The Pandemic Reveals Our Already Degraded Humanity

We’re Losing Our Humanity, and the Pandemic Is to Blame
“What the hell is happening? I feel like we are living on another planet. I don’t recognize anyone anymore.”

Great article but I would change one thing about it. It’s title. The Pandemic isn’t to “blame” for us losing our humanity. We were already losing it well before it happened.

This concurs with so many other articles where people talk about issues within the workplace (ie lack of humanity & well-being for workers) and how they’ve existed for decades, yet only now they are being brought to the surface by the Pandemic.

So the pandemic isn’t the causes for these issues but rather it’s the catalyst that’s making us aware of them in a way that we can no longer ignore.

Many of the altercations have begun over masking because, unlike your vaccination status, a mask is right there on your face. Depending on your point of view, the mask can symbolize an erosion of personal freedoms or a willingness to protect others, a society that accepts tyranny or one that embraces science. A person’s reaction to a mask — or the absence of one — can be driven by an entire network of beliefs and emotions that have little to do with the face covering itself.

People’s pandemic views aren’t just preferences. They’ve evolved to fundamental beliefs. And when that happens, social psychologists say, people are more likely to accept incivility to achieve what they want.

“When people feel that their attitudes reflect strong moral convictions, that gives them permission to dehumanize those who oppose them,” said Linda Skitka, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who’s researching ideological divides. “And it doesn’t take a lot for the shift into perceptions of good and evil. So if the other side is basically evil, it’s not a far stretch to say it’s OK to yell at them.”

Because the mask has become so polarizing, the extreme reactions aren’t really about being asked to wear one for an hour. It’s about communicating what side you’re on.

“It really makes adaptive sense to treat out-group members not like people, because then it’s much easier to hurt them and to act against them,” he said. “One central piece of intergroup conflict is a switch in viewing your enemies from full-blown humans to dehumanized entities that you do not ascribe all the things that you typically ascribe to a person. That makes conflict so much easier.”

On a societal scale, one of the fastest ways for two deeply entrenched, opposing groups to start seeing each other as fellow humans again is to give them something bigger to fight against together. It’s an “Independence Day” sort of scenario, Chester, the Virginia Commonwealth University professor, said: If aliens invaded, countries who hate each other in normal times would suddenly work together against an external threat.

But the external threat with the potential to unite a deeply polarized country, he said, should have been the pandemic. And it didn’t happen.

“I think fundamentally, it’s because we have different perceptions of this pandemic,” he said. “It’s really hard now that it’s so entrenched, that masks are viewed as this group symbol. It’s really hard to get people out of that.”

To put this all in another way, people at different stages of (the midrange of) psychological development are effectively at “civil war” with each other, using their beliefs to determine who is an “enemy” or not, dehumanizing each other in the process.

And until we can all come around the table and see each other has human beings again, who all have the same psychological needs, not much will change. The greatest obstacle to this though is people denying our current reality and simply want to go back to the world the way it used to be.

That’s not going to happen though because the world has already changed and is continually changing. So to step forward, we need people who are courageous enough to step into a new unknown world…but one that helps regain our base psychological needs, rather than ignores them (as such of much of the workplace is doing today).

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for the roleplaying game called Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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