Being irresponsible during the pandemic? You’re not a good person

John Swanson | Photo Courtesy
There is no valid reason not to play it safe.

Endangering others is selfish

There is a large population of people who seem to think if they just pretend like coronavirus isn’t a thing anymore, then it isn’t. You know these people; they’re going to bars every weekend with a huge group of friends, they’re going to weddings with 200 people or hosting a house party. Maybe it’s even that friend that hangs out with 15 or more people throughout the week without a mask on.

For these individuals, they seem to have a lot of methods to rationalize being irresponsible during a pandemic. And, they may be able to get by just using these rationalizations. The truth is, if you’re not socially distancing, not wearing a mask, not doing everything in your power to keep from spreading the virus: you’re a bad person.

This may seem extreme, especially when there are so many people, especially NDSU students, playing it fast and loose with a virus. Yet, viewing your right to normalcy as more important than another person’s life is the definition of selfishness. Pretending like the virus doesn’t exist is a view rooted in individualism, one that is uncaring and ambivalent towards other people. 

You can’t be a good person and be uncaring for others, it just doesn’t work. I know people have their arguments against being careful in the pandemic, so I’ll address those too and show why the sentiment still stands. 

“My body, my choice”

This argument misses the mark in several ways. First of all, this is meant to be a satirical play on the same line used by pro-choice advocates for years. However, the usage here comes off less as clever and more as woefully dense. 

Arguably, a woman’s choice to have control over her body should concern no one except the woman and those she interacts with. Choosing not to wear a mask and follow guidelines will at some point affect others, including those who have tried to be safe. If you can apply this line incorrectly to an argument on safety guidelines but fail to see how not following those guidelines is actually anti-life, sorry, you’re no intelligentsia. 

Let’s talk more about this though, because it’s the way a lot of people think about their daily actions right now. I saw an analogy someone used on Facebook, “People choose not to wear seatbelts, people can also choose not to wear a mask.” 

Here’s the problem with lines of reasoning like these, if you choose not to wear a seatbelt and you get in an accident, you die. If you choose not to wear a mask and come into contact with an immunocompromised person, they die. 

A better analogy would be to compare a drunk driver hitting a pedestrian to an anti-masker infecting someone. We don’t try to make excuses for the drunk driver. Yes, it is their body and their choice to get drunk, but we know that it’s irresponsible and immoral nonetheless.

More than that, we don’t try to justify the person’s death, saying things like, “The person was meant to die, they put themselves in the position of being in the street.” This sounds ridiculous, as do similar arguments saying immunocompromised, elderly, or the overwhelming number of healthy people who have been debilitated by the virus are at fault for existing during a pandemic.

So this argument is flawed. It has the moral integrity of a reckless driver. You do have a choice in this, that’s the important bit. You can choose to do whatever you want and thus hurt whoever you may, or you can take the inconvenience in your stride and be empathetic to others. 

“People keep saying different things about how to be safe, there’s no one to believe.”

Now, this one is a little bit more understandable. At the beginning of the pandemic, we weren’t told to wear masks, we weren’t sure if we should see other people or wash our takeout containers. There are things we were doing earlier this year that we aren’t doing now.

A lot of people take this to mean that doing anything is a waste of time, we’ll just learn contradictory information different soon. But this isn’t how science or research works. Right now, we should do the best we can with the advice from those who know the most.

Choosing not to listen to scientific experts or take the time to look into what you can be doing to stymie the spread of the virus doesn’t make you look laid back and above it all, it makes you look uneducated.

Listen to doctors, listen to scientists, the information is right there. Not acknowledging the advice of those who know best is just an excuse to be irresponsible. 

“Masks and social distancing don’t even work.”

This is just flat out incorrect. The New England Journal of Medicine proved that facial coverings, though not 100% effective, are incredibly helpful in keeping airborne droplets from passing through the air. Hence the need for social distancing; to make sure whatever droplets that cannot be stopped by a mask don’t spread through close contact.

If you don’t know this is true, you’re not paying attention. The number one advocate in the world against masks is currently in the hospital with coronavirus. Just look at other countries COVID numbers compared with our own. Do you want to know the difference between them and us? They actually followed health guidelines and many here didn’t.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, say that masks might not help (which they do) or that social distancing might not work (which it does). It would still be the right thing to at least try to see if it worked. Best case scenario, following safety measures helps stall the spread of the virus and saves countless lives. Worst case scenario you have to wear a piece of cloth on your face and miss out on getting black-out drunk on a Saturday night. 

If you can’t give the bare minimum effort to do something that could help save lives and get life back to some semblance of normalcy, you’re self-centered.

“If other people don’t want to get sick, they can stay home. I can make my own decision to live my life.”

Forcing other people to endure months of isolation so you can go about your day is incredibly self-involved. There are people who don’t get the luxury of choosing whether or not they can endanger others. 

If you’re not immunocompromised, you don’t live with or care about someone who is, or you don’t feel the need to be careful right now for whatever inane reason, please garner whatever empathy you have and imagine a scenario. Imagine knowing that if you caught coronavirus you would die. More than that, those closest to you would die too.

Now, continue imagining, and think how you would feel watching your friends go to bars and hang out in huge groups without masks, while you’re stuck inside for who knows how long because of them.

Would you still feel that they should get to make their own decisions, when those decisions directly affect your freedoms? Would you feel that they were caring and good people? Or might you think they’re actions were narcissistic in nature and they as individuals were almost villainous?

Clearly, if you value your personal freedoms enough to risk the lives of others, you know how angry you would feel when the choice was taken away. And yet, you force other people into that feeling of powerlessness.You would inflict on others what you yourself cannot endure. That is shameless entitlement.

“I can’t even get sick.”

So, ignoring that this statement makes it seem like the person saying it is at the center of the universe, it simply isn’t true. Hopkins Medicine looked at 508 cases of coronavirus hospitalizations and found that 38% of them were from individuals between 20 and 54. Even though most people only think the elderly and immunocompromised can get seriously sick, that really isn’t the case.

College students have been documenting their recovery from coronavirus. University of Wisconsin students who had had the virus were interviewed. Some still hadn’t regained their sense of taste or smell, others were extremely fatigued and several still suffered from chest pains. 

Young adults aren’t immune to the ill consequences of the virus. Even if they were, the ableist view that your being healthy enough to recover from the virus makes it okay to do whatever you want, including spreading it to others, is incredibly privileged.

So you want to pretend like the pandemic has passed…

Fine, own it. Own the fact that your actions are selfish. Maybe you know the way you’re acting disqualifies you from being viewed as a good person. In that case, there’s really nothing I can say.

I don’t know how to convince you that you should care about other people. I don’t know what to say to make you realize that your actions could directly lead to the illness or death of another human being and that should matter to you. I don’t know how to make you feel, I just hope dearly that you do. 

If you’re sick of the pandemic, the quarantining and the precautions, welcome to the club buddy. But you don’t get a special pass because you are privileged enough to risk your safety while others can’t.

From this moment on please realize, no kind act can ever undo your actions during this pandemic. The gifts you give to friends, the favors you do for others, all of it means little to your character if your actions now show a willingness to, quite literally, indirectly cause the death of another person.  

You don’t know now and you may never know if your negligence will lead to someone dying, a loved one or a stranger. And if you don’t act responsibly, you’ll have to live with that forever. That is not a burden a decent person would be willing to bear. 

Leave a Reply