2020 seems to have gotten off on the wrong foot. We’re only a month into this new decade and it already appears that a lot of us would like to just fast forward through it. Interestingly, I have come across a number of posts in my timeline where society has been depicted as doomed—many are making this claim as they refer to the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, the spread of the coronavirus and the death of Kobe Bryant.
I find the narratives surrounding these conversations interesting, specifically as it pertains to the spread of the coronavirus. With an increasing number of cases being confirmed within Canada, people are trying to protect themselves. Many are purchasing surgical masks, with stock selling out in cities like Montreal and Toronto. And with the rise of the coronavirus, there have been reports of rising anti-Chinese hate and racism. These two actions speak to the sentiment that exists within Canada—‘the most diverse place in the world’—which focuses on the self.
In other words, people need to calm down. As it pertains to the coronavirus, health specialists have stated a number of times that the risk it poses to Canadians is minimal, with many also stating that regular hand washing is a more effective way of protecting yourself than sporting surgical masks. Unfortunately, however, washing your hands does not provide some with the material and visual satisfaction that they are protecting themselves.
The convenience of putting on a mask and convincing yourself that you have done your due diligence to protect yourself from others is incredibly appealing. This visual marker, however, contributes to the heightening fear and misinformation surrounding these viruses.
Much of this misinformation has led to discriminatory acts against members of the Chinese Canadian community. These actions act as direct contradictions of Canadian ‘niceness’ and without recognizing them we silence and disregard the underlying issues that will continue to plague our society. During trying and difficult times, people resort to the values and qualities that they hold closest.
If, while facing a ‘crisis,’ people prioritize themselves and alienate perceived threats, it highlights the true values they hold. The response that health officials and governments provided can be reflected upon and hopefully improve the containment of future health concerns in this interconnected and global society. It can also act as an opportunity for society to reflect on our individual responses—ones that may have seemed rational at the time. And since this crisis has yet to be fully averted, we must focus on the actions that we can take.
What you can do as an individual can collectively have a major impact. Wash your hands, remain calm, be ‘nice,’ and remember that we’re only a month in. As people are working to preserve humans, let’s work as individuals to defend our collective humanity.