As the COVID pandemic continues to rage on and is once again rapidly accelerating, it’s crucial to step back and ask ourselves, why are we in this situation, when we have excellent public health measures and a very efficacious vaccine? One would think as a society, we can overcome anything as we have proven in the past. Historically, we have been very nationalistic, which drives us to a unity of purpose.
Yet, currently, we are mired in the exact opposite situation. And we have become polarized and tribal in our words and, unfortunately, people do not trust what they hear on the news, their elected officials, and now, unfortunately science.
Additionally, human nature is to seek out truths. Yet, what happens when there are no known truths? What happens is, the blanks are filled in by those that profess to know the truth, and they begin to shout it from the mountain tops.
The lack of trust in science is really troublesome. At some level, this dynamic occurs from the lack of information. As a nation, we have become accustomed to assuming if you cannot prove the positive impact of an intervention, then the negative surely must be true. I can say personally, the number of times someone has demanded of me to, “prove that masks work for this specific situation, if you cannot, then they must not, so don’t tell me what to do when you can’t prove it,” is too high to count. Of course, this statement is flawed on numerous levels, however it does point to the root of our issues. And that is, many believe an explanation is unacceptable if it changes as the situation evolves. And yet, as data is gathered in science, more is known, so recommendations have to evolve and change.
When information is learned, science progresses. Unfortunately, in our present situation, when new information is obtained, it is used to state that everything before was nothing more than a lie, and therefore, what you are telling me now is untruthful because of your previous behavior. Once again, this points out the circular logic that will keep us from progressing. Unless the general public is willing to understand how science and critical thinking work and make assumptions based on similar situations, we will not overcome our current predicament.
What is so problematic is the impact of this thinking concerning trust and truths on those individuals doing what they believe is best. Currently, we are seeing more and more healthcare workers become upset with themselves when they become angered at those, they are treating who are unvaccinated and averse to masking. And this issue is worsened when a caregiver is serving someone that did do all the right things and is still sick because of the actions of others.
We need to attempt to understand the ideals and values of individual choice and the concern of others controlling one’s individual rights. However, this is a problematic situation in which numerous people will struggle to understand why this present approach by many “nay sayers” is the mountain on which to die. When one steps back and remembers that it is all about trust and one’s definition of truth, at least then we have an answer that explains our present dilemma.