Americans have a problem with authority

And now’s the time to ask ourselves why

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that Americans have a generally defiant attitude in the face of government authority. Our country was specifically built around a system of checks and balances, the sole existence of which is driven by a fundamental lack trust of those in power. But has this distrust gone too far? I would certainly say so.

Now, amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, is time for us to ask ourselves: why are we resisting authority, and is there a point where government intervention could actually be justified?

Many Americans have recently been outspoken in rejecting orders to stay home, simply because they don’t like being told what to do. This is like running in front of a moving car because your mom told you not to play in the street.

This mentality stems from what I like to call the 1984 effect. Americans are so afraid of any show of authority, no matter how minor or well-intentioned, because they think it’s a slippery slope to totalitarianism and dictatorship. That a larger entity (such as a government) taking away our freedom’s necessarily implies some evil intent.

But this is where we have to start making the distinction between action and intention.

I’ve been called a Nazi (on Twitter, of course) for being advocating stricter enforcement of lockdowns in US states (namely those near New York, which has been hit hardest). But the goal of a lockdown is to prevent deaths, not cause them. A lockdown is not a vehicle of a oppression, because the intentions are for the good of society as a whole. While your individual freedom to go where you want when you please may be limited, the benefit for the collective outweighs your individual, temporary suffering. Any way you look at it, the upside is greater than the downside. Worst case scenario, people get bored, the economy might crash to an degree more than it would otherwise. But people do not die of boredom, and the economy will recover. People who succumb to the virus, unfortunately, will not.

Clearly, advocating for stricter lockdown measures is in no way, shape or form, relevant to the subject of naziism, yet many tend to jump to that conclusion out of a habit of fear of authority, and not separating action from intention.

Another reason we fear authority is because we are under the impression, for one reason or another, than only oppressive, dictatorial governments impose strong restrictions on their people. We like to cite China as an example: “Even if they managed to quell the virus in Wuhan, their methods were oppressive and unjustified because they didn’t let people leave their homes for a duration of time”. However, we might have some underlying bias which doesn’t allow us to give credit where credit is due. So let’s look at another place which imposed similar strict measures, without having received the same condemnation: Italy.

The city of Vo, after having reported its first coronavirus death, was put under “one of the most iron-clad sanitary cordons in Italy’s history” on February 23rd. Nobody comes in. Nobody goes out. After 97% of it’s population was tested within that iron-clad cordon, the spread of the virus was practically eradicated within a week.

Lockdowns work. They are not dictatorial, nor are they a slippery slope to totalitarian dystopia. They are simply required if we want to move past this difficult phase of human history quickly, and with less casualties.

It’s time Americans shed our belief that all authority is bad, and instead look at the intention behind said authoritative measures. Sometimes, the outcome will be worthwhile, even if we may temporarily be put in an uncomfortable position. We have to offer up a little bit more of our confidence in the systems that have the power to make things better, with the knowledge that we are doing it, not in acquiescence to an overbearing an unjustified power structure, but as a means to making the lives of our friends and neighbors better. We are simply relying on systems in place to synchronize the moving parts of our society in a way which benefits people more than we can do as individuals, for a very special purpose — to save lives amid an unprecedented global epidemic. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

We’re at a point in history where the fate of our country rests on the choice of remain selfish out of fear, versus a small, temporarily sacrifice of our freedom for the sake of saving lives. I do not believe it should cost us the deaths of our loved ones or those of the people around us to realize that society is a collaborative effort. If we start now, and accept some small discomfort, we can prevent that, and our lives will get back to normal soon, with less tragedy.

If you are afraid of that slippery slope, just remember, they did it in Vo, Italy. They are now back to their normal state. When the virus was gone, the freedoms were restored. Now people can come, and they can go, as they please.

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