THAT WE DON’T ALL HAVE THE “WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER” SPIRIT
“Party On!” A TV network interviewed party goers in Florida a few days ago. They swore they were not going to pay any attention to social distancing or abstaining from going to all the parties they want to. One fellow was enraged at the idea that Coronavirus was a threat. There were many agreeing on the Facebook comment thread that contained this video clip.
Hmmm. Reminds me of 1984.
On the other hand, numerous sources urge us to exercise social responsibility to help flatten the curve on the spread of this still unpreventable disease.
“All Aboard!” Social media reported today (as I type this) that 5 members of a Thai elite military guard who have tested positive for COVID 2019 boarded a commercial airliner in Munich bound for Bangkok, in contravention of posted airline and government rules.
Some people are “exceptions” to laws and regulations even in times of a pandemic.
On the other hand, royals of many countries are using their high-profile status to set examples of responsible behavior and social concern.
“Ammo Panic!” A nephew in the USA reported that even before their guns and ammunition store opened there were customers lined up around the parking lot. “It’s getting weird.” Another friend said ammo was being limited to two boxes per customer.
Since this is the end of the hunting season, I wonder what the ammo is for. Target practice, yes.
On the other hand, the number of mass shootings in the USA for Jan-Feb is lower than the past few years. A little girl, reported today to have exclaimed joyfully about her school closing, “We don’t have to worry about getting shot at school for three whole weeks!”
“Cheers!” Here’s a news quote from yesterday: “The Governor of Phitsanuloak chaired a meeting of local businesses. They concluded that to be on the safe side, all establishments in the province e.g. hotel, resort, concert, temple, boxing and other sport gathering etc., must be closed to prevent further spreading of the disease … except pubs and bars.”
Well, uh, outbreaks in Thailand have been traced directly to gatherings in bars.
On the other hand, it seems that other governors and municipalities are taking a more aggressive approach. Pubs and bars are included in closings ordered today in 5 provinces surrounding Bangkok, as they have been in the city. Patrons, however, are scarce across the country. The Chiang Mai government ordered everything but essential businesses and food and medicine suppliers to be closed from Monday, March 23 until April 13 at least. Airport Plaza, the busiest mall closed already. [The picture above is of Chiang Mai’s busiest intersection right in front of the Tapae Gate during what is normally the busiest time of the evening.]
“Hell, no!” Thai social media went wild with a video clip taken by a security camera inside an elevator. A young adult male, alone in the lift, went around licking his fingers and swiping the control buttons and walls. Then he swiped his hand inside his pants and made a second round. Media assumed he was either making a statement (saying what, no one was sure except “f*** you”, or he was spreading THE VIRUS.
This follows two other passive-aggressive attacks by persons who knew they were infected with COVID 2019 who deliberately breathed, coughed, or spit on persons nearby.
Rage is contagious.
“Masks on!” The Thai Minister of Health was recently widely reported to have twice ranted that farangs [white foreigners] should be deported for refusing to wear face masks (and smelling bad). I took an unofficial poll at the immigration check-in station here in Chiang Mai on Friday, and the number of presumed foreigners wearing masks was about 50%, which was equal to the number of immigration officials wearing masks.
Actually, the masks available to the public are not helpful to prevent becoming infected, but can help those who are infected from spreading the disease. The World Health Organization does not insist on mask wearing.
On the other hand, masks are never entirely about sanitation. They are, especially here in Asia, normally about social responsibility and compliance with community expectations. A mask says something about the wearer. “I am not as dangerous as you may think. I am concerned about your concerns. I’m on your side.” Things like that.
The “We’re All in This Together” spirit is not to be taken for granted. It is clearly the responsible thing to maintain a safe distance between oneself and others during times like these when a dangerous disease is being transmitted. It is prudent and compassionate to limit large crowds and tight confinement. But we will usually wait until some edict requires us to comply.
Until governors begin to announce closings most of us might suspect “no need to panic,” and a few will insist, “It’s a conspiracy [by some agent we already detest].” Then, when the crisis becomes undeniable, we will begin to hear still more livid rumors, “They are going to institute martial law.” These are excuses to resist, to defy, and to refuse to be part of the community.
But community is not actually optional. None of us can entirely opt out of community life. (Hermits and sociopaths are special cases.) For just about everybody community-living is not only standard, we accept the fact that actions of individuals affect the whole community. Nevertheless, shifting from “this isn’t about me,” to “I need to think about others now,” takes effort, particularly for a me-generation.
Transitional times, like the one we are going through, are fraught with irony.
This week the Oberammergau Passion Play, presented once a decade to celebrate the deliverance of the village of Oberammergau in Bavaria from the Black Plague of 1633, was postponed for two years because of the COVID plague in 2020. How ironic. It is part of the larger irony that it is precisely during this time of enforced separation and “sheltering in place” that we begin to think of such socially responsible things as informing our heirs where to find our important documents, figuring out how to get invalid relatives cared for, and what to do to help the suddenly unemployed survive.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.