In my reading today, I came across the word altruism, a term I do not often encounter these days. The context is in the book, Successful Aging by Daniel J Levitin (pp. 202-203). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
“In the United States, one-quarter of people aged sixty-five and older volunteer, and in Canada, more than one-third do (yay Canada!). By even a conservative estimate, such volunteering worldwide contributes almost half a trillion dollars to local economies. Volunteering is an essentially altruistic undertaking, and altruistic acts by seniors—by all of us, really are associated with better physical and mental health.”
(Both the author and I enjoy Canadian connections hence the “yay Canada” parenthesis)
As opposed to egoism, altruism is the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.
Amid the noise about mandates and personal freedoms, may I speak up on behalf of the Covid at-risk community? We are older adults and those with underlying health challenges. I turn 70 next month, and my body is challenged daily with symptoms related to Post-Polio Syndrome. My body fatigues more quickly and recovers more slowly. Should the coronavirus ravage my body, I’m not sure my body would triumph over the virus. As a rambunctious two-year-old, poliomyelitis attacked my body. I have lived with the consequences of that attack for 68 years. My wife is susceptible to pneumonia. Lungs are the preferred target of the coronavirus.
I wish to sincerely thank my fellow community members who are diligent in their efforts to protect our at-risk group and other community members. You are willing to do such simple things as wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. Your efforts are genuinely appreciated. You are the people who do not require a mandate to do the right thing. I admire you and bless you!
Guest Blog by Robert Glazer
Accountable Freedom- 8/27/21
There is a pervasive narrative about COVID-19. It has taken hold in many parts of the world, especially in the United States. Many have argued that masks and vaccines are assaults on individual freedom rather than attempts to keep people safe.
First, it’s crucial to note that freedom has never been an absolute, nor has it been entirely individualistic. Every functional society has always balanced liberty with some level of sacrifice or commitment to a collective cause.
This balance was most apparent in the aftermath of September 11. After absorbing a tragedy where over 3,000 people died, we accepted new security protocols to keep us safe from harm. Furthermore, many Americans went to war throughout our history or sent their children to fight to protect others. Now it is too much to ask people to wear a mask even though the pandemic killed over 3,000 Americans every day during one period last winter.
The delta variant of COVID-19 has brought a new phase to the pandemic. Covid has wholly overwhelmed medical systems around the world. Even in countries and states with high vaccination rates, the virus is capable of spreading rapidly.
Because of this, our individual actions concerning COVID-19 impact many more people than just ourselves and our immediate families. We cannot morally view these choices with a myopic lens, as a mother in Nevada did. She sent her child to school after she and the child tested positive for the virus two days prior. That decision impacted 80 other kids and their families and forced those students to learn remotely. That’s not a defensible expression of individual freedom; it’s reckless indifference to the welfare of others.
From an impact standpoint, we should view COVID-19 the same way we view drunk driving instead of individually risky activities such as not wearing a seatbelt. When you don’t wear a seatbelt, you are likely only harming yourself. But when you drive drunk, you aren’t just putting yourself at risk; you also put others in danger. This risk is one of the reasons we find drunk driving so deplorable and don’t see many significant arguments for the right to drive drunk. Crucially, no one who drives drunk expects to cause a fatal accident, even though that is often the outcome.
The same dynamic exists in the debate over vaccines. At this point, the data is pretty clear that between one and two percent of people who get COVID-19 will die, and many more will be hospitalized in critical condition. Despite this, many people incorrectly calculate that if they get COVID-19, it will undoubtedly be minor. They certainly don’t expect to spread a potentially fatal case to others.
This thinking is often the calculus used to justify declining to get vaccinated. No one believes they will be among the unlucky one or two percent, even though millions have been worldwide.
No one should be forced to get vaccinated. But anyone who declines the vaccine in the name of their freedom should perhaps be willing to accept the corresponding consequences of that choice. These consequences relate to one’s well-being and the potential impact on others.
However, this is not how it has been playing out in the real world. COVID-19 patients are overwhelming Hospital capacity, 90 percent of whom are unvaccinated, placing a debilitating burden on already exhausted doctors and nurses. They have put their health, families, and freedom at risk for 18 months to help others. Understandably, their compassion and willingness to sacrifice even more to help those who consciously chose not to protect themselves from COVID-19 are waning.
Suppose someone exercises choice not to get vaccinated. Should a doctor prioritize their care over other patients, their own physical and mental health, or their ability to hug their kids? If a person has expressed that COVID-19 is a hoax and that medical science is fake, should they go to the ER and rely on medical science and practitioners to save them when they get sick?
Personal freedom can be a core value. A core value should be uncompromising. Anyone who believes so deeply in personal freedom should stick to their guns irrespective of the outcome. I have read so many stories of people who decided very intentionally and resolutely not to get vaccinated. They then wanted or demanded any possible treatment to save their life once they were sick, including begging for the vaccine right before intubation.
By contrast, I have not read a single story of a person who declined the vaccine and then accepted the outcome when they came down with a severe illness. Included are several public figures who previously encouraged their audiences to rebel against the vaccine and government overreach. They dramatically changed their tune after suffering life-threatening COVID-19 complications.
Our rights and lives as individuals are inextricably intertwined with the lives and freedoms of others. Making a choice that puts others in danger, restricts their choices, or forces them to bear the consequences of your preferences. That isn’t freedom. It is hypocrisy.
Personal freedom without responsibility, accountability, or consideration of others is not freedom, and it’s undoubtedly not liberty. We need to stop pretending otherwise.
Let’s take care of ourselves and each other so we can all enjoy both freedom and safety.
Quote of the Week:
“Responsibility is the price of freedom.” – Elbert Hubbard.
(edited for readability)