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Sanctimony in western societies during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Bai Chao Chen
Edited by Bhromor Rahman

The novel coronavirus pandemic began receiving attention in late January and the reaction from citizens in the West in the face of this threat was not only ignorant, but arrogantly so. For this article, I will define the West as western European countries and North America, excluding Mexico.  Indeed, most of the West did not attribute any importance to the virus. Furthermore, when those in the Chinese community started wearing face masks due to their unique understanding of the situation, they were mocked as paranoid and ridiculed to no end by everyone from their everyday classmate, to their seemingly wise teacher and even their average fellow citizen. Important members of the political establishment from elected leaders to public health experts went as far as discrediting the usage of face masks and derided those who wore them. Of course, they hid the fact that this was not because masks are ineffective, quite the contrary, but because their own incompetence and lack of preparedness had led to shortages of face masks for healthcare workers and hospitals. Thousands of deaths and hospitalizations could have been avoided if the ignorance of the West were not as great as it was. Neither the Left nor the Right cared much about the issue until it was too late. Once Canada was hit in late March, the day Sophie Gregoire tested positive, the shocking reality of the virus suddenly hit Canadians. It took the wife of the Prime Minister to be infected for citizens to finally comprehend the danger COVID-19 poses!

Lockdown has been in effect since late March as virtually everything closed and those who could, such as schools, moved their services online. However, in both the United-States and in Canada, some right-wingers were less prone to believing the accuracy of the information about the virus. With the Internet awash with conspiracy theories, many believed them and protested the quarantine measures as almost every country in the world fell into economic depression. Leftists coped with the measures as they believed they were necessary to save human lives. The #stayhome circulated on social media and those who refused to abide, notably teenagers and conspiracy theorists who believed in a government plot, were labelled as “covidiots”: a merge between COVID and idiot.  Videos of angry armed rednecks storming government buildings popped up on social media. Everyone laughed at them and thought they were insane. Fair enough; they were protesting a necessary measure to mitigate the spread of the pandemic after all…

In late May, an outrageous event occurred in Minneapolis. George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. This has since sparked large gatherings of thousands in numerous cities across the world. The anger from the Black community was clearly demonstrated as demands for equality and justice flooded the media space. There is one problem though. As this article makes clear, we are living amidst a global pandemic that has ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals. Yet, it seems the viral threat is now no more.  Thousands of protesters marched on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Toronto, Montreal, and other cities. Little to no social distancing took place while thousands of people assembled in crowds all together screaming “Black Lives Matter”. The movement itself has its merits and the anger is justified, but the ignorant masses have chosen to forget the very existence of a virus that has destroyed communities and the livelihood of millions. The interesting part is that the right-wingers who were out protesting for the reopening of the economy suddenly started to criticize the left-wingers for marching in crowds during a pandemic as if they had not done so themselves earlier. Meanwhile, the same left-wingers who sneered at the so-called “covidiots” are now protesting in massive crowds themselves with no social distancing. All the hashtags were for show. It all became about protesting in massive crowds; being an ally of the Black community against systematic racism and inequalities in societies. The media suddenly stopped the unending coverage of the virus and shifted all its focus on the protests. Medical experts warned that a surge of cases might occur because of the protests, but the leftists who kept quoting the medical experts are now ignoring their advice. The narrative has changed, inconvenient facts must be ignored, and protesting is righteous even if it contradicts your own words few months prior.

This behavior is dangerous, but it perfectly encapsulates the mentality of the most people in western countries: never-ending cognitive dissonance to favor a narrative of one’s own liking. Facts be damned. Go on your Facebook feed and find any person who has the intent of participating in any massive protest. With very few exceptions, you will notice that few months prior, they were the same ones who shared posts about staying home and how it is our duty to not go outside. If this sort of behavior does not instill fear in you, what will? Collective well-being and moral duty have been sacrificed at the altar of ideology which has now surpassed the worth of human life. Right-wing ideologues defy confinement because they downplay the danger of the virus and left-wing ideologues now protest for a cause they believe in even if it means the possible creation of a huge cluster. Unfortunately, those who will suffer the most from this clown fiesta are the medical workers. They have fought against this outbreak for months, only to see a small glimpse of hope when cases dropped in early June, then left to helplessly witness massive gatherings all around the world.

This article is not a partisan attack; it does not condemn any single political ideology in the name of another, but rather holds the current nature of politics itself in contempt. The only opinion that this article adheres to is belief in the intrinsic worth of human life. The current protests are about injustice and the unjust death of an individual, but if the protesters cared so much about human life, did they not think about their parents or the people who they may infect? In a massive gathering of thousands, if one protester, say a young student, gets the virus and brings it home to her parents. What would happen? Who values human life in this case? Perhaps the police sent to keep the potential looters and anarchists in check or maybe the students who decided to participate in massive gatherings of thousands amidst a pandemic while living with their more vulnerable parents? This ideological duality between leftist and rightist narrative has utterly corrupted the minds of the youth in western society. The value of human life has become a bargaining chip to strengthen a narrative which fits dogma first and foremost. And if political gridlock does not come to an end soon, the worst is yet to come…

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