Ignorance and COVID-19

After Governor Cuomo’s announcement recently where he said that CUNY and SUNY schools would be engaging in “distant learning,” for the rest of the spring semester, I have only felt more and more dazed. My immediate thoughts once seeing his announcement were: what is going on? I am from Long Island; how am I expected to move out in the next few days? This makes no sense! Huh?!

I am sure each of us can identify with this level of frustration and confusion. Just days ago, we were all about to sit in our English classroom in Bailey Hall, chilling, even in spite of the infestation of asbestos on campus. I am sure we are each still trying to adjust to a new method of learning, in not just one but for all of our classes. 

The coronavirus, originating from bats in China, has undoubtedly brought rage, frustration, anger, sickness and overall chaos to our world. I have sat in my house for days now, waiting until I feel it is safe enough to re-emerge into society without the fear of exposing my family to this virus. 

Among other things, the coronavirus has indefinitely revealed people’s ignorance. I witness this in my extended family and on social media. My grandfather’s brothers, all of whom are in the late 70s if not early 80s, refuse to stay home. They deny how serious this virus is, even while their own relatives in my family are currently fighting it off and keep telling them to be safe. They deny this even while putting my other family members in an unsafe position since they are being exposed to a virus. Of course, too, this virus is especially dangerous for older people who are more susceptible to its contraction. My mom’s cousins write in our family chats, desperately asking what they should do to force their parents to stay home. This in itself is an example of ignorance.

Ignorance is also evident across social media platforms. On Snapchat, I see pictures of people with the captions “social distancing” or “6 feet away” or something that is meant for them to poke jokes at the virus. I know sometimes humor is what helps mediate a chaotic world, but considering some people have died or are in hospitals because of this virus, it just appears more obnoxious and bitter. 

Ignorance is a concept addressed in James Gleick’s popular science book The Information. In the paragraph that addresses this idea, Gleick says, “Ignorance is subjective. It is a quality of the observer” (326). 

Subjective means that someone’s views are influenced by their personal feelings or thoughts. In the case of this virus, my relatives and social media acquaintances believe that this virus is a joke and that they are invincible. I know people who have been affected by COVID-19 and who are miserable right now, waiting to be healthy as quickly as possible. People who continue to assemble or who think they are untouchable are bringing society down with them. 

Our course follows the concept of communication, within, between, and among the humanities. Humanities is a study that is mainly associated with society and culture. So, in this case, ignorance roots from the humanities in the case that people who continue to avoid doing what is morally right are influenced by those who are ignorant in society. In other words, society is what encourages others to misbehave, even while evidence and sick people are telling people to behave. 

Social media is connected to the humanities since people who promote being with friends and who are not actually “socially distancing” themselves are then encouraging other people to do the same and misbehave. This issue in turn is what adds to the exposure of the virus and adds to the amount of time that this virus will stick around. 

As for WhatsApp, my relatives are influenced by their more traditional culture that sickness cannot stop them. Decades ago during their upbringing, my older relatives experienced life and life’s circumstances differently since they were constantly working diligently, in spite of the disease or sickness in the world. There was no “off day” for them; every day was a workday. Even though every direction of life is telling them to stop working, the idea that they need to work and be a fighter is what drives them and is what makes them more ignorant toward the consequences (G-d forbid there are any). 

If only, somehow, each of us could educate others and help them to understand and sympathize with how horrific this virus is so that its name stops reappearing on all communicative platforms.

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