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David Thunder, researcher Ramón y Cajal of the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra.

A pandemic that awakens us from our individualistic hibernation

Thu, 25 Jun 2020 11:25:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

The Covid-19 pandemic represents a very serious threat to our health and our economies that must be tackled as a matter of priority. But it also offers a unique opportunity for moral growth and learning: it sheds a penetrating light on some aspects of our shared humanity that had disappeared from our horizon in recent decades. In particular, our enormous vulnerability to the behavior and choices of others, and the need for a shared ethos of mutual care and solidarity to sustain our life together.

Public emergencies, whether it is Hurricane Katrina, World War II or the current global pandemic, cause citizens to put capabilities such as sacrifice and solidarity on internship . Solidarity is most easily activated when we realize that something important is at stake, such as the health - and even the lives - of our family, neighbors and fellow citizens. Many citizens are capable of behaving at the height of the exceptional circumstances of a national emergency.

However, in times of normalcy, these reserves of solidarity, which social scientists often call 'social capital', can stagnate. In the absence of a life-and-death public crisis, we easily revert to our old habits of superficial consumerism and the obsessive pursuit of professional success.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying consumer goods or having professional ambition. However, the Philosophy of self-sufficiency and individual self-determination that often accompanies them can make us believe that we develop our personal projects in a self-contained bubble, whether it be that of my family, business or close circle of friends.

In the midst of our quest for self-fulfillment staff, individualized entertainment and professional success, we may think that our lives run parallel to those of our neighbors, one on the margins of the other.

Modern forms of individualism, such as the myth of the "self-mademan" and the notion of consumers as "utility maximizers," have made invisible the extent to which our life choices are deeply dependent on the life choices and projects of our neighbors.

For generations, the myth of independence and self-reliance has relentlessly shaped Western economies and cultures. It has been especially dominant among the very young, who are often forced to make choices far removed from any moral or religious tradition.

We are taught to believe that each of us can freely forge our own profile in social networks, degree program professional and lifestyle guided only by the maxim: "Be true to yourself". That if we depend on others, it is more by choice than by strict necessity. In popular thinking, dependence has even become a dirty word, associated with humiliation and indignity.

Then came the coronavirus. And suddenly it became more difficult to believe in the myth of an autonomous, self-made life, free from the bonds of social dependence. The old expression "no man is an island" suddenly took on a meaning in our collective consciousness that few of us could have imagined.

The coronavirus is a hard pill to swallow. But amid all the suffering and uncertainty that has arisen, this elusive virus may, ironically, bring us a vaccine, or at least an antiviral, for the progressive disease of individualism.

The potentially devastating impact of this socially transmitted virus can free us from the false sense of self-sufficiency that has been embedded for decades in the collective consciousness of Western nations.

Whether we like it or not, each of us is embedded in an elaborate social ecology, and whether we recognize it or not, our well-being staff is intimately dependent on the health of our host society, as well as the behavior of its members.

We painfully perceive this universal dependence when we see the collapse of hospitals in Italy and Spain, the deaths of staff health workers due to lack of protective equipment, and a tragic and accelerated issue of deaths that could have been reduced to a great extent with more responsible social distancing measures and a more prudent management and manager of the crisis.

This pandemic generates uncertainty, but there is one certainty: young and old, rich and poor, we are all in this together, and if we do not wake up and do what is necessary to prevent this virus from consuming our society, we will pay dearly, both in lives and in economic development .

Let us hope that this extended crisis will bring us out of our individualistic hibernation and engrave in us, perhaps as never before in the living report , our mutual dependence and the critical need for a citizenship with an active and intelligent sense of public service, civic friendship and solidarity.