The New Creed of COVID Culture
COVID Culture is on the rise in America. This new way of living has swept across the nation as a result of more than a year of government lockdowns, political polarization, and “following the science.” Its finest example can be seen on college campuses, where mask mandates, social distancing, constant COVID testing, and “infraction-reporting” systems keep students pitted against each other in an almost Orwellian attempt to “flatten the curve.” The University of Notre Dame is a prime example.
Those who subscribe to COVID Culture claim that its biggest ideological underpinning is science. Why did these people not wear masks at the beginning of the pandemic? The science told them it wasn’t necessary, even though policy-makers later clarified that these claims were motivated by the potential of supply-shortages. Why did they suddenly start wearing masks only after the virus spread across the country? The science had spoken– face masks must now be widely used. Why did they initially scorn travel bans on China in February of 2020? The science told them these bans wouldn’t likely help. Why are they now lauding similar bans under a new presidential administration? Simple – they’re following the science.
But there are severe problems with this mentality. While self-righteous mask-fanatics and emotionally anaesthetized university administrators claim that “science” is on their side, they fail to realize key biological considerations and the limitations of the scientific culture they glorify.
Let’s compare COVID-19 to a few historically famous diseases.
According to the WHO, the medieval Bubonic Plague killed 50 million individuals over the course of three years. During the most recent Plague pandemic (1894-1903), more people died in India per year than have died in the U.S. over the entirety of the COVID outbreak.
During the 18th century, the Smallpox virus killed 10% of the world’s population. Assuming that earth’s current population remains around 7 billion for the next century, the current coronavirus trend would only kill about 2.4%.
Tuberculosis — which currently has several antibiotic treatments and a vaccine available — kills one person every 20 seconds, for a total of 1.5 million people per year. COVID-19 has killed one person every 15 seconds — and that’s without a vaccine. TB is 15,000 years old. According to COVID Culture, humanity should have “masked-up” a long time ago.
The infamous 1918 influenza pandemic took 500 million lives worldwide in a single year. Members of COVID Culture often scoff at claims that the coronavirus is nothing more than a “flu-like disease”. I scoff too — because historically, COVID-19 doesn’t even come close to the death-toll of the flu.
I bring these comparisons up not to diminish the lives lost to the coronavirus, but to compare our generation to those before us. Our ancestors would be grateful to live in modern society where medicine, disinfectant, and doctors can be accessed at the push of a button. We could not even imagine a pandemic that causes the death of 500 million people. Our COVID Culture has no idea what a pandemic is. Any student of history should see that our fear of COVID and our resulting response has been, at its best, a detriment to culture and society. At its worst, it has been woefully unwarranted.
It might be trite to claim that billions of years of evolution suffice to create an organism suited for enduring life, but it is worth pointing out that evolution did not give us masks, but mouths. Instead of appreciating this fact, COVID Culture has chosen to banish the human mouth. What COVID Culture — especially on Notre Dame’s campus — fails to appreciate is that masks are a non-biological solution to a biological issue. Masks do not biologically make us immune or resistant to disease, nor do they kill the disease. In some instances, they act only as a dangerous placebo offering a false sense of security. But instead of hand-washing, vitamin C consuming, or any other tried and true prevention method of boosting the immune system, COVID Culture takes masks to be sacrosanct. Failure to comply could result in expulsion. Whatever COVID Culture is, it is not holistic in its approach to disease, treating it as if it were a social issue, rather than a biological fact of nature.
The more concerning biological necessity that COVID Culture systemically opposes is the simple psychological need for human engagement. As last semester’s “McWell survey” highlighted, 42% of students felt moderate to serious distress as a result of the pandemic. Most of the signs of this “distress” were actually symptoms closely related to severe anxiety and depression disorders. These symptoms were shared by at least 25% of the ND population. The administration’s response to these statistics has been predictably lackluster. Though they would likely deny it, there’s a simple explanation for ND’s steady mental health decline: our world-renowned culture of Playing Like a Champion has been compromised to a culture of fear. Students who have dreamed of becoming members of the Notre Dame Family have been forced to abandon that family almost entirely. It is hard to maintain campus morale when students are barred from extracurricular activities and dorm traditions, shamed if they show their face in public, and shamed if they show physical affection. What has our college become, stripped of all the staples that make college what it is?
Another characteristic of COVID Culture is a cultural intolerance that is most apparent when one observes what “the science” has done to religious tradition. A major way ND cultivates family is through shared Catholic traditions made accessible to all. This used to involve unique Masses in each dorm as well as events throughout the year. For a large portion of the pandemic we have seen the curtailment of such traditions. The liturgy, too, has not gone unaffected: congregational singing — a central part of Catholic Mass — is forbidden. Before going to communion, priests are required to outline a litany of coronavirus procedures as if the “science” is more important than the scripture. And both the Sign of Peace and the consumption of Jesus’s blood are awkwardly omitted.
Besides religion, modern traditions which we easily take for granted are meeting the chopping-block. To see just how far-reaching the cultural suicide we have initiated goes, one must simply look at a list of major events that got cancelled in 2020.
In their pursuit of “expert opinions” and “scientific consensus”, today’s Pandemicrats have thrown out a rich scientific culture of hypothesis-testing, relentless debate, skepticism, and inductive truth-finding, and replaced it with a stale, cliché set of bromides, politicking, and hypocrisy that is quickly consuming American culture. In the prophetic words of 20th century philosopher-of-science Paul Feyerabend, science in the hands of today’s politicians and administrators has become the “most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution” in America.
William Geoffroy is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, where he is studying Biological Sciences and Philosophy. Besides a fascination with the interplay of these two subjects, in his free-time he loves singing in the Notre Dame Folk Choir, participating in musicals on campus, and spending time in the Colorado wilderness with his parents and pet Chiweenie. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.