by Milan Vodicka Ph.D.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought into focus, among other aspects, the value of human life. How much is it worth? Perhaps, compared to “running the economy?” Is it acceptable to write off any lives? What is the value of human life – or any life?
Let us start with a detour to basics. What is the life of a human being? Subjectively – yes, I am describing my or your individual life – life is a stream of percepts emanating from our senses (including the “mind”) reflected in consciousness. We absolutely have to be conscious, even for dreaming, to experience life. This experience can be taken away from us, temporarily or permanently. Temporarily in deep sleep or under anesthesia on the operating table; permanently by death. Unless suicidal or driven by motivations such as “a sacrifice for a higher purpose” we do not wish to give up our life. We do not wish to have it taken away, by a virus or anything else.
Fast forward to the first responders to Covid-19 pandemic, doctors and nurses. Think of them and others, risking and potentially losing their lives – the older people, for example. Are their lives worth sacrificing for something else?
There are some answers around, provided by the ones who typically (and especially now) do not volunteer their lives. “There are going to be deaths, no matter what,” stated former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He compared the current situation to the two World War losses of life. He said it’s a “sacrifice.” Americans must make the sacrifice to maintain their way of life.
Such attitude is a classic example of armchair politicians and generals sending others to “sacrifice” their lives; for the country, for better tomorrows, or whatever conceived purposes can be invented and used to gaslight everyone else.
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, flatly (and, in my view, appropriately) responded: “It’s not about your life. You don’t have the right to risk someone else’s life.” This is the story. It is easy to be cavalier about someone else’s life. Hello, California beach goers? “Protesters” obstinate about their (and only their) “freedoms?”
Where is the individual responsibility? These days, we have Shakespeare’s Hamlet holding in his hands the skull, asking, “Masks… or no masks?” Ridiculous, as it indeed is, everything (including the masks “issue”) has to be political. Our culture is immersed in the war, fights, and winning-losing metaphors – as if nothing else is applicable or viable. The decision to wear or not to wear a mask is a public political statement. Some people wearing a mask, according to their own self-perception, “would look ridiculous.”
People not wearing masks in public manifest no concern for others. They may dislike “government’s intrusion” into their lives. They may feel being deprived of their “constitutional rights.” The concern for others is not on their awareness. They act like smokers puffing cancer causing secondhand smoke into faces (and lungs) of others, because they insist on their own “freedom” to do that. Senator Rand Paul, not wearing a mask, “believes” he is immune after virus exposure (there is no substantive proof of such immunity).
We can assert with utmost certainty that the virus does not “believe” anything – be it about politics, freedoms, appearances, or what have you. It does what viruses do. Our knowledge is still evolving. Be careful!
On even a more serious note, “what does it mean to let thousands die by negligence, omission, failure to act, in a legal sense under international law?” Where is the responsibility of the US national leadership, US Government?
The “good economy,” in the minds of some, translates to and means dollar and cents, perhaps millions, billions, trillions. As if nothing else mattered, or even existed. Yet there are things and phenomena unique, not duplicable, and therefore priceless. Clean air? Clean water? It is impossible to express their value in monetary terms. And so it is for life.
Simply put, life is priceless to the creature that wants to live it.
The landscape of politics and perceptions is just a map. The map is not the virus territory. I encourage everyone to know the difference.
It seems appropriate to close with the following quote:
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”