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Jenin Younes

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Corona’s Culture of Coercive Compliance

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Our public culture has changed dramatically since the pandemic lockdowns began in March. Unprecedented interventions in individuals’ lives and curtailments of their liberties have become the “new normal,” and will remain so for the indefinite future. 

The rationales have been shifting week to week. At first, we were ordered to stay home, to shelter in place, to flatten the curve and ensure that hospitals were not overwhelmed. But after six months of this, a simple slogan has taken root: We must sacrifice to stop the spread, to save lives. 

There is no other way, our politicians, our media, and our fellow citizens admonish. If you are a good person, you will submit, for as long as it takes. Deviate from the rules, and you are a bad, selfish person, who does not care if others die. 

We have been introduced to the corona gods and they are ferocious, and make many demands. They require children to forgo school, or to attend school by staring into a screen. That is, for those whose parents or school districts can afford the screens. They can play together only if masked, faceless and muffled, six feet apart. Their cognitive development is likely to be hampered by their inability to read facial expressions, perhaps for a lifetime, but that is an unavoidable price we must pay, or so we are told.
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