As citizens living in the 21st century, we should be concerned with the vast amount of approximate information that has led our societies to hardly question anything anymore. It feels as if we were living under an atmosphere of fear and panic where we act according to what the TV tells us to do, not questioning anymore the criteria of what we are doing.
Covid-19 has definitely confirmed the existence of a numb society. A global issue that leads countries to take rapid measures which change every day ultimately baffles the people. This atmosphere of abduction in which our society rests today is only product of constant contradictory news, the turmoil of information, daily change of laws and protocols… All this contributes to shape our society and to increase its feeling of confusion.
The right to question things
One of the main concerns in the management of this “pandemic” is to have infantilized the population. Is it possible that we are treated like helpless persons without the right to question and act according to our criteria? For instance, forbidding smoking on the street, or imposing curfews on us, may even sound as a violation to our rights. Those decisions are meant to protect us, there is no question about that, but people seem to accept them without discuss nor debate. The law may be seeking our interest, but we, as citizens, should also question things.
Does Law equal Ethics? In theory, rights were created to protect society, but the issue grows when it is the citizen who doesn’t care if his/her rights are not respected. Indeed, we went from having certain control of our actions in life to having now to watch TV and inform ourselves with how to proceed in life. The TV seems to have an ultimate truth supported by committees of experts responsible for making decisions about prevention procedures and actions against COVID-19; however, as citizens, we cannot identify who the members of the committee are, and what is the criteria for taking action and/or decisions. This criterion of new laws and procedures is pretty doubtful, although people seem not to pay much attention. We can spend eight hours a day working with a mask, later going to the supermarket with a mask, in public transport with a mask… nevertheless we can also go to a bar and find an alleged Covid-free space where we will forget about our same mask. Where is the criterion here? Many of the protocols that are taken have to be questioned due to the lack of study and the immediate demand for them, especially regarding a totally new – and very serious – situation like the one generated by Covid-19; nevertheless, that does not justify all the confusion that is being created in society.
The Mask Dilemma
Are masks the best thing we can do? Should we have the right to put our masks voluntarily like other countries? While Spain is now under what could be considered the strictest laws and rules in the world, the important amount of positive PCR tests proves that there is still something wrong. If we believe the creator of the PCR (polymerase test) and novel prize in chemistry in 1993 Kary Mullis, the test doesn’t work with the COVID in particular: it tests positive with more viruses and not necessarily for COVID-19. Therefore, there are already false positives that maybe contributed creating more unnecessary panic. Taking into consideration the situation in general, we could still argue the following: 1- So far, tests do not seem to differentiate Covid-19 from other coronaviruses. 2-Tests seem not to necessarily determine if the virus is active. The viral RNA they purportedly detect may not indicate the presence of infectious virus. 3-Tests generate 30% at least of false positives. 4- In the USA, the FDA and the CDC have recognized that the tests are not specific for Covid-19, therefore they do not determine that a person is infected. 5-Tests often need to activate the supposed antibodies (which are what they actually measure) with antibiotics, which renders the purity of the sample ineffective. 6-The amplification of the replication cycle, which is used to determine the “viral burden”, makes the test even less reliable, since it perverts the original sample. Newspapers like “The New York Times” or “The Guardian” have already spoken up in this specific topic, they say that the PCR “provides only a yes-no answer to infection, and will identify as positive patients with low amounts of virus in their bodies”.
It is true that in the face of a new threat (unknown until now), we cannot stand idly, and quick measures and defense protocols must be put into practice immediately. However, based on the fact that we are not always sure whether these studies are accurate or not, it is important that citizens have some common sense and not accept what is imposed on them without questioning or discussing it. As it has been observed on numerous occasions, the norms regarding the same element have changed, for instance on the aspect of confinements, curfews, mobility restrictions, capacity of the events… Also, in relation to the masks, Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, confirmed in June 2020 that “masks, by themselves, do not protect from COVID-19 “, and he only recommended the masks “in areas with community transmission, people over 60, or those with underlying health conditions, use a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible “. However now, masks are obligatory in all environments, and whether they work or not, they are part of a law and are only left to follow it.
Explain rather than blame
It seems rather clear that the fast way of informing people about a new and so little studied virus has its defects, but also its consequences, and it is the citizen who pays for them. Are governments and authorities acting or managing this issue in the wrong way? Most probably yes. There cannot be so much constant change of protocols, and it is due to little study and so much decision taking. As a consequence, the population gets confused and it leans towards division and discomfort when seeing anyone not following the rules. People don’t know how to act, whether to relate, whether to leave the house, whether to be afraid… Are we getting sicker because of the mask? How strong our immune system is? Despite the difficulty there is to answer them, these questions appeal to the reflection and judgment of the citizen, who must begin questioning what appears in the media, so that they can reduce the fear caused by the panic created. How serious is the situation? Are we taking the right steps? It is fair to consider that journalists are not doctors, and that can be the main reason of why we see specific information contradicting itself from day to day.
This certainly gives us something to think about. Maybe it is time not to stay with the sole thought of the media, but to investigate, contrast, and not get comfortable with so much contradictory information. At the same time, this does not mean that we should only blame “the others”, be it the media, or even governments. Responsibility starts with each of us behaving as a responsible citizen. Let us not wait for the information to reach us; instead, let us go for it, and exert our critical sense. It is definitely in our hands to have critical thinking and do the exercise of discerning – as much as possible – the right from the wrong.
Clara Sánchez is a research assistant with the Observatory of Contemporary Crises.
To quote this article, please use the following reference: C. Sánchez (2020), “Covid-19, Citizens-21: Challenges and Confusion”. https://crisesobservatory.es/covid-19-citizens-21-challenges-and-confusion/
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