Individualism vs. Social Responsibility

By Jacqueline Finley,

A friend in New Zealand emailed that her fellow citizens feel sorry for Americans, a comment that shamed me. They not only pity us for our incompetent president, but also our inability to strike a functional balance between individualism and necessary social unity for a common goal, i.e., ending COVID. While COVID restrictions in her country are no less tedious than here, the majority of New Zealanders have abided by the virus-related constraints and have taken a healthy “one for all” mentality.

Individualism is good, to a point. Every person should have a right to his or her own life choices and destiny. When it puts an entire nation in survival jeopardy, however, its importance must be evaluated, and some flexibility instilled as to when individuals’ rights need to be the “B Team” to those of the broader society.

COVID is bigger than any American citizen, but it isn’t bigger than a united country. If we temporarily sacrifice and do what is medically proven to help stop the virus, we can win this unprecedented war and return to a more normal, maskless life. If we don’t, individualism is a moot point, as there might be little structure to support it.

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