Skip to content

The moral challenge of the pandemic. By Ricardo Lorenzetti

Tragedies inevitably occur in the course of a lifetime or in the course of history.

The European Middle Ages had to deal with terrible pests and without the proper medicine; the original peoples of Latin America suffered the terror of unknown diseases introduced by the Spanish that arrived in the 1500; In Africa there were massive infection disasters for many years.

The most important thing has always been the way in which they are confronted, and that is why Albert Camus wrote his book “The Plague”, in the year 1947, teaching that the worst epidemics are not biological, but moral.

In those moments of fear is where the darkest, but also the most sublime traits of the human soul appear.

Selfishness leads some to believe that they can save themselves by sinking others or to put an entire group of people at risk because they diminish the problem. Sometimes it is preferred to maintain the activity prioritizing the money or the “appearance” of work, even knowing that it will have a cost for the others. Right now, we are all vulnerable, but despite that there are those who prefer to ignore it.

Fear often leads to looking for people who are guilty of this inexplicable situation.

The pandemic is incomprehensible to us, makes us insecure and creates panic.

All these feelings exist, but they are diminished ostensibly if there are values ​​that give them meaning and then the best of people appear.

Examples are numerous: doctors and nurses who go to hospitals, knowing that they can get sick; policemen who must guard with their health at risk or airline personnel who felt the need to comfort their passengers by saying that they were welcome home and that they were performing a patriotic service.

It is very important that we all understand that an institutional and evaluative framework must be strengthened, which, in case of an emergency, can guide  behavior in order to display the best and not the worst out of people.

The epidemic is unjust and unequal in terms of both health and socioeconomic effects.

From a sanitary point of view, the difference arises from scarcity versus massiveness. If a person is sick, it can be cured, but if there are ten thousand sick, the system can saturate. In that case, tragic options arise: save some people and let others die. So we must be rigorous in individual behaviors to avoid expansion and saturation.

Isolation is meant for everyone, but its lack generates inequality and pain for the most vulnerable.

In the social aspect, there are also dissimilar effects. There are those who can isolate themselves comfortably, but also those who do not have water or remedies, or their housing is precarious, or they live on the street, or they don’t have enough money to remain long without an income.

Everyone must be isolated, but those living under worse conditions should be treated differently. There are many institutions that can help.  Unions have left their traditional functions in order to dedicate themselves to take care of their members’ health. Clubs provide health care in order to help out with shortages, the municipalities exercise direct controls, the professional associations provide information regarding measures, the media which reports.

In the economic aspect, there are also impacts that generate inequalities. It is evident that, with the closure of activities, or of borders, entire sectors of the economy will be affected. In other cases, if a factory that manufactures food or medicine or transportation is closed, it benefits immediately, but in a second phase the adverse effect will be that there will be shortages. So it is necessary to preserve some essential areas.

On the other hand, if that prohibition applies to people who live off their physical work, they are left without income and subsidies must be given.

In other words, there is a certain economic balance that must be maintained.

Values ​​are extremely important because they constitute the ethical basis of human action.

The first dilemma is how far are we willing to prioritize health and life. At this time, there can be no doubt that health must be taken care of, demanding isolation except for those essential sectors mentioned previously.

The second dilemma is whether information is intended to increase fear or to understand the problem and its solution.

When the information is only based on increasing fear, people feel that they live in a catastrophe movie and freeze. Thus, the effect is negative.

Information is effective when it substitutes fear for responsibility: providing data on the evolution of the pandemic, guidelines on what to do, ways to help others. It is also useful for illustrating the negative effects of fear and depression, which lowers your defenses and increases the risk of getting sick.

The information should be associated with trust.

We all must do what we can to make our citizens and neighbors feel that whatever the challenge there might be, we will do everything we can to protect them.

In times of crisis, it is necessary to promote solidarity and not selfishness; cooperation and not despair.

Finally there is an individual aspect. The meaning of a situation is an interpretation elaborated by the mind.

In Argentina, we are acting quickly and we must be united. It is better if we understand, as the commander of the plane of our airline flag carrier did, that we are being patriotic and being kind to others.