OPINION: American individualism hinders progress


Amelia Howell

Areas in the US with more mask-wearing and higher vaccination rates have proved to have less COVID-19 cases.

With 2021 coming to a close, it is vital to recognize the progress the U.S. has made while returning to normalcy, yet the countless families and individuals affected by the pandemic cannot be forgotten. During the pandemic, one characteristic was made abundantly clear about the country: its eminent individualism. As this attribute has proven to be a detriment, the nation cannot proceed to 2022 without abandoning its heavily individualistic attitudes, which have led to the loss of countless Americans.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, anti-vaccination groups and individuals who refused to wear masks exacerbated the effects of COVID-19 in their individual communities. According to the CDC, vaccinations are a pivotal asset in reducing the spread of COVID-19 due to their ability to protect demographics such as children aged five and younger, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Similarly, wearing face coverings benefits the people around the wearer more than the individual, Harvard Medical School reported. Both actions benefit communities more than the individuals who take those actions. Individual refusal to adhere to such guidelines is just selfish.

Some justified their refusal to wear masks or to receive vaccinations, claiming the mandates violated their personal liberties. This view, however, demonstrates the fundamental flaws in the way Americans define their personal liberties. According to political scientist Deborah Schildkraut of Tufts University, when faced with events such as a pandemic, individuals must give up an amount of their autonomy to achieve stability as a group. Americans, however, are more likely to prioritize their individual freedom, sabotaging the health of the group. This phenomenon has been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic, and its impact continues to be destructive.

As opposed to other countries, individualistic culture is far more prominent in the U.S. and has proven its harmful effects. According to Frontiers, there is a direct correlation between countries’ COVID-19 statistics and the presence of individualistic culture. Countries with a greater emphasis on collectivism through adherence to COVID-19 guidelines had a lesser mortality rate, whereas countries such as America, with deep-rooted individualistic notions, suffered a greater mortality rate.

The impacts of the pandemic have been dire and can be attributed to America’s individualistic attitude. As 2022 is approaching, it is crucial to reflect and learn from the mistakes made in 2020 and 2021 as the country readopts pre-pandemic practices. Americans must prioritize the well-being of their nation as a group, not just the individuals who compose it.