This pandemic has been very revealing in many respects. The weaknesses of all health care systems were exposed; the limits of human and material resources were tested over and over again with each wave; the different styles of governance demonstrated their strengths and weaknesses. In today's post we want to explore the two extreme poles and question the future of public health from these two very opposite perspectives.
In the first place, it must be clear that in order to live in society, individuals must make consents to achieve their own personal aspirations while the group achieves its own objectives, which is called the common good. One of these collective aspects is public health, paid for by taxes and which, based on scientific evidence, makes decisions for the well-being of the majority of the inhabitants of a certain region.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us were horrified by videos, stories and reports of Chinese authorities locking up their citizens to prevent the spread of this new virus. Barbarians! We said. Individual liberties suspended at very high prices to control infections, while the US authorities minimized the situation, proud of preserving their way of life. Almost two years have passed and now many of us are horrified by videos, stories and reports of US citizens who attack airline and business employees to avoid minimal preventive measures. Barbarians! We say. Their eternal persecution of their individual freedoms at very high prices, regardless of the spread of this virus.
China has become a constantly vigilant police state, worthy of a Michel Foucault book, in which the state makes almost all the decisions. Its citizens have duties, without rights, which constitutes one of the poles of this reality that we live in. The freedoms are only for the consumption and indebtedness of its citizens, without respect for the rights of minorities.
The United States of America has become a conglomerate of individuals, in almost a manic anarchy like in The Purge, in which the subjects decide on their own which measures they will and will not abide, protected by their legal system of lawsuits and appeals. Its citizens have rights, without duties, which constitutes the other pole of this health reality. The duties are only for the war campaigns and the indebtedness of its citizens, without respect for the duties of the masses.
The twenty-first century is plagued with influencers, fake news, and a constant deterioration of the social construction that is public health. We must ask ourselves to what extent do our individual rights interfere with duties to the common good? Panama has a reality between both poles. We have a health system that, although under a lot of stress during the pandemic, has not completely collapsed as it did in other Latin American countries. Vaccination has been orderly, well planned, and with two of the best vaccines available. People largely complied with the provisions ordered by the Ministry of Health. As a classic Panamanian move, many found the loop holes.
The measures have led to purchases and hiring that, in the face of many detractors, favor the rampant corruption and endemic lack of transparency. Citizens, who are instructed but not educated, and lack long-term memory, are now ready to return to the usual routines of debauchery and huddling, without seeing that in all the countries that have declared victory against the pandemic they have had consequences. outbreaks and even the appearance of more transmissible mutant strains.
I still remember those who speculated on toilet paper as the next currency in this apocalyptic scenario and I wonder if we learned anything from this pandemic, such as having provisions in case of a new closure or natural disaster, to reduce our superfluous expenses. and simplify our lifestyle to have more free money in case of a personal emergency. In the event of another pandemic, how organized are we as a society to give up our individual freedoms? How prepared are increasingly populist elected authorities in health matters?