always, success has many parents and failure is an orphan.
If there had been separate locations for the cautious and the careless, things might have worked out. However, we are inseparably interconnected in this situation, so what do we do? The solution lies in the way we calculate the risks. Whether I am extremely worried about the disease, unconcerned or somewhere in the middle, perhaps there is a need to change the focus of my attention. In other words, instead of measuring what I feel and think about the risk of contracting the virus, I should measure how my behavior might impact others.
That is, I have to tell myself that I may be a carrier, and whether or not others are infected depends on me. Consequently, I should consider my behavior every moment and in every place to ensure that I do not transmit the virus to others, and thus I guard their health.
Unfortunately, the public is not yet very mindful of personal responsibility because, day in and day out, we are bombarded with conflicting opinions of doctors and others. This leaves us confused. While consideration of a variety of opinions is a positive thing, the public needs a clear and informed direction in the end.
If we continue down the road we are traveling now, we will come to a situation where each person follows his own advice and no precautions for the general welfare are possible. This would drive people even further away from the security of living in an orderly society. The circumstance in which each follows his or her natural tendency to consider only themselves to be the world authority will only create mayhem and drive us to anarchy.
A public agreement to wear face masks for the sake of others can help prevent such a slide toward social disorder. Wherever there is a dispute between the collective and the individual, we are obliged to rule according to the will of the collective. Why? Because by doing so, we align with the general connecting force of nature that is able to positively permeate society, as opposed to the negative egoistic force of the individual that disintegrates order. As it is written, “In the multitude of people is the king’s honor.” (Proverbs 14:28) And this is also the bottom line.
Though some of us are wary and some are careless according to our innate characteristics, a healthy society must be linked to a new consideration — the benefit of others. If every person tries to always act in favor of others, there will be no need for either excessive fear or disregard. We would all be in tune with the integral system of nature where balance prevails, and we will discover that ultimate freedom is found when one upholds the interest of the collective which is, after all, the sum of every single one of us.