Covid, Covid, Covid. Some New Zealanders are raucously hitting the street as if there has been just a single outbreak of Covid-19. It’s 2021 and whilst the rest of the world is bracing for wave number four, it seems as if a struggle about the meaning of freedom is about to emerge in yet another democratic society. Now available in New Zealand: freedom! Placardly used as a battlecry to defend itself. What does that mean?
It’s a matter of perception. Sure: it is a strain on everyone. People are fed up with the ramifications and measures and insecurities this pandemic brought upon us. When people are fed up it is understandable. When people take to the streets it is a problem of their perception.
Ultimately people who hit the streets are unable to emphasize with the handful of those working in the health sector and the strain on them which is constantly building up. None of the protesters either sees the virus nor the stress on each of the staff trying not just to keep Covid-patients alive – and all others as well. Cancer, heart disease, even a broken arm could lead to death in case of an overwhelmed health system. If there is no space or personel to treat these seemingly forgotten health issues there will be more people joining protests.
It seems paradox. Unless one tries to defend an egocentric world view where freedom is a thing that’s purely private. From this point of view, people are protesting against the health system itself and ultimately the government which is made responsible for any shortcomings. The government has to maintain stability and order by protecting a fragile health system from an overwhelming pandemic. From this perspective one could say that the burdens of Covid-19 are a result of the government’s attempt to keep the health system going. The statistics of case rates per 100k per capita for instance and the tresholds for measures result from calculations based on the maximum capacities of ICUs. Governments all around the world are focusing on keeping that narrow funnel open to guarantee medical treatment to everyone.
There is no means to prepare or provision a health system to ever cater in case of a national, let alone a global pandemic. Governments are only partly to blame when – as in the European Union or the USA – the health sector gets more an more privatized. But even government-run healthcare cannot be prepared to put a doctor or a nurse next to each citizen when a pandemic hits.
People who see their freedoms narrowed or taken are right in this regard. Their attitude however bears witness to an egocentric perspective which does not suit a democrat or anyone who truly defends freedom. The causes are obvious: living in a society where inter-personal competition in the ever-accelerating „rat race“ occludes the principles of an open society. And yet they are another story. Consequently people defending their egocentric freedom see the state as institution that is in place to serve, not to command. Enacted laws are something to them that is imposed by another force – the „deep state“ – yet the power to elect and reign is in their individual hands and form society. What seems like another paradoxon is spurring the battlecries that want to defend an ill-perceived freedom.
It’s tough to get into abstractions. And when the theory of social contract is summoned it becomes, as David Hume said, absurd. It is exactly the same problem that applies currently where people cannot judge abstract concepts (viruses and health-staff issues) and only want to reap rewards. People who cry for freedom in the given situation do not understand their social responsibility. (Well, yes the rich do neither – but what’s the point?) It’s literally all our asses in the line. If you want to keep the last bit of freedom do not take the government as a provider that can be demanded from while trying to bilk on it.
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