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  • Writer's pictureJoe

Coronavirus, in the interest of our future selves

The coronavirus has greatly affected our lives, but I keep coming back to a refrain that circulated in the news a few weeks ago. It was the phrase that "the cure is worse than the disease." When someone talks about the cure being worse than the disease, they're attempting to show that whatever remedy we may employ against the illness is insufficient or unnecessary. The means that we take to address the illness is wrong.

Discussion about the "cures being worse than the disease" has continued nearly unabated, even with the rise of unrest in response to the murder of George Floyd. The refrain seems to assume that any remedy should act quickly and should return us to normal overnight. It is striking how few people understand that measures implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus need time to work. Sometimes measure work quickly, but most of the time they don't. We have to work at and struggle with our actions before we can say that we've truly overcome some ailment or hurdle.

Not all cures are instantaneous or immediate. Since we live in a world full of instantaneous remedies and fast-acting things, people tend to forget that we have to be patient with some things. That our approach to some matters has to be for the long-haul rather than fixated on getting things fixed and fast. It's funny how technology has made us believe that we should see immediate and direct results. We have been spoiled by technology and by advances in science. We no longer want to wait for something to happen. We want it and want it now. The trouble is that some cures, some things need a great deal of time for us to see positive consequences. Sometimes life isn't about satisfying our desires immediately.

What we're seeing now with the number of hospitalisations reducing in American cities once deemed hot spots is a result of social distancing efforts from two to three weeks ago. That's fantastic news! That we're social distancing means that weeks from now, we will reap the rewards. Because so many people need to receive an immediate reward for their behaviour, they feel that it is owed to them that they get back to work, back to some sense of normal.

Here's a thought experiment for people who believe that social distancing measures have run their course and we may now return to normal.

Suppose that you would like to plan a family trip to an exotic location. The trip is very expensive that will require you to save money, to do some research on the destination, and to plan the events that will take place during the trip. The trip is so expensive that you calculate that you will need at least 40% of your annual salary to spend for it. You further calculate that you will need to stop recreating with friends and family, and you may even have to take up a second job to save as much as you need. If you have an interest in your future self and family members to enjoy that vacation, you will do all of these things. And it is likely that you do it.

Isn't social distancing suggesting for us to do the same? Social distancing is a matter of having an interest in our future selves and catering to the person you would like to become. It's totally worth it. Just as with a family trip, you are putting your health, and the health of your family and friends, first because of the investment for the future. You understand that by not recreating with them now that you will be able to do so later. If you decide to recreate now, it's entirely possible that your friends and family will not be around. They could, under such circumstances, contract the virus, suffer, and die because you decided not to save and to invest in your future and theirs.

I fail to see how the thought experiment and social distancing measures are distinct. It seems that on both we are investing in the welfare of our future selves, not just our own individual well-being but the health and well-being of ourselves, family, and friends.

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