As New York’s death toll rises due to COVID-19, emergency personnel looks exhausted.
From EMS to physicians to nurses to housekeeping staff and to morgue staff, there is exhaustion etched in every face intermixed with grief and bewilderment. There’s a strong sense of urgency yet a helplessness about not having enough resources to accomplish much. There is an ache in every heart, silenced by its owner. We have work to do. We will grieve later. We have work to do.
Through the tragedy Florida and its blue beaches come into focus. Sand, water, sun and miles and miles of…………people. This image is in such stark contrast with what’s happening in New York and in some parts of Florida even that people can’t fathom the recklessness and abandon. Some say it’s youth and it’s always fearless. Some say it’s ignorance and it’s always foolish. Regardless, Florida has started to see a little of what New York has been dealing with but seems to have taken a different route to dealing with it.
But that’s not the point of this post. Why Florida still has church congregations allowed is not the subject of this post. Why spring breakers are still drinking from the same cup isn’t the subject either. I’ll take a minute for something else.
I want to understand the reasons behind the incongruence of human behavior when a tragedy hits.
This isn’t new. In times of war some people return to religion and spend weeks in prostration. Hours of kneeling at the altar or at mosques give rise to callouses on their bodies. Their eyes, so used to crying while submitting their will to God, are red and their vision is blurred.
Then there’s a subset of the population that parties and has farewell sex with its lovers. Some practice unsafe sex and don’t care if they contract an illness or cause a pregnancy. It’s a different type of urgency than the man kneeling before God is exhibiting. It’s a different type of bargain. It’s essentially all the same.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they can have a usual evolution of grief and acceptance. They can eventually reach where they had hoped to. Once they’re there, some might feel philanthropic and make a large donation to a charity and feel like they spent their money well.
Some might blow their money in a casino and that could be their version of money well-spent.
The incongruence of human behavior when faced with the same problem is an interesting psychological phenomenon and probably has more to do with how instinctively rational we are.
Being rational is a quality that demands a combination of different qualities like empathy, intelligence, the power to analyze and the smarts to synthesize available data to reach a conclusion that would help us problem solve.
This is my opinion and yours can be different.
I believe that Florida is currently practicing two famous defense mechanisms.
1. Intellectualization: “This is happening to New Yorkers because they live in a crowded city and travel by train” Or “This is happening to New Yorkers because they’re poor and don’t have the type of healthcare that we have in Florida”. Or “New Yorkers didn’t prepare for this enough”.
2. Rationalization: “How does my spending time on the beach with fifty of my close friends spreading the virus? We spent time together last week too. We are practically family. We will find out if we have it. We would’ve already given it to each other”. Or “The virus doesn’t get young people. Only old people get it. So older folks should stay indoors. I’m not old. I’m only 25”.
See how employing a defense mechanism immediately clouds judgment?
I’m just afraid that by the time Florida gets out of its defense mechanisms, we’d be looking at a surge and a peak pretty much like New York’s. I’m afraid that Florida won’t have enough resources either. I’m afraid that the misconception of “I’m in a hot and humid state” isn’t going to come to Florida’s rescue.