Thoughts on Covid Response — Culture Impacts Results

The Covid-19 pandemic has been both a global morality play and a world-wide laboratory for observation of social behaviors. For the most part, countries and cultures steeped in cooperation and interdependence have responded better than those based more on individualism. By any metric, western countries, particularly the United States, show far more positive results and deaths when factored for population, than many Eastern, Asian countries. India is the outlier in terms of its rates of infection and deaths. One could hope they share a culture that values life and where the cultural impacts behavior in a positive way, to preserve it. That’s not always the case. Though it is the case that culture impacts results.

Raw Statistics

Statistical analyses of raw numbers like the ones linked above measure effects, not causes. There are not likely to be any studies broken down by political party or religious affiliation. If there were, they might prove illuminating. Not that politics or religions create disease. They don’t. They are not the primary cause. But once started, a viral disease spreads, or is mitigated, by the actions of the people where it is present. And people act on what they believe. Persons in the hardest hit countries, with the United States firmly ensconced in the top (bottom) position, either do not believe the virus is serious, or they don’t believe it’s up to them to do anything to help stop it.

The surest proof of belief is action. If you believe a chair will hold your weight, you demonstrate that belief by sitting on it. All actions (and I include inactions as a type of negative action), are the effects of some type of belief. If I do X, I believe I will achieve Y. Or conversely, if I refrain from doing X, I believe it will prevent Y. Any modifications made to behavior on account of Covid have come from belief in their necessity and efficacy. Those who have not believed it was serious (at least to themselves) have ridiculed the warnings and spurned the recommendations. This has happened to a statistically significant degree in Western countries and cultures contrasted with non-Western.

Is American Culture A Selfish Killer?

The Soviet Union collapsed because its brand of Communism failed. What does the unspeakably poor Covid record of the United States say about our culture and government? Is American culture a selfish killer? Or is that an un-Patriotic question? Maybe that is an unfair comparison. Maybe it’s not relevant. But something in the fabric of Western culture (in general), and the United States (in particular) has been the cause of the atrocious global rankings. Some will comfort themselves with the notion that the US shows so poorly because we test so thoroughly. Some will say we are more honest and open with our results. (No one from New York or Florida, though). These views may be accurate. If so, I stand corrected. There is no evidence to suggest these scenarios are true. And it doesn’t negate the fact that many (including many state governors) believe liberty and economics are more valuable than health and life.

Origination is not as important as Elimination

To bring this back to my opening, a pandemic starts however and wherever it starts. Knowing how and where this virus started provides zero useful information to stop it. Humans are hard-wired to assign blame, but sometimes fingering the culprit is not as important as limiting the damage. Once started, people are alternately praiseworthy or blameworthy for their actions to limit the spread. Here again, the culture impacts on results.

The West could have learned from the pandemic. Citizens could have been made aware of shared, mutual dependencies. From the outset, political leaders could have promoted the literally life-altering message of self-sacrifice for the greater good. Instead, it has been the vehicle in an all-out race pitting lunatic-liberty against life. A difficulty for many to embrace these concepts may hinge on their unwillingness to take any responsibility for their role in spreading a virus they don’t feel responsible for starting in the first place. Since they did not personally start it, they absolve themselves of any responsibility to slow its spread. I don’t know if that’s true. I suppose another possibility is that a lot of people in Western civilizations really just don’t give a damn about each other, acting out the belief that people aren’t all that important, except as tools for making money.

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