Tech Giants Reveal the Falsehood of the American Dream

Tech Giants Reveal the Falsehood of the American Dream

Opinion

Tech Giants Reveal the Falsehood of the American Dream
American Dream Falsehood

28th August 2020

Time and time again, we hear of the massive American “big tech companies” and their origins as “rags-to-riches” success stories. We are captivated by the idea of the “self-made man” and those who triumph over adversity, the regular David vs Goliath stories. We have heard that Apple, Google and Amazon were created in garages.

We know that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college because they believed that much in their own ideas. We know (or rather, it is drilled into us) that hard work does pay off. This is all part of the American Dream, so instated into our minds as children  the idea that quality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. 

But the problem we are seeing, now more than ever, is that this American Dream mentality is backfiring. America’s hunger for profit, no matter the costs to sustainability or human rights, is catering to massive businesses and the people behind them feeling justified in practising exploitation. It is pushing the nation to further splinter along class as well as racial and ethnic lines. We also see it encouraging the population to accept the accumulation of unfathomable wealth as normal, even when the lack of wealth taxation goes against their own direct interests.  

A prime example of this is the big tech business model that has been allowed and encouraged to prevail in the US especiallyIn a recent congressional grilling, Amazon, Facebook and Apple proclaimed their credentials as all-American success stories in an attempt to counter claims made that they are unfair stiflers of competition. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, while arguing that he wanted “American workers to get products to American customers”, failed to touch on the fact that Amazon’s share of ecommerce stands at a huge 40 per cent, effectively pushing any healthy competition out of the market Tim Cook of Apple described the company as “uniquely American” before defending its role as gatekeeper to the App Store through setting onerous commission fees and favouring its own apps.

Mark Zuckerberg described Facebook as a “proudly American company”, and defended Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which critics argued were an attempt to quash growing rivals, by claiming that both platforms benefited from Facebook’s existing technology, infrastructure and ad sales. These are not companies that seem to appreciate or respect the American Dream. They appear to find no problem with squashing the innovation of others for the gain of their company and the acquisition of frightening amounts of money. 

The composition of these firms is also worth having a look at. What is not often discussed is that these companies usually recruit those from Ivy League or other elite colleges like the University of Washington, UC Berkeley and Stanford University – which includes only a slim intersection of the population. A Forbes reporter acknowledged that a head of diversity recruiting mentioned that she was only willing to spend $5,000 dollars of her recruiting budget recruiting a “non-elite” student, compared to the $50,000-$100,000 she typically spends recruiting “elite” students. And this is coming from someone in charge of improving diversity.

The fact that entrance to such schools is highly skewed towards those from more advantaged backgrounds is just the final cog in a vicious circle of elitism-driven-inequality. In this way, big tech firms step over millions of talented and hardworking students that miss the mould. 

 

“Economic mobility is lower in the US than almost every other developed country – it is one of only four high-income economies amongst 50 economies with the lowest rate of relative upward mobility.”

 

The American Dream is a mightily compelling way to guide your lifestyle choices. It is an appealing idea and a really, tremendously admirable concept. This enduring myth maintains that if you are willing to work hard for as long as it takes, you can rise up and achieve the “good life”. And we have seen it in action. But these big tech firms, that may have arisen to power themselves due in part to these idealsseem to very quickly forget the origins of their success.

 The power of capitalism is being concentrated ever more in the hands of the few which is having drastic effects on the average American working to provide for themselves and their family, looking to rise up the ranks, looking to reach that level of success that they are promised is achievable through hard work. But this very same average American is worse off today than a decade ago.  

From 1999 to 2016, the employment-to-US-population rate over fell from 64.3% to 59.7% – not counting the recent extreme effects of the pandemic on the economy. Staying in third-level education is now harder than ever – about one-third of undergraduates transfer at one point in their careers, and an even bigger percentage drop out for financial or other reasons. Millions of hardworking, intelligent people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and on the breadline but are stuck in jobs with few opportunities for advancement, and little hope for the future. 

The recession arising from the pandemic is going to show this as clearly, wreaking absolute havoc on small businesses and those living just above the breadline in favour of the biggest and most tech-focused corporations. When so many our people are hurting, it is difficult to accept that corporations are using the global pandemic as an opportunity to continue making outrageous profits. Recent claims by Democratic politician Bernie Sanders state that “While Amazon is denying paid sick leave, hazard pay and personal protective equipment to 450,000 of its workers, Jeff Bezos has increased his wealth by over $70 billion. While 40 million Americans face eviction, Elon Musk has nearly tripled his wealth over the past four months and now has a net worth of more than $70 billion. While millions of Americans are lining up at emergency food banks because they don’t have enough money to put food on the table, Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook has increased his wealth by more than $37 billion during the pandemic and is now worth over $90 billion.” 

The sad truth is that fewer people today are getting ahead and gaining real success or even stability than before. Economic mobility is lower in the US than almost every other developed country – it is one of only four high-income economies amongst 50 economies with the lowest rate of relative upward mobility.  We must remember, though, that it is not the case that the values and beliefs resulting from this concept are inherently wrong, or non-existent, or flawed, or misguided. It is that those individuals, those big businesses who have the power to make the American Dream a real and accessible means to millions of people, are actively opting not to. Not only is this not the American Dream. It is the exact opposite of the American Dream.  

 

 

 

Featured photo by Joe Flood

 
 

 

 

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 4

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 4

STAND Student Podcast

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 4

Young Greens outside the Dáil

Listen to the fourth episode of this series on the following platforms:

iTunes

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Anchor

Castbox

Breaker

Overcast

Radio Republic

Welcome to the fourth episode of our podcast series on the Democratic Republic of Congo, the entirety of which has been researched, produced and edited by TCD Student Maria Salto Galdon.

In this week’s podcast, we start a new section of the series that covers economics, international trade, and supply chains.

For this episode, we’re delighted to be joined by Dr. David Nyaluke, UCD Proudly Made in Africa Fellow in Business and Development at the UCD School of Business. 

David gives us incredibly valuable insight into one of the biggest issues facing modern day Africa – its international trade system. Join us as we journey  through its unfair history and current day situation .

When you’re done listening, make sure to connect with Proudly Made in Africa in whatever way you can:

www.ProudlyMadeInAfrica.org

www.linkedin.com/company/proudlymadeinafrica 

www.facebook.com/proudlymadeinafrica

www.twitter.com/ProudlyMIA

Follow us on Instagram @stand.ie for updates and links to future podcast episodes.

 

 

PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

Environment

PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

discarded facemask

24th August 2020

 

Masks and gloves play a vital role in protecting the public against contracting Covid-19. The growing concern regarding PPE is its role in creating waste and damaging our environment. It’s become common practice for customers to throw away their masks and gloves on the ground outside shops instead of disposing of them in a bin.

PPE littering in Massachusetts got to a point where littering was made illegal and fines can reach up to 5,500 dollars. PPE is created to protect us, not create more environmental and health problems.

As well as littering, there is the problem of PPE equipment being put in recycling bins instead of placing them in a bag and putting them into the waste bin. Workers in private waste management companies encounter used PPE equipment daily. Although the employees use PPE themselves their health is still at risk due to the increasing numbers of used/reused PPE they handle.

The longer the pandemic lasts the worse the pollution in the ocean will become. A marine biologist in the United Kingdom, Emily Stevenson established the Beach Guardian Project with her father. They collect plastic and all sorts of rubbish that has ended up in the ocean. In one hour of litter picking at the beginning of August she found 171 pieces of PPE in the ocean, a significant increase in the amount of litter she found before the pandemic and the beginning of the pandemic.

Although Stevenson and the volunteers at the Beach Guardian Project have discovered a lot of PPE and disposed of it correctly and safely there still might be PPE polluting the seabed. Single use plastics can remain on the seabed for hundreds of years polluting everything around it. According to Stevenson’s research, if each person in the UK uses a single use face mask daily 66,000 tonnes of PPE equipment would be accumulated.

 

“If each person in the UK uses a single use face mask daily 66,000 tonnes of PPE equipment would be accumulated”

 

It’s not just the oceans that have been polluted, it’s the rivers too. Researchers who work at the University of London stated that the River Thames has been polluted by plastic which threatens wildlife and the health of people living in the area. They explained that pollution has worsened because there has been an increase in the disposal of single use plastics like cleaning products, masks and gloves.

Litter has built up along footpaths and roads in Ireland and across the globe due to people dumping face masks. Used face masks and used gloves have washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Laurent Lombard, the founder of Operation Clean Sea described it as “a swim with Covid-19” and “swimming in a table of microplastics.” It’s a harsh truth but it is the reality of pollution that we are facing in our world because of our own actions. Journalist Clodagh Finn, in her article in the Irish Examiner published on the 8th of August cleverly describes plastic as both a “polluter and a protector”.

Single use plastic PPE has been a popular and controversial topic of conversation in Ireland among politicians and the public. Grace O’Sullivan, a member of the Green Party and a Member of the European Parliament said there needs to be more awareness and education on how to safely dispose of single use face masks.

Refusal to use reusable or recyclable face masks can be a contributing factor to climate change because there has been an increase in the use of oil and energy to produce and manufacture single use plastic face masks. Awareness of the dangers and disadvantages of single use plastic face masks is not enough, action must be taken to create and support sustainable plastic face masks. Maybe when each party involved in producing and purchasing single use plastic face masks are fully     aware of the disadvantages and dangers of them, they will create and support sustainable plastic and other recyclable materials. 

It’s difficult to consider every important issue at any time of the year, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. But just like the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis will not improve unless each and every person takes active steps to reduce their consumption of single use plastics. Some quick and simple things we can do are: educate ourselves on the most sustainable pieces of PPE equipment we can use, share this information with others and dispose of single use.

 

 

Featured photo by Pxfuel

 
 

 

 

Living Under Quarantine: My Lockdown Experience

Living Under Quarantine: My Lockdown Experience

Opinion

Living Under Quarantine: My Lockdown Experience

Coping with lockdown post it notes

24th August 2020

 

Let’s face it, lockdown wasn’t easy for any of us. On March 27th  Ireland went into full lockdown, but just two weeks before that we began receiving alarming articles and alerts about people getting sick from Covid-19. It was terrifying to think that a virus we assumed was far away was now on our doorstep. I’m still a student at the National University of Ireland Galway and just before we went into an unofficial lockdown, students around the university began sharing disturbing videos of other students being walked off-campus by people in protective suits.

Obviously, we were all terrified, and the day after the video was published many of people I knew decided to skip classes that day. We received an announcement that the students in the videos were not Covid-19 positive but the damage had already been done.

I worked at the University as part of the well crew, we were based in “The Hub” which is a recreation spot for students with a large seating area and kitchen that is free to be used by all.  We had all the signs up about washing your hands and disinfecting but that was all before we knew that it wasn’t just a flu.

It sort of all came crashing down, didn’t it? Once the University closed it was obvious that we wouldn’t be back anytime soon, and that was terrifying. I have lived alone ever since moving away from home at the age of seventeen. I pay my own bills and take care of my own stuff legally speaking.  The Covid-19 crisis made me lose both of my jobs leaving me with my savings and with no option of getting new employment.

I’m originally from Ukraine and have spent the last thirteen years in Ireland away from my family, so when the pandemic reached most of Europe Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made a public announcement asking for all Ukrainian citizens to return home. I was worried and tempted to go home, wait it out with my father and grandparents but the fear of bringing the unknown virus home to them was more terrifying than not seeing them.

The covid-19 unemployment payments finally allowed students to apply a couple of weeks after the payment was established which was a huge relief. Many students who didn’t have a job were forced to go home and abandon their student accommodation. I live in an apartment which I rent with two other girls and since I moved out permanently, I couldn’t go anywhere. I applied for the payment and was receiving the help I was so desperate for.

The unemployment payments helped with my paranoia too. The fear of getting the virus was getting to my head. I was afraid to leave my home, I was afraid of leaving my own bedroom and interacting with the girls in my apartment. I felt like the first couple of months were easier. Getting some time off after working non-stop on two different jobs as well as having studies on top of that. Now I had all the time in the world to do my best on my assignments and take some time off. I was working in a nightclub, so sleep was a luxury, I think I spent the first week curled up in a little ball sleeping.  But it wasn’t sleeping; I was hibernating.

 

“I was worried and tempted to go home, wait it out with my father and grandparents but the fear of bringing the unknown virus home to them was more terrifying than not seeing them.”

Slowly but surely as time went on things began getting harder. I was becoming restless like I’m sure many of us were. I had finished my college work and started my internship a couple of months early just to keep myself going. I made it my daily responsibility to make sure my family were okay. I would call my grandparents a couple of times a week, sometimes a couple of times a day just to double and triple-check that were safe.

Ukraine doesn’t have the financial luxuries of paying their citizens to stay at home which meant that most Ukrainians had no choice but to keep working, including my grandparents and father. The fact that they were working, and I was sitting on my backside was making me anxious and very upset. I missed home a lot; I missed my family. It seemed that most of my friends had their family close by while I was all alone. Thankfully I had my partner to keep me company and keep me sane.

I think the most terrifying part of lockdown was the emptiness. Every time one would walk down a shop street or through Eyre Square or even Salthill, there were people everywhere, but now it was like a ghost town. Not a soul to be seen, and if you did see someone you would make it your business to stay as far away as possible. It was weird to be asked to wear gloves or sanitize your hands when you entered a shop. It felt nice to walk into a place and feel safe thanks to the limitations of people being let inside and the extra precautions.

Once precautions started easing, I was eager to find a job. I was never one to sit around and not work for my money. I began sending out CVs to places I knew would be safe workplaces and I was slowly adjusting to leaving my home while wearing a mask at all times. I bought reusable ones and my neighbour’s mother made a few reusable masks that I was more than happy to wear around. They’re easy to wash and I find they are less wasteful. I really hated seeing the gloves and masks thrown on the ground like rubbish. It was disrespectful considering most countries and medical workplaces were struggling with gear.

And just like that life was getting back to what it was before lockdown. Of course, some changes to life long waiting lines and mask-wearing, as well as pre-booking, were all new. However, it seemed that people no longer cared for social distancing. Eyre Square was once again overcrowded, and Shop street was flooded. I won’t lie, lockdown PTSD was hitting hard. I was finding it hard to breathe and I would subconsciously avoid everyone in my way and cross the street to avoid walking next to people. The fact that now things were all back to normal after months of what felt like a post-apocalypse movie is weird.

I got a job as a pastry chef in my favourite spot in Galway… I had acquired new skills during quarantine and was happy that I made this change in my career, no longer had to deal with drunk people trying to harass me and no drinks spilt on me.

I felt like my life was getting to a place where I felt comfortable. But I often find myself in the kitchen, just doing my thing, listening to the radio, and the minute Covid-19 is mentioned I feel my eyes tearing up. I get anxious and I get paranoid. I wash my hands a million times a day where I have developed really had eczema on my hands. I miss my family every day.

Talking to them upsets me even more since I was supposed to spend my birthday with them, only to spend it without them. Ukraine is facing a rise in cases and there is little to nothing I can do to help. They won’t accept my financial help and I can’t go to help them. I’m jealous of those who got to spend time with loved ones during lockdown, because I would give anything to be with mine.

With time I feel like Covid-19 will be burned into the back of our brains as something that happened and “wasn’t that crazy?” I feel like after a while I will stop tearing up at the mention of Covid-19 and lockdown but that will take a lot of time. So many people have died, so many have had their lives turned upside down. Our world is still filled with uncertainties. The university is giving us mixed signals and I don’t really know what to do. But I will continue social distancing and wearing my mask, I encourage you to do the same. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

 

 

Featured photo by Sarah Kilian

 
 

 

 

Tampon Taboo: The Ad Ban that Displayed the Existing Social Stigma of Periods

Tampon Taboo: The Ad Ban that Displayed the Existing Social Stigma of Periods

Women

Tampon Taboo: The Ad Ban that Displayed the Existing Social Stigma of Periods

Shot of the tampax ad where two women disucss tampons

22nd August 2020

 

“You gotta get ‘em up there, girls!” reads the tagline for Tampax’s latest TV advertisement, Tampons and Tea, featuring a mock chat show in which a host and guest discuss correct tampon usage. This ad was controversially pulled from Irish television at the end of July after 84 viewers issued complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI). ASAI accepted that the ad caused widespread offence andbanned it from being shown again in its current format.  

The manufacturers, Procter & Gamble, defended the ad based on its instructive intentTampons and Tea was created in response to findings that revealed 42% of women are not inserting tampons correctly and about 80% of women feel discomfort while wearing them.  

Out of the 84 complaints received by the ASAI, several critiqued the advert for containing sexual innuendo, being unsuitable for children and demeaning to women. While the ASAdid not take action against the ad based on these claims, it is still disturbing to see terms such as “sexual”, “unsuitable” and “demeaning” employed in conversations about women’s periods in modern Ireland.  

It is maddening to think that anyone could call Tampons and Tea demeaning to women yet have no issue with the majority of unrealistic adverts for menstrual products. These ads generally focus on concealing periods anddepicting them as a problem, rather than a natural, lived experience. The women are portrayed smiling, laughing and carefree in the outdoors usually practicing some variation of an extreme sport whiledressed scantily in white. Flash forward to the next frame where a strange clinical blue liquid is used to indicate their menstrual blood.  

It’s also hardly demeaning to suggest some women may not know how to insert a tampon correctly, especially when you consider the reality that period-centred education is worryingly substandard. Most girls who have attended school in Ireland will know that education surrounding tampons usually extends to the best way to conceal them discreetly up a jumper sleeve! Classroom curriculums are typically limited to the biological workings of the menstrual cycle, and neglect to acknowledge the practical, everyday implications of periods.

 This lack of formal education leads to misinformationand this is relevant for all genders. I find it in part amusing, in part shocking, the number of males I’ve encountered who mistakenly believed that sanitary towels are stuck to the skin of the person instead of to their underwear! 

 

“Tampons and Tea was created in response to findings that revealed 42% of women are not inserting tampons correctly and about 80% of women feel discomfort while wearing them”

On Newstalk, Ciara Kelly slammed the decision to remove the ad and lamented the persistent sexualisation of women’s bodies, arguing that from the female perspective, a vagina functions for much more than sexIt’s just a bit of our body […] it sits there, it’s like having an elbow” she rationalized. While one might automatically lay the blame on men for the cancellation of the advert, surprising 83% of the complaints received about Tampons and Tea came from women. This points to worrying culture of shame surrounding the female body and its functions 

Social stigma, combined with inefficient education surrounding menstruation, means that periods are largely not spoken about. Women are taught from an early age in school, and by society, that periods are embarrassing and disgusting; something to be hidden and kept quiet aboutThey carry this mentality with them to adulthood. Yet menstruation is a natural phenomenon which half of the world’s population experience. The lack of open discussion means that women are suffering in silence.  

Last month, STAND featured an article about period poverty in Ireland, noting the lack of support and supplies available for many people who have periods. It says a lot about societal priorities that a Tampax advert is deemed too offensive to broadcast, when many in Ireland cannot even afford tampons due to period poverty. 

The power and influence of advertising must not be forgotten. Although lighthearted in tone, ads such as Tampons and Tea carry a social impact. Positively, the decision to ban the advert has been met with widespread criticism. This is a hopeful sign that, although 84 members of the public hold outdated views on menstruation, there are other voices. Periods must be discussed unashamedly in our everyday conversations. It is essential for women and people with periods everywhere that their basic bodily functions are not taboo.  

 

 

Featured photo by Tampax

 
 

 

 

The Politics of a Global Pandemic

The Politics of a Global Pandemic

Business & Politics

 The Politics of a Global Pandemic

Statues of female steel workers with facemasks

21st August 2020

The complexities of coping with the current pandemic revolve around more than just measuring intensive care unit capacity, calculating the R rate or searching for a vaccine. The political, social and economic features of this crisis are just as dangerous. 

While this pandemic will have devastating, far-reaching consequences, a person’s income level, ethnicity, political ideology and worldview all combine to determine not just their individual risk of infection, but also how seriously their country or region may be affected.  

When politicians of different ideological beliefs clash, and the authority of science is called into question, you have a very fractured and uncoordinated response, perpetuating coronavirus transmission globally. Globalisation and its accompanying cross-border travel and trade only serve to exacerbate the situation.  

An article by the University of Pennsylvania has used the data from a study of 146 countries to shed light on the effects of democracy, state capacity and income inequality on the dynamics of epidemics. They found that in democratic nations, greater levels of transparency, public trust and accountability were associated with increased compliance in terms of public health measures and faster response times. 

However, income inequality was found to have a profound effect on compliance – in many cases, those earning a lower income, especially those who are unable to access state supports, simply can’t afford to stay home and therefore, cannot always comply with social distancing. Unfortunately, as was the case in the UK, democracy isn’t always associated with strong state capacity, or indeed, the willingness to utilise it.  

Despite its position as number two on the Global Health Security Index for pandemic readiness, conservative political forces in the UK bungled the response through its policies on healthcare and the public service, in addition to its prioritising economic interests and Brexit. Six months before the pandemic, the then-Prime Minister Theresa May abolished the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee” when a no-deal Brexit appeared to be a more threatening reality, resulting in the government shifting its focus significantly. The committee, which included senior cabinet ministers, could have resulted in a faster, more effective response, saving lives in the process. 

Boris Johnson’s government and many others, Trump included, fetishise the free market, which leads to certain economic interests taking priority over a robust and coordinated state response. When the goal is to privatise public services and keep wages down; better pay, conditions and funding for the NHS and its workers would interfere with this goal and make it difficult for the Conservativgovernment to outsource their workforces. Similarly, in the US, at a time when it is needed most, Trump has blocked access to new insurance applicants under the Affordable Care Act, leaving the most vulnerable in a desperately precarious position by increasing levels of inequality.  

There have been many discussions about what should be prioritised in the emergency responseto the pandemic. Health professionals view saving lives as the absolute priority; this seems logical, but the public health measures put in place may also negatively impact the health of those with non-COVID-related illnesses who are unable or afraid to access health services. Others have spoken of their desire for the response to remain free from political interference; that government restrictions are too intrusive and reminiscent of Big Government. President Trump has stated that we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem, evidence that he views the crisis through the lens of political ambition. He has accused the Democrats of concocting this coronavirus hoax to damage a booming economy, which would affect his chances of re-election.  

 

“Ideology and political identity play an important role, not just in interpreting individual risk but also willingness to adopt measures such as social distancing and mask wearing”

The Brazilian leader, Bolsonaro, has also prioritised economic interests, perhaps for different reasons. With few resources in his toolbox to fight the pandemic, Bolsonaro chose the economy – both as a way to deflect from the virus and as a means of avoiding responsibility for another devastating recession, not long after the country’s 2015 economic downturn. 

By placing the economy ahead of public health, Brazil may believe it can avoid catastrophic economic collateral damage; however, its extremely high infection rate and death toll will nonetheless wreak havoc on the entire economic, social and political fabric of Brazilian society, not to mention its already overburdened hospitals.  

Ideology and political identity play an important role, not just in interpreting individual risk but also willingness to adopt measures such as social distancing and mask wearing. In a YouGov survey of 1,000 Americans, it was discovered that an individual’s worldview was one of the most important predictors of risk perception around the world; those who scored high on individualism (usually in Western nations such as the US and UK) were less concerned about the virus than their counterparts in more collectivist countries, such as South Korea.

The survey also revealed a partisan divide on important issues such as compliance and trust; 67% of Democrats wore masks compared with 54% of Republicans while 70% of Democrats and only 10% of Republicans trusted the WHO. A significant divide was also noted in the levels of trust regarding Trump’s ability to handle the pandemic; perhaps, not surprisingly, 86% of Republicans trusted Trump compared with only 10% of Democrats. Polarised views on such matters often result in ineffective and inconsistent social distancing and mask wearing throughout the country, thus hampering any effective suppression of the virus.  

A lack of consensus on how to mitigate the pandemic, or even how to interpret/perceive risk has left many states alone, scrambling to find their own solutions. The politics of each state governor can also determine the impact of coronavirus on their community, as evidenced by Florida’s Republican governor, a keen supporter of Trump who often heeds the advice of his wife or the President instead of health officials.  

The wearing of face masks has become a hotly-debated topic; as we have previously observed in France with its burqa ban and the ensuing controversy, face coverings are highly political symbols for many. They are often viewed as a sign of subservience to public health – a Trump official referred to masks as COVID burqas. Until now, face masks were a strong symbol of Asian identity and values, often seen as an inherently communitarian instrument and a hallmark of courtesy and good manners.

Those opposed to mask-wearing do so based on libertarian individualism and its associated personal freedoms. Much of thdebate surrounding face coverings centres around thcolour of the face beneath it; many African Americans harbour concerns about racial profiling, and people of Asian origin/descent have been targeted for harassment and abuse. This has not been helped by Trump’s constant scapegoating of China, repeatedly referring to the Chinese virus. 

The global pandemic has showcased the best and worst of politics and humanity, with responses varying from coordinated, compassionate and communitarian approaches; to individualistic, free-market obsessed and ineffective. There will be many lessons to learn, irrespective of the global outcome. What is clear, however, is that polarising political ideologies and social policies have had a detrimental effect on what could have been a sharp, fair and effective solution to a global problem 

 

 

Featured photo by Martin Sanchez