Eyewitness: The runner stumbles…

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…on COVID-19

Ethical issues don’t only apply to humans, they extend – or should extend –- to the workings of institutions. After all, the latter are formed by us to handle areas of our collective lives. This ponderous meditation is prompted by COVID-19’s inexorable decimation of our populace and our reaction to it.

For all of our history, we’ve been looking north – first England and then America – as our models for dealing with challenges. And within that model, ethics and morality, both at the individual and institutional levels, are immanent. Isn’t this what our thrust for protecting “Human Rights” is all about? Or our insistence on democratic elections? Or Governments’ responsibility for protecting their citizens – including their health. And we arrive at COVID-19 and some of the questions being posed right now.

Take the seemingly Hamletian one about whether “to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?” Taking our cue from the American Libertarians – Trumpian or otherwise – some are framing the issue as a human rights question and insisting that the State cannot intrude on the autonomy of the citizen. On the other side, there’s the Lockean duty of the State to prevent infected citizens from spreading the virus to their fellow citizens and threatening them with possible death. The greater good and all that. So the question is how and where does the State draw the line between the two competing (but equally valid) positions?

Well, against looking north – by creating institutions like the Judiciary to deal with a range of issues as they relate to us (including the Government) dealing with each other. In other areas – as in dealing with contagious diseases which include the COVID-19 pandemic – we have institutions like the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that’re supposed to be guided by the science dealing with contagious diseases.

But what happens when these supposedly value-neutral institutions are influenced by outside pressure – like politicians as in the case with Trump – or worse yet, refuse to follow their own findings? And that’s where the CDC has really done a disservice to value-free decision-making on COVID-19 decisions. First, they didn’t take the disease seriously – even though China shut down 70 per cent of its economy to stop it cold. Then it insisted on cleaning surfaces rather than aerosol transmissions and discouraged face masks or even making homemade ones. There’re other flip-flops on testing and on quarantining. They’re even saying “vaccinated people don’t carry the virus”. Only to now somersault and say face marks should be worn indoors even among vaccinated persons!

But the worst is not to publicise present Israeli data that their Pfizer vaccine is only 39 per cent effective against the Delta variant!
Who’re we to follow?

…on alternative healings

Now far be it from your Eyewitness to cast doubt – much less aspersions – on the power of faith healers of all traditions to heal people. Nowadays he sees them advertising their powers via social media, in addition to the old late night TV shows they used to frequent. The lame was made to walk, the blind to see and fatal diseases were cast out to allow the “saved” to live happily ever after. Contributions were accepted, of course.

Some in Guyana who’ve rejected vaccination for COVID-19 seem to be rejecting the whole science behind the drive – that is, vaccines produce antibodies in us which fight off new viral infections – after being influenced by these healers.

So in the midst of this COVID pandemic, your Eyewitness has a question: has any healer cured a single COVID patient? We know that some very vociferous anti-vaxxers who belonged to the healing crowd and preached to their flock unfortunately succumbed to the disease.
The physician couldn’t “heal thyself”?

…in the movies

Your Eyewitness will explain his title. It’s taken from an old movie he saw during lockdown. A Catholic priest and a Nun fall in love and it ends in murder.
A moral dilemma because of arbitrary ethical rules.