American culture is by far the No. 1 reason we got infected so badly

I’ve been pondering something pretty disheartening of late: There is no reason to believe that the next pandemic will be handled any better.

Sure, the government may stockpile a lot more masks or PPE, etc. in advance in preparation next time. But there still remains this pervasive culture of personal freedom that says I do not care if I get sick, nor do I care if I infect others. Or…“It can’t happen to me.” Or…“fake news!” I refuse to wear a mask, because…I want to be proudly defiant or something. And it is IMHO by far the top reason why we have been walloped so hard as a nation by Covid.

And it’s the reason the next pandemic will be just as deadly. The attitude will be there next time again.

Yes, Trump botched his handling terribly, as he has botched many other things. Yes, the Seattle government screwed up by not testing and contact tracing early on. But the vast majority of the fault lies with common American people.

Mmm. I might not quite go that far.

One of the maxims I have on my office Wall is more likely.

“Humans are very bad at assessing risk.”

That is, left to themselves, people rarely properly estimate the odds of things occurring.

Combine that with an established - as you say - culture of disbelief in government and experts brought about through 40 years of ineffective government and a leadership style predicated on gut rather than data and here we are.

I blame the decline in dress codes and, speciically, necktie-wearing (at least among men; there’s probably an analog for women).

No, of course I’m not completely serious. But I’ve been struck by how some of the hostility toward mask-wearing reminds me of the hostility I’ve seen (various places, including here on the SDMB) toward tie-wearing. Somewhere along the way, we turned into a society where more and more people resent being told what to wear.

I’d say another problem is increasing polarization. The wearing of masks has become (instead of a medical topic) yet another “Us versus them” moment, where Trumpers must symbolize their support for Leader by refusing to wear a mask.

Also, I think it goes beyond 40 years of ineffective government… More like an alternation between one party that wants government to work effectively, and another party that is deliberately throwing a wrench in the works when not in power, and actively destroying government when in power.

No, we’ve turned into a society where more and more people resent being told to care about others who are not their own friends and family. Also, a society where increasing numbers of people do not trust anyone in government, and do not believe in science.

Reagan was the guy who started it and sold it.

Also, what you are thinking of is pantyhose.

Sure there is - somebody else could be president, and that person may view the government as an entity that should actually do things.

The feds COULD have leveraged the government’s purchasing power for equipment and other items, but did not. The president COULD have set an example of taking the virus seriously, accepting the science, and encouraging people to act intelligently, but did not. And although this president doesn’t seem to have any particular ideas or ideologies of his own, he seems to sort of go along with ideas that pea-brains like Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan and Grover Norquist have been spouting for years. Hence, the government did practically nothing.

Didn’t have to be that way. I see good reason to hope that when adults are in power again things might be different.

I don’t think it’s the vast majority. Had Obama been president, I think we would have done somewhat better. Just look at the countries that have done well and those that haven’t. The places that have done particularly well like South Korea, New Zealand, and Iceland, are governed by their versions of the Democratic party. The places that have done worse, like Brazil and the UK, are governed by their version of Republicans.

Unfortunately, whatever benefit there may be in the government stockpiling or producing PPE is mitigated by Americans who refuse to wear a mask or distance (or practice whatever measures are needed for the next pandemic.) There still remains a huge contingent of Americans who not only refuse to wear masks or protect others, but in fact take **pride **in such behavior.

I was wondering over in the Quarantine Zone if there was any “American exceptionalism” to our situation. A lot of folks here and abroad seem to think so, but I’m not so sure. I’m looking forward to further thoughts on this.

Every country has humans; only the USA among developing nations has an actual commonplace phenomenon of people without masks harassing and screaming at people with masks that the mask wearers are unpatriotic.

But, again, same problem with the above; every country has humans. I totally agree people have never, in the since-the-Renaissance history of Western civilization, dressed as badly as they do now (and I’m talking about adults, not what kids are wearing.) But that is not just an American thing. It’s true in Canada, in Australia, in the UK, in France, even to some extent in Italy and they’re the best dressed people in the world. In none of those countries is “man starts absolutely losing his shit on some poor lady wearing a mask at the supermarket” a common story.

Maybe I should edit the thread title: Any future U.S. government is likely to handle a future pandemic better than Trump handled this one, but I think the American self-sabotaging “I refuse to take precautions, don’t tread on my freedoms” attitude will be just as prevalent then than now. We’ll still have that 30% that refuses to go along with The Plan, in the name of…individuality or proud non-conformity or something.

We still have people screaming “Constitutional rights” when the virus could not care less about the Constitution.

This is definitely true, but I also lay some of the blame on our form of government that encourages an uncoordinated, patchwork response to something that needs coordinated action.

I lay a lot of the blame on information bubbles in which really shitty ideas are allowed to percolate.

Going back to my WTF is going on at the NY Times pit thread, this is what I was referring to: the amplification of really bad ideas - ideas that aren’t just socially unacceptable but the normalization of ideas that actually end up getting people killed, be it through violence or just social gross negligence.

Americans are conditioned to believe that speech is just speech and that the way to combat harmful speech is to challenge it with facts and that good ideas will win out in the idea marketplace. That doesn’t always happen, and even if ideas that have social utility ‘win,’ a lot of harm might occur before that’s evident.

I acknowledge that regulating and umpiring socially harmful speech is a sticky wicket, but that’s not an argument for doing nothing. We need to be more comfortable being able to say “No, you’re not going to spread misinformation and hide behind the principle of free speech.”

The First Amendment won’t allow government to regulate free speech and I’m certainly not advocating that we fundamentally change the Constitution in that regard, but we should pressure institutions (i.e. the free press and social media platforms) to behave more responsibly.

California is not exactly a state full of conformists, but mask wearing is very well accepted where I live, as is social distancing.
If Trump and Fox News called wearing a mask patriotic, I bet acceptance would be a lot greater. Instead he refuses to wear one in public, and now has this rally.
It is important for leaders to model the proper behavior. When they model the wrong behavior, problems follow.

Yes there is far too much regional variation in US infection and death rates to allow for some easy explanation about “American culture”: NY has a death rate of 1595 per million, in California it’s 132. There is still a lot we don’t understand about this disease but probably the quality of government response at the state and local level has a lot to do with it.

It’s also important to note that the US death rate is still a fair bit lower than several European countries including the UK, France, Spain and Italy though it is steadily catching up. There has been a lot of incompetence around the world with this disease and in the US the problem runs well beyond Trump, awful though he has been.

This. I also have that motto and have quoted it often in various debates around here. Humans ARE bad at assessing relative risk. Even really smart humans are horrible at this.

Additionally, I’d like to just briefly point out that this outbreak got so bad due to a country that is definitely not America, nor were the reasons American culture. Definitely in the US it was bad due to American attitudes, but I think this transcends culture, per se. Hell, it even transcends the US, since part of why we got hammered was because we had so many points of entry for the disease happening repeatedly and simultaneously, not just on each coast but all over, due to how connected the US is to the rest of the world, how many people visit the US, vacation in the US, how connected we are business wise to the rest of the world, etc.

In the end, I think the number one reason we got infected so badly was because this thing was allowed to spread globally while being covered up and deliberately downplayed, though I know that’s not a popular position around here. But the reason the US got hit so hard is because we got hit from so many different directions at once, while having a perfect storm of a government definitely not suited to this and a people who weren’t real good at assessing the risks and understanding them very well or reacting to them very well, or planning and implementing an across the board response very well. It’s amazing we did as well as we did, honestly…though, of course, we are seeing that this thing ain’t over by a long shot at this point.

Ironically, the country responsible for all of this is finding this out as well, despite not having much ‘American culture’…though that’s pretty cold comfort at this point.

I don’t think you can over value a pandemic task force at the ready, or the playbook US tax dollars paid for, under OBama, so, of course, needed to be destroyed.

If those alone, had been left in place a very different outcome may have been within easy grasp, I suspect.

But I agree, the ‘You can’t tell me what to do, I have rights!’ thing definitely interferes with compliance in a big way.

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In addition, many Americans don’t have the “a stitch in time saves nine” mentality. They can’t put up with inconvenience in the immediate short term, even if it means a much bigger payoff in the long run.

The real issue is that the Asshole In Chief made the wearing of masks a political statement and made how individuals respond to the pandemic a political issue. So anyone who self-identifies as Republican is going to view mask-wearing as some kind of socialistic, Democrat-driven infringement on our personal choice. So they don’t wear masks because of the political implications and how they feel it displays them to the outside world. “I can’t wear a mask- people might think I’m a Dimmy-crat”.

Which is cretinous and pants-on-head crazy, but there you go. That is EXACTLY what I’m hearing/seeing from right-wing morons of my acquaintance on social media and from the morons they show on TV. EVERY Democratic politician wears a mask, but the vast majority of Republicans do not.

I suspect had Trump come out immediately after the recommendations and said “Yes, Drs. Adams and Fauci are correct- we ALL need to be wearing masks to stop this disease”, we’d be seeing a LOT more compliance with mask wearing. But he didn’t, and he pitched a toddler-fit about it, and now it’s a individual political line in the sand for people.