Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Yet today, we seem to be in a constant state of fear. There is undoubtedly much to be concerned about, including the novel coronavirus. However, I wonder if we have become irrationally fearful.
As a young mother, I was plagued by nagging worries about dangers to my children. I feared all sorts of possible accidents, injuries, illnesses, tragedies that could befall my sweet little boys. We all want to keep our babies in a protective bubble. But most children will burst out of that bubble eventually, either by choice or circumstance. Despite my neurotic need to protect my boys, I understood that children cannot and should not be shielded from the world for too long. They must be slowly exposed to danger to thrive on their own.
Covid-19 has forced everyone into their own little bubbles. According to the current public health guidelines, we should all do our part to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus by wearing masks and socially distancing from others. While this advice may seem obvious now, the experts’ directives have been anything but clear over the past nine months. Initially, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told us that the virus posed very little danger to the public, and he discouraged the use of masks. He either knew much less about the virus than he professed, or he was purposely deceiving the public to save the nation’s supply of personal protective equipment for the medical professionals. Yet, he is still hailed as the preeminent expert on the subject, whose advice we should never question.
In Dr. Fauci’s defense, we have learned much more about the virus over the last year. However, why didn’t he and other experts simply admit that they were virtually clueless about it in the beginning stages of the pandemic? Perhaps they believe that the public needs to feel that someone is “in control” to prevent mass panic. The experts and government officials should give the public more credit and stop treating us as children. We should be considering the data presented by experts in a variety of disciplines and weighing the conclusions drawn from that data, with the understanding that their opinions are often no more than highly-educated guesses. In other words, we must dispense with the notion that there is an all-knowing expert out there who has all the answers.
In my line of work, I review the opinions of medical experts every day. Even in cases where the science is relatively well-settled, dueling medical experts often reach diametrically opposed conclusions. How could “experts” in the same field hold contradictory opinions? They may have different perspectives due to their personal experiences and levels of expertise. In addition, most medical experts understand that if they do not regularly provide an opinion that benefits the party who retained them, litigants will not hire them in the future. Even outside of the world of litigation, the perception that there is only one valid expert opinion on any given subject, especially regarding a newly discovered phenomenon in which our scientific knowledge is rapidly evolving, is preposterous.
It helps us sleep more soundly at night if we believe that our safety is ensured by following a few simple steps. Just as a child is comforted at night by a parent being down the hall, many people are calmed by the notion that “the experts” will vanquish any threat to our safety and security. Of course, as a society, we should look to the specialists in any given field for guidance. However, all human beings are fallible – including experts. While advances in technology and science have lifted millions out of poverty and allowed us to live longer and healthier lives, we should not permit our country to be run by technocrats. The world is entirely too complicated for centralized master planning to ever be successfully implemented. Blindly putting our lives in the hands of one type of expert means that we will be ignoring the findings of experts in other fields. For example, a physician who specializes in elder care may advocate for the total lockdown of society until the entire population is vaccinated. On the other hand, pediatricians report that the vast majority of children have little or no symptoms from Covid-19, while the teen and pre-teen suicide rate is skyrocketing with the closure of schools and youth activities. Many economists warn that shutting down large segments of our economy is counterproductive and will lead to more misery. The U.N. estimates that 130 million more people will starve worldwide this year due to the economic devastation resulting from the lockdowns. So which experts should those creating public policy listen to, and who should we trust to make decisions about our individual lives?
It is time to put away childish thoughts. No one expert or leader will save us from any calamity, including Covid-19. We must all have a little faith, not in the experts, but something greater. Read, educate yourself, watch multiple news sources, and take responsibility for your own family’s overall safety and security. However, we must come to grips with the truth that some things are out of our control. That does not mean we should live in fear. Rather, we should live life to the fullest while taking reasonable precautions. In short, have a little faith.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”