How Do We Decide for Each Other?

We’re in a new—and uncomfortable phase—of the COVID-19 crisis. We’re balancing these different decisions:

  • Our individual decisions to limit our exposure to others. (A personal decision.)
  • Our society’s need for us to return to work. (Our governor’s decision.)
  • Assuming our work is open, our individual decisions to return to work. (A personal decision.)

We’re making decisions for each other.

We’re having trouble. And, that trouble reflects our culture.

Do you know about Hofstede’s six dimensions of national culture? If you’re able, go to that link and take a look at the first two dimensions.

In the US, we score very high on individualism vs collectivism. As a society, we value uniqueness, autonomy, and independence. And, self-sufficiency. Keep that self-sufficiency in mind for later.

We don’t mind acting for the common good. However, only as long as we don’t use the common good to interfere with our self-sufficiency.

Collective cultures act for the common good. People tend to value putting the needs of the greater society over their own needs; they tend to emphasize collaboration; using common goals over individual pursuits.

Neither culture is right or wrong.

If you page down a little, take a look at the Power Distance maps. Power Distance is about how we feel about the relative measure of inequality that exists and we accept—regardless of the power we have.

I’m not that good at accepting other people’s hierarchical power. (Goes back to the independence part of individualism.) However, some people in the US do respect people based on their titles.

This makes our decision about how and when to reopen quite difficult. We’re not deciding for ourselves. We’re deciding for everyone else, too.

How Do We Decide?

If you’ve listened to some of the politicians, they say “data” and “follow the federal guidelines.” That’s what Gov Baker says at every press conference.

And, I suspect that some governors—and maybe local politicians—feel much more pressure to open, to loosen the restrictions.

Our culture pushes back against collective decisions. And, the delays between catching the virus and showing symptoms can be quite long—as long as 14 days. That creates a system problem.

Many of us are pretty good at seeing causes and effects when we don’t have delays. We can see the link between the cause and the effect.

With delays as with this virus, we need to practice learning how to see the real causes and effects.

As a society, we need to manage our individualism, our power distance ideas, and seeing the cause and effects of staying home or going out. We can answer these questions for ourselves, as self-sufficient people.

And, that’s not enough. We need to honor the problems of people squarely in the virus’ bullseye because of age or existing conditions.

I wish I could take care of myself and let other people do what they want. (That autonomy and self-sufficiency thing.) That’s not enough for us all to succeed.

As a society, we need to honor each others’ needs and stances. I don’t know how to decide for us all—except to use data and the government guidelines. And, hope that we have the right data and the right guidelines.

That’s the question this week: How do we decide for each other?

2 thoughts on “How Do We Decide for Each Other?

  1. Yury Makedonov

    I am not sure that framing of “reopening” discussion in these terms is that important.
    My biggest per peeve is that many progressives are not even willing to have a rational discussion of all pros and cons.
    Nothing is free in our world. Current situation is detrimental to standard of life of many people and it is killing quite a few of them in addition to Covid-19 deaths.

    1. Johanna Post author

      I’m willing to admit I don’t have the “right” frame. I agree that nothing is free. This isn’t a progressive vs conservative discussion. To be blunt, from my perspective, I see it as “what is the price of a human life?” And, who gets to decide that?

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