Opinion: American culture helps spread COVID-19

It looks like the United States can hardly take a break from its COVID-19 cases. We are still ahead of COVID-19 World-o-meter and with little evidence of this slowdown. This is particularly shocking given that some countries, like New Zealand, are completely free of COVID-19, and many others, like Singapore, have double-digit daily case numbers.

It is becoming apparent that there is a correlation between a country’s COVID-19 response, both at the governmental and individual level, and the country’s cultural views.

In the United States, we have spawned a culture of individualism as a byproduct of our capitalism. Although there is a wide range of opinions as to whether this is a good thing or not, it is irrefutable that it has led us into an “every man for himself” type of mindset. Normally, this state of mind is found in the context of socio-economic mobility. Now that idea has translated into not catching a disease.

If capitalism is to individualism, then socialism is to collectivism, because of the analogy of the system of government to the state of mind. Americans have become so conditioned to fear collectivism and social coordination because of its close ties to socialism to the point where we care more about our “personal liberties,” like not wearing a mask, than saving the life of others.

The most dangerous statement made to our individualistic nation at the start of the pandemic was that masks must be worn to protect those around you. Although studies have since proven that wearing a mask also protects the user, this initial feeling put many people off wearing a mask, to begin with, simply because they felt it didn’t affect them. It’s terrifying how little consideration for others some people around us have.

Conversely, this issue does not seem to crop up as much in other countries, especially those with a more collectivist mentality. New Zealand, for example, was able to confine itself without major opposition.

Harvard Political Review reported on a study from the University of California, stating that countries with a collective framework have citizens more likely to adhere to social distancing and other practices to reduce the spread, while individualistic countries respond less successively.

In the same way, a study conducted jointly by two professors from the University of California and a professor from Kent State University after the Ebola epidemic tested the effectiveness of protection, the feeling of being able to protect oneself from the virus, in a number of societies Asian collectivists. Effectiveness of protection was measured at three levels: personal, community and national.

The results revealed that collectivist people will do more to protect themselves or the community and that these protective processes are coordinated and work together.

Obviously, other countries do not experience the same political turmoil associated with collectivist efforts as the United States. Here, the question has become political, whereas elsewhere it has remained what it is: a question of human rights.

Culture is a major determinant of the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, and the lack of social coordination prevents the situation from improving.


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