I HAVE difficulty getting past the idea that the most viable answer to life’s troubles is the deployment of common sense solutions. Yet the use of the phrase “absence of common sense” has been worn-out to a point where it becomes a catch-all expression to deride acts that are unpopular or lacking in expected or desired outcome.
Yet Socrates’ defense to save himself from banishment which is to say that “the unexamined life is not worth living” might have actually sealed his fate since he chose to die for his beliefs over the ignominy of exile. Apparently, his unorthodox methods at teaching were seen as inappropriate and corrupting the youth, and thus deserved the punishment of banishment. The judgment on Socrates, however, was based on conventional thinking. Athens’ widely accepted religious standards, as well as ethical conduct, were the lenses used to evaluate the charges against Socrates. On these bases, he was condemned for blasphemy and corruption of minds forcing him to take his own life by ingesting poison.
In other words, widely accepted standards in society bring about common-sense notions. Society celebrates the person with common sense attributes. In the Philippines, the colloquial term “sintido kumon” is heard practically the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, the one without is also quite often pilloried. A person gets a dressing down for a perceived error in judgment – i.e., burn a toast, you have no common-sense; or get a girl knocked-up, you have no common sense. What this means is that we grow up believing in the linearity of life so much that the consequences of actions are almost pre-ordained. The presence or absence of common-sense is credited for a desirable or undesirable outcome of actions.
If only it were that simple. The reality is those common-sense notions are often unwieldy. They arise out of a shared understanding of a particular phenomenon. The problem with shared understanding is that it only remains within the realm of perception but not grounded in fact or evidence. Facts and evidence are sought for and probed into in a process called research or investigation, and the conclusions drawn from this may not likely agree with shared perceptions or indeed common sense.
Take Sadanga for instance. They have denounced as ineffective the idea of implementing what they say is “a lot of Qs” in community quarantine levels which are “enhanced,” “general,” and “modified general.” Their critique of these edicts is that “the spread of this virus cannot really be stopped but can only be slowed down.” By deploying their common-sense notion of what quarantine is about, they missed the point of this public health strategy but did so within the sphere of their own narrative.
COVID-19 has already declared a pandemic when a quarantine of communities was ordered. A “pandemic” presupposes that the virus was not contained (or “stopped”) where it originated and instead, had spread globally. “Quarantining” is thus implemented precisely so that the viral spread could be “slowed down” enough in order not to overwhelm the health system. If the latter happens and the health infrastructure collapses, then we would really be confronting a global catastrophe. So, yes Sadanga, quarantine is not designed to stop the spread of the virus but to actually slow it down for the aforestated reasons.
Although they alluded to “herd immunity” as “a hope in beating this pandemic,” an open letter by a doctor, responding to the Sadanga community advisory, provided a sound argument against the ethics of a deliberate community spread for herd immunity versus community-based immunity achieved through vaccination. I will just add a few thoughts by saying that the Trump administration actually toyed around with the idea of herd immunity saying (through a former medical adviser) that members of the population with the stronger immune response should be allowed to get infected in order to achieve herd immunity.
By saying this, Trump had insinuated his tendency to set aside the welfare of the vulnerable members of the population even as he denies the true lethality of the virus. In doing so, fatalities have soared to hundreds of thousands in the United States breaching the half-million mark only recently (for perspective, the population of Baguio City is less than this). On a brighter note, they now see a sharp decline in hospitalizations and deaths, but this is largely attributed to a massive vaccination drive undertaken by the new administration.
Yes, Sadanga, there are segments of the population that are vulnerable. In Baguio, I am still haunted by the information that came out before Christmas of an elderly couple who died within days of one another of Covid-19 complications. News like that does not come out of a common cold. Juxtapose this with the drawn-out plight of the ordinary wage-earner who could not earn a living because of the prolonged lockdowns and you come up with public health versus economy false choice.
The common argument is that the wage-earner would rather risk exposure than die of hunger. But this what-about-ism only exposes a glaring fault in the ability of the state through the government to provide succor for the populace. First, we cannot even talk of economic stimulus if the rollout of a relief package during the early days of the pandemic is tepid to begin with. If an effective relief system is in place to this day, the people will not likely flout the quarantine rules. Second, where are the vaccines? When? How?
It is really deflating to realize how vulnerable we are when a place like Sadanga starts to mainstream the use of calamansi and suob (steam inhalation) as remedy for the coronavirus disease. While these measures are commonly acknowledged to ease the symptoms of the common cold, SARS-Cov 2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is not the common cold even if the virus that causes the common cold is also a coronavirus.
These are a lot to take in and it takes more than common sense to unpack. Thus, we take exception from a fan of the Sadanga mayor who said “sanaol na Mayor may ganito, common sense.” We need leaders with better understanding of the situation; otherwise, common sense is just “suob”: water vapor that merely relieves the symptoms but will not offer a cure.