Coronavirus Opinion

COVID-19 is showing rugged individualism to be dangerous

Juana Garcia/ The Cougar

Juana Garcia/ The Cougar

America is known for its value of individualism. We portray the idea that in America, you can do whatever you want because of freedom. Individualism may be valued among Americans, but it is causing a lot of problems during this pandemic.

The lack of government assistance and people refusing to wear masks and social distance is due to America’s extreme individualism, which is causing the pandemic to last longer.

When individualism gets in the way of helping people, then it’s just selfish and shouldn’t be tolerated. 

President Herbert Hoover coined the term “rugged individualism” to describe America as being a place where people could be self reliant and free from controlling governments.

Individualism as a concept isn’t necessarily bad. An ideology that supports the individual can be good, but not if it is hurting other people, which is what is happening right now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A big part of rugged individualism is the idea of self sufficiency, meaning a person wouldn’t rely on anyone but themselves. Not only is this unrealistic, as everyone has been helped at some point in their lives, but it is harmful. 

During this pandemic, the U.S. government has delayed aid to the Navajo Nation and bailed out corporations, while people received a check that could only cover expenses for a month or so.

The federal government has been slow and reluctant to give aid to the people, coinciding with the individualistic idea that people have to be self reliant or have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. 

The lack of government aid meant many businesses had to open again so that people could work.

Unsurprisingly, hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 have increased since then, skyrocketing in June. This idea that people don’t need government aid has led to the spread of the virus and therefore more deaths. 

Rugged individualism is also causing people to put each other in danger.

Everyone has seen the videos circulating the internet of people refusing to wear masks in grocery stores. They claim that the government is tyrannical by making them wear a mask.

They imply that they should be able to do whatever they want, even if it puts others in danger, which is exactly what they are doing.

If you wear a mask, you protect the other person from yourself, so it has to go both ways. 

Individualism is breeding selfishness and that isn’t OK. Mask orders are for our protection and saying they are hurting our freedom is like saying traffic lights hurt freedom.

Americans need to start growing a sense of collectivism so that we can take care of each other, especially if the government won’t. 

We saw the same individualistic entitlement from the protesters back in April yelling for businesses to reopen so they could get their hair cut. Again, once more businesses started to open, the cases went up again.

A focus on individualism in our country can also make it harder to recognize systemic problems as well. When talking about racist police brutality, many will claim it’s just a few bad individuals, ignoring that racist police brutality is built into the system itself.

American individualism is problematic beyond just the pandemic. 

Individualism can be great for when people want to stand out and go against the grain. The punk ideology contains some individualism with their focus on non-conformity. However, rugged individualism is keeping Americans from helping one another and preventing death.

We need to take the steps needed to stop COVID-19 from spreading, and those steps may consist of putting the needs of the many over the desires of the few. When individualism puts everyone else in danger it becomes selfishness and that’s not OK. 

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected] 

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