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And Citizens in 2021, Let’s Do Our Part

Or let’s behave like responsible proactive grown-ups

UN poster displaying different protective measures needed to prevent Covid-19, such as staying at home or wearing a mask
Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

My daughter is moving to another European country and she and her family will have to quarantine for ten days as soon as they arrive. They have assumed this as totally understandable, loud and clear. But a friend of theirs is very perplexed by the fact that they are, indeed, going to fully quarantine as indicated, even if there are no policed controls in place to check whether they do comply or not. My daughter is perplexed by knowing that this person obviously would not, only because she knows she can get away with it and not quarantine… since nobody is watching.

Not only is this behavior and reasoning not responsible and solidary towards the ones we are in contact with, be it relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and friends, but it is also counterproductive to all, the non-compliers included. The longer we refuse to put in our grain of help, the longer it will take to overcome this, fully and for all. If one decides that one’s bubble is strong and impenetrable to the others from the outside world — and its catastrophes — one may find this backfiring in the worst of ways: nobody’s bubble will remain a safe bubble for long, much less forever. No man is an island.

“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation”.

— Bertrand Russell

Last week I wrote about the social contract that still rules modern society and the need nowadays to trust the ones that rule the world (politicians, yes, but in general all the ones in power, who exercise it and call the shots in this pandemic world). Among other reasons since we, the regular people, cannot know enough and could not truly have an efficient say in it, because the decisions required are beyond our reach and understanding.

The social contract is not necessarily a paternalistic means of both control and patronizing. It’s not ‘your old man’ providing you, ‘the child’, of everything while you just obey your old man. It’s not a one-way street. On the contrary, it takes that grown-ups realize and admit the indisputable need and inherent benefits of living within an organized society. But, likewise, it requires the same grown-ups’ attitude and drive to do their share of the deal.

So it means that we, citizens of the world, should not just remain demanding, merely observant and expecting things to get better without contributing to it. Even if we have no say in the protocol for vaccination that our particular governments choose to implement (hopefully successfully) we do have both the opportunity and the responsibility to help, instead of hinder, the course of the pandemic that we still have ahead.

In fact, even against the prevailing lousy examples of some politicians, we — the citizens — should be above those bad influencers and prove to be better critical thinkers, better citizens, and better human beings than them, such irresponsible individuals (for instance, the non-mask-wearers, the ones promoting medication or even dangerous chemicals without medical sustainment, the ones leaving the outcome in the hands of God alone or of plain luck, the ones giving up on controlling the pandemic because we all will, sooner or later, catch Covid19).

Surrendering some of our freedoms to the State does exempt us from some responsibilities and duties, but not from all, no. We will very likely not have control over which vaccine — among the many — we’ll get, but we still have control over our daily actions and decisions. Do we keep on wearing masks? Do we choose not to hold social gatherings at home? Do we decline attending gatherings in closed places? Do we wash our hands frequently? Do we keep the minimum social distance between us and others in line?

Or… do we go ahead with our large wedding? Do we attend — illegal — concerts or games? Do we go on vacation to crowded hot spots and forget that this isn’t over? Do we not quarantine when we travel if we figure out how to skip it and get away with it? Do we go to — illegal — parties, raves, gigs in hidden-to-the-eye places or on roofs? Do we become crazy when asked to put on our masks or keep the obligatory, and common sense, 1.5m distance?

Or are you a non-believer and simply don’t follow any of the rules? Are you misbehaving already because you're tired of this? Are you leaving behind what has been learned because you have to go on with your life?

“Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others”.

– Confucius

Governments manage, solve and regulate the issues at the macro-society level, but the ones in the microsphere are in the hands of the citizens, whether explicitly told to, forced to, or not. If one’s a grown-up, one should behave as such, whether someone’s watching, or not. If one’s a ‘year-2021’ citizen, one should show solidarity towards the others, whether one is at risk, or not.

Of course, not everybody can follow the rules strictly. But there’s a huge difference between not being able to and choosing to ignore them altogether. There are millions that cannot comply 100% with hygiene measures and rules because they cannot do home office (they are keeping the world running: hospital staff, drivers, trash collectors, stores, supermarkets, and drugstores workers), or they cannot isolate themselves (they’re in refugee camps in overcrowded conditions, for instance), or they cannot be locked-down (they have to make a living even if in non-essential activities), or they cannot keep social distancing (they have to use public transportation), or they cannot wear masks (they cannot purchase them, or they work in conditions that make them unwearable), or they cannot wash their hands frequently (they have no running water).

But the ones who can, should. The ones that are not in any of the examples above, or similar, should and must comply and foster the overcoming of this, simply out of common sense, solidarity, long term self-benefit, and global good. Even if not having well-set examples nor extremely compulsory regulations. We, grown-up citizens in 2021, must be watchful and respectful to contribute to, not impede, the end of this. Vaccines themselves won’t take us through.

Are you bored, tired, and penniless? Don’t complain that much, for most of us are. Is there a full lock-down again? Don’t break it. Is there a curfew? Don’t try to cheat on it. Are there even more weeks of restrictions ahead? Don’t go out and demonstrate violently against the government. Is there a protocol for vaccination in place? Don’t try to bribe anyone to get yours before it’s your turn, even if you have the money. Would you have to quarantine if you decided to travel? Do it and don’t leave any room for spreading the virus or catching it yourself. Do they request that you get a PCR test? Don’t complain: you’re already way luckier than the rest of us if you can travel. Do they tell you to wear a mask? Wear it and wear it well.

This is what we, citizens in 2021, can and must do. That much is on us, not on governments. These are the duties and tasks that the social contract does not exempt us from. So let us do our part, shall we?



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Bettina Villegas

Bettina Villegas

Mexican. Short stories writer. English teacher for almost 40 years now.