virtuous behavior and Corona


Critical situations like the one we all live in at the moment push people to their limits; mentally and physically. When life is upside down and nothing works like it did before, typically, change happens. This time, changes are cutting our social relationships, our work-lives, our habits and hobbies. Collectively going through a hard time like this, questions about interaction as such arise: How does my distancing make my friends feel?  Should I risk infection for helping another? Can I share what I think or should I rather stay silent? Rebelling or acting within the law? Which values should lead my behavior these days?

Utopian thinking as conductance

What can be expected from the individual? And what not? What is the importance of morality in times of Corona? These are puzzling questions and the answers can't be generalized. I think the question to ask in this context is not what we actually can expect, realistically, but what we should be able to expect. This is because what we can take for granted from everyone is really not that much. It highly depends on the type of media and news one consumes, on the type of social-person one is, on the fact if one rather lives a life lead by fear or by love and on how deeply one is concerned by what is going on. I say this because I acknowledge the bubble most of the people I know, including me, live in.

Then, what people do is dropping statements about how problems of society can be solved, how people should behave and how easy it would be if everyone just acted so and so. But this is just not how it works. We tend to ignore the fact that the majority of people living in our country (or even in the world) has a completely different life, mindset and qualifications - mentally, monetary and situationally - than we ourselves do. The fact that I can't grasp the situation of every individual is the reason for that speaking of a kind of utopian situation might make more sense here. Confusing situations in which nobody really knows how to act and what will happen next, require guidance of action. And this inevitably causes some people to act in ways which they might not have been thinking about before. It might be ways they don't agree with but still - they should follow. 

The current pandemic puts us in a situation few of us have been in before: everyone shares the same reality in a more profound extent that just living on planet earth, in the same city or being in the same age. We share an all-pervasive critical situation with strangers. What does this do to us? In my view, one of the task everyone faces today, is to understand the situation, understanding what it might require of us and seeing what it makes possible. In short: Acting responsibly - towards oneself and others. 

Exit responsibility

The standard of action these days shifts from political attitude to virtuous behavior. We have to start to make moral behavior obligatory in order to move as many as possible to act responsibly. In this case we have to rate virtue the highest to gain the currently restricted leading value of ours - individual freedom - back in our lives. 

Acting responsible includes asking yourself: What behavior is responsible regarding my own well-being and others'? and just let your actions be led by the answer. Try to be rationally, as objectively as possible and not too emotional when it comes to making decisions which affect your fellows. This includes finding the balance between the two extremes of falling for panic, hoarding and reading the latest Corona-News every 10 minutes and secretly escaping in Berlin's underground Corona-Party-Scene, not giving a fuck at all. As both tendencies are led by fear, reaching from fear of death to fear of losing one's freedom and asking why one can't be by oneself, we have to show understanding for both sides but manage to distance from both of them and act reflected and responsible instead. 

Part of acting responsible towards oneself and others is not fully relying on authorities and political decision makers, but keep on thinking reflective. This does not mean rebelling against general rules which you find pointless and exaggerated is a good idea. Not going along with governmental instructions harms those around you. Meeting and partying with others, risking infection cause you're young and don't care, going grocery shopping afterwards and infecting a grandma, who dies, and being responsible for her death and grieving grandson is not what responsibility for your own wellbeing means. Instead it means finding a way of action which makes it possible for oneself to move physically and mentally healthy through this critical time without restricting others in their wellbeing and freedom. It is important to grasp that one has to take responsibility for one's own life and what one does; effecting the own life as well as the lives of others, e.g. by acting as a role-model. 

Acting responsible in this situation requires adapting oneself or the worst case scenario; reflected and calm. This is all we can do since the rest is not on us. In the end this is all what we are responsible for: handling the challenges life throws at us in the best possible ways. This is a lot; and it is enough.

Precursor: Hope and vision

People's collective forces were barely ever that demanded as they are at the moment. Actively engaging in keeping in mind what is required, important and what should be changed and avoided is of utmost importance, since there is no all-wise who pulls the strings and knows how this all will end. We all share the state of the unknown. 

But of course, our reality does not allow us to just stand still. Things have to go one, businesses have to work out strategies how to survive this time by inventing new business-models and teaming up, schools and universities switch to online-courses and ask for students' help and news-papers ask for inspiring and critical letters from readers. Societal habits are being re-designed, lunch-dates, game nights and grandma-visits are held via zoom. People start to use this emergency situation as an impulse for change, for improvement and for critically scrutinize structures - in their personal lives as well as in the way society works. As nobody knows anything about how the future will look like, we have to engage in founding different courses of conduct, working on them, getting familiar with and developing them in order to act forward-looking and play one's part in creating a new, livable future. And therefore, we have to provide hope and inspiration for collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation. Even if rooted in fear, grief and rage, this energy is pointed towards vision and dreams.

I believe that if state governments are able to act in yet unimaginable ways, we as citizens and individuals can do so, too.  Contributing a big part by just reflecting our values and behaviors and do more than just following instructions unquestioned, is a fruitful approach to get out of this crisis wiser and more connected than before; maybe even with our values revised. Being aware of this potential, it would be desirable to be able to expect people taking advantage of some of humankind's in-built traits like solidarity and altruism which can act as a precursor for new redirecting social and societal structures. Altogether, we have to chose love and positivity over fear and selfishness in order to provide a basis for a practical positive outcome. 


Julia Held

I am a philosophy masterstudent, a writer and host of the podcast of "Transformatorenwerk Leipzig". I am interested in philosophy as practice - for creating one's life, for personal and emotional development and for a balanced and exciting life. My vision is to strengthen the person as a responsible subject which thinks and acts by itself while answering to the world it encounters.