Editorial: Madness and character

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There are two quotes that are particularly applicable to 2020 and all that has happened. The first is from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He died in 1900 and has had an amazing impact on late 20th and early 21st century thinking. At age 44, he suffered a complete loss of his mental faculties. That is probably appropriate since the quantity of his intellectual output was immense.

He wrote a book in 1886 titled Beyond Good and Evil and said this: “Madness is rare in individuals—but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.”

James Lane Allen was a 19th century American novelist who wrote, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” “Adversity” is usually misquoted as “crisis” as Allen was speaking of the life experiences of an individual character in one of his books, but the point remains.

We are living through a period when both “madness” and true character are being revealed every day.

It is horrible to think this and even worse to say it, but the nations that have had the largest problem with the pandemic are also those where the political opposition has been more strident before and during the outbreak. There is no “proof,” of course, but it seems that certain groups are cheering for the virus in hopes of damaging the “current administrations.”

Included in the list of “Covid losers” are Brazil, Chile, and Peru in South America. All are considered pandemic hot spots and all were racked with large political opposition and protests last year. “August 24, 2019—Brazilian protesters rail against Bolsonaro as Amazon fires rage on.” “October 30, 2019: Chile’s worst unrest in decades.” “October 1, 2019: Protests in Peru as country is thrown into political uncertainty.”

Others like the United Kingdom and the United States have not been much “united” for some time. When President Donald J. Trump restricted travel from China, this was how presidential candidate Joe Biden reacted. “One day after the travel restrictions were put into place, Biden said in Iowa, “We have, right now, a crisis with the coronavirus…. This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia—hysterical xenophobia—and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science.”

The UK’s Boris Johnson has been under constant attack for his government’s response to the pandemic, but this probably has as much to do with the Brexit issue as Covid. But there is little question that the political opposition used any Covid response policy failures to their benefit.

Of course, government health-care policies that were in place prior to the pandemic were a large factor in determining success or failure. Thailand had some 20,000 Chinese tourists from the Wuhan area in the country in January. And Thailand is a huge success story. But it is also without question that its health monitoring and provincial care system were huge factors. But that system worked because Thailand had 1 million volunteers to implement that policy. Note the word “Volunteers.”

There is the active concept of “Thainess.” Thai oligarchs are viewed very unfavorably. The wealth gap between Thailand’s richest and poorest remains the widest in the entire world by some measures. Yet there is a strong belief that what is good for one average citizen is good for all. Thais work for that idea. Adversity reveals a nation’s character.

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