Today, I woke up and clicked on the news. I like to get it out of the way and then I can move on with my day. And then, I came upon a piece of anti-quarantine apologist trash, Tis The Season for Shame and Judgement by Julia Marcus (who I will add has a history of defending “quarantine fatigue“) and I would like to say that this… is bullshit.
Primarily because her argument it weak, riddled with assumptions and specious ideas of who people are. So let’s start with the assumptions of this article and break those down:
Assumption 1: People will not do the right thing simple because it is right. In fact, they won’t do it for very long at all (and should not be expected to act well)
“But many long months into this pandemic, people are at their wits’ end: economically depleted, socially isolated, and disgruntled about—and in some cases genuinely baffled by—the arbitrariness of some of the restrictions on their daily lives…. es, it would be safer for them to stay home, and the limitations of testing need to be clearly communicated. But if people are going to travel or gather anyway, testing is better than nothing.”https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/12/tis-the-season-for-shame-and-judgment/617335/
Analysis of Assumption 1
This is wrong for a few reason. First off, I know it is possible for people to stay home and not be “at their wits end” because I, and all of my colleagues, have been home since March. I have friends and D&D players who have been home equally as long. I am not at my wits end, or isolated. Neither are a lot of people that I have met over the course of the pandemic.
The social needs that humans have are manageable in a digital life. And lets be honest, if you’re reading The Atlantic, the odds are that you have a level of privileged that allows you to access it. (And honestly for people who don’t have it, we as a society) should be helping them get there. I am a big fan of the idea of rights and the privileges that allow us to meet our needs for everyone.
I started a D&D campaign (okay 5) over the summer and now I have paired back a bit, with two campaigns and a one shot server. This has lead to me making new friends, ones who are honestly better for my mental equilibrium than the people who mysteriously dissipated when this whole thing started.
I have worked on focusing on growing as a person as much as I can, and I joined larger online communities that have given me access to a constant conversation if I am having a bad day and I just want to be not alone. I’ve changed how I consume media to get myself to be a better place (thank you to you You Tubbers) than I would be if I went down constant news spirals.
Not everyone is frayed, and lots of people are finding safe ways to meet their needs. We should be working with and encouraging those strategies as much as possible for all instead of dismissing bad behavior because of unmet needs.
Assumption 2: That a need (like going to work) is the same as a want (going to see your family for the holiday in person)
“Very few people want to get infected or get others sick. When people take risks, it often reflects an unmet need: for a paycheck, for social connection, for accurate information about how to protect themselves. Acknowledging and meeting people’s needs will reduce risk behavior; finger-wagging won’t.”https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/12/tis-the-season-for-shame-and-judgment/617335/
Analysis of Assumption 2
Lets just use the example here. The person who needs a paycheck, in a country with such a skimpy safety net and no real hope of relief on the horizon, is likely not going to have much of a choice. They do need their job in order to survive. To get food and keep a roof over their heads. You do not need to see people in person.
I like Christmas. Its a big family to-do in a normal year. It makes me happy, like when I was a kid. I honestly believe that holiday trees are made of magic. I’ve had mine up for a while now. But I do not need to see all of these people in person to have the holiday.
As a matter of fact I have been finding ways to make human connections. I am a part of two different digital gift exchanges (both with free items you make with your creativity) for the holiday (and yes, I am struggling with figuring out what to gift – its honestly worse than buying gifts because you can make ANYTHING with a digital gift exchange)
So, lets not confuse a want with a need. We have basic needs that (for many of us) can’t be done except in the physical world we should be meeting the wants and needs we can at a distance as best we can for ourselves.
Assumption 3: Shaming people who are doing the bad thing is the same as shaming people who are trying to do the right thing
“While many Americans were busy reprimanding one another for Thanksgiving dinners, people quietly continued to travel for other reasons: Truckers delivered goods around the country; migrant workers kept farms going. The moral outrage about people enjoying themselves during a pandemic is a distraction from where that outrage would be more useful: in pressuring governments to protect the marginalized populations that are most at risk, even when they are less visible—and provoke less indignation—than a crowd of holiday travelers sitting in an airport and hoping for the best.”https://wordpress.com/post/38thdimension.com/785
Analysis of Assumption 3
Just no. People who quarantined for two weeks and then get tested are completely different, but those people should know that these critiques are not aimed at them. You do not have to get upset if you know that you are doing the right thing. That’s generally how insults work. If you don’t believe it, you won’t get offended. People who are being offended are most likely the people who know that they are doing something wrong and skirting or ignoring the guidelines.
It doesn’t matter why they are breaking the rules. COVID does not care why. I am all for giving people breaks where you can during hard times, but this is just a place where we can’t if we want to be safe.
The Wrong Conclusion
So, lets talk about the final crux of the argument, that people should be provided “…nuanced information about how people can protect themselves if they travel to that Christmas dinner anyway” is the wrong idea. The kind of people who are going to break the rules, are unlikely to take the information and run with it. The mitigation steps suggested (be outdoors, small groups, drive don’t fly, get tested before you go and after) should be followed by everyone right now who has to travel.
They are good advice, but they should be used with physical distancing and social isolation. Don’t travel unless you have to. Its just the responsible thing to do. And the people who make excuses for people who do this aren’t helping. They ‘sound’ reasonable but they aren’t. They are letting other peoples wants decide how safe we all get to be. Those people who participate in making us all less safe should feel bad. They are doing a bad thing.