How Epidemics of the Past Changed the Way Americans Lived

The peak of this pandemic is likely weeks to months away for many of us in more rural states with less congested cities but already we see how ideas that seemed to be “unAmerican” like dispersing money to all adults to keep the economy afloat, extending health testing to all free of charge, and considering the utility of such “socialist” topics as universal health care, paid sick leave, and equal access to healthcare now seem to show their true merits.


Just as in previous pandemics/epidemics the culture will change. We are still largely controlled by numerous special interests and self-serving politicians, which may always be the case, but culture shifts are inevitable and we each need to re-evaluate our positions on the role of technology, particularly medical technology that can benefit everyone. In the case of a pandemic, science eventually provides us with ways to mitigate a virus but cannot do for us what we have to do for ourselves: decide what kind of culture we will be. Are we okay with healthcare rationed as a privilege and not an expectation that everyone should benefit from scientific discoveries? Or does this pandemic show us that it’s better to keep everyone as healthy as possible and the way we do that is to not have people show up at emergency rooms already acutely ill because they were afraid of being ruined financially?

Proactive measures are always better than reactive measures and far less costly. Even the military understands this and takes care to feed its people relatively nutritious food, provide access to healthcare, and ensure people have what they need to do their jobs. Why should Americans be expected to go to work sick, full of anxiety about how they will pay their bills, or lethargic from lack of sleep and be expected to outperform other countries who have already solved many of these problems? It seems ridiculous that we make choices that are counterproductive to better health for all or that we fail to follow through with pandemic preparedness planning. True, this doesn’t happen often and that makes people complacent and oblivious to what it means to be ill with a novel virus but our culture needs to shift in ways that move beyond tribalism and non-cooperation between disagreeing segments of society.

If we HSPs should be able to do one thing well, it’s the ability to hold many viewpoints in suspension without subscribing to any one. Openness is a key aspect of our trait and the purpose of openness is to induct divergent inflows of ideas, possibilities, and options. Our ability to communicate the value of our greater openness is a challenge factor and only a minority of our total HSP population (over a billion people worldwide) seem to be able to truly grasp how to communicate well enough to influence the culture. In that regard, perhaps it is up to each one of us to decide for ourselves what we support, considering our greater openness, and what we will work to change in our culture.

Culture is an arbitrary set of norms, values, and beliefs that has no basis in right or wrong. Right or wrong is solely based on people choosing to subscribe to the notion that one thing or another is, in fact, right or wrong. But we are all active participants in culture every day and the choices we are free to make either maintain the status quo or change it. Sometimes the change is very gradual and we don’t notice it all at once; at other times, change is rapid and on us with urgency, as now when we see how people are suffering due to the economic deck being stacked against them no matter how hard they work, in many cases.

As this pandemic eventually peaks and wanes, as they all do, we have to think ahead to 100 years from now when people are looking back at how the coronvirus pandemic of 2020 shifted the culture in the US and around the world.

How should culture change for you? What differences do you see down the road? What changes are now evident in your belief system, if any? What are your HSP-inspired insights?

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person


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