Mind Matters — Altruism versus Fear

In my previous column, I wrote about calm versus fear, and how we need to, simplistically put, calm fear with facts.

However, the fear mongers continue their drum roll and that’s too bad because lies can seem so loud in comparison to truth spoken reasonably. Instead of listening to the scientists and healthcare professionals who are working either in the research of infectious diseases or the trenches of caring for the patients who have contracted them, our attention gets deflected to the prattling of media celebrities with fake news and politicians posing for photo ops.

Kudos to the nurse from Maine, Kaci Hickox, who spoke out for her rights based on science and knowledge against the punitive quarantine foisted on her by Governor Chris Christie. Do we need to worry about the Ebola crisis? Of course, we should be concerned. But our concern is misplaced. Our fear has trumped our altruism—our compassion.

The best way to contain Ebola and finally to eradicate it from West Africa, and thereby ultimately reduce the threat to “us” is to help “them.” In other words, we need to do everything we can to support the health worker willing to take the risk to care for those infected. However, instead of commending the compassionate professionals, we condemn them to unwarranted quarantines or, worse, criminalize them.

This is the antithesis of altruism—pure selfishness founded in fiction rather than fact.

The focus must change—so that we respond to the people who are dying and suffering, and who need financial and physical aid. The focus must change so that we become cheerleaders rather than act like a lynch mob to the selfless healthcare professionals willing to endure the hardships of their assignments to West Africa.

Ironic how we are the same people who can pooh-pooh vaccinations and forget to wash our hands. We are the same people who cut funding from scientific and medical research. We need to reinvent ourselves, don’t you think?