ARE AMERICANS TAKING INDIVIDUALISM TOO FAR?
The Coronavirus has brought the world to a halt and sent people rushing back into their homes to keep themselves safe. The pandemic has not just affected individuals, but our society as a whole. Even though we are aware of its deadly nature, some people still believe that life will carry on as normal if we utilize protective gear. Wearing a face mask has been an important part of how societies have helped keep the virus away. However, cultural psychology brings very interesting connotations, especially with the recent outburst of Americans refusing to wear a mask on the basis of the belief that their rights are being violated. Here’s what cultural psychology has to say about this.
Many Americans have misinterpreted what constitutional freedom means
Numerous European and South-Asian countries were able to bring the Coronavirus quickly under check because of a collective belief that the face masks will help keep the virus away. People believed in wanting to secure their society and help everyone stay healthy and protected. The idea was that “if I wear a mask, not only will I be safe, but also my family, peers, neighbors, and the society as a whole”. This reflects the collectivist belief in these populations, giving heavy importance to group conformity and helping each other tackle the virus together. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t cases where people refused to wear a mask in such countries.
However, the reasons to do this were quite different from what we hear from citizens of the US. In European and South-Asian countries, if someone refused to wear a face mask, the reason was more along the lines of, “the flimsy mask won’t save me from the deadly virus”, while Americans may say that “the mask is to protect others, not me, why should I wear it?”
Less conformity, more individualism
The notion that “wearing the mask saves other people, not me” has sent thousands of Americans out on the road, protesting against mandated face masks. They are constantly talking about how their constitutional freedom of choosing to not wear a mask is being violated. This heavily reflects on their obsession with individualism and not concerning themselves about group conformity. It is very important to note here that America’s obsession with individualism isn’t the only thing to be blamed here.
Most Americans have widely looked at face covering as a form of weakness and vulnerability. The racial and gender bias history of the nation has caused them to believe that covering their face is a form of power distortion where they are surrendering to something that’s greater than them. The idea of not coming out on top as the world leader and having to wear a mask because a virus has sent them running into their houses is unfathomable for many. Moreover, various “anti-maskers” have also attributed their stand to religious values. They believe that everyone was created in the image of God and our faces are what reflect that the most. Covering that up with a face mask goes against this principle. These unsupported and obsessive connotations for refusing to wear a mask is what has led the country divided on the great mask debate. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus rate in America doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as the CDC Covid Data Tracker reports that there were a total of 292,055 cases in the United States in the last seven days. With the anti-mask protest as well as some Americans belief in religious exemption from wearing a mask it’s safe to say that the rest of Americans won’t be able to rely on the help of anti-maskers to help combat the pandemic.