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Opinion: Treat your neighbour well

Because of our common humanity, the most poignant threat to the world community is an “us vs them” mentality.

My siblings, a professor of medical sciences and a veterinarian, often get a chuckle from my lack of scientific knowledge. I always found the social sciences much more interesting, and I have thus chosen to focus on understanding human behaviour with the goal of building a kinder, more cooperative and functional world community.

One obvious truth is that we share a common humanity. Period. Yes, there are bad people and there are people with high conflict personalities, but they are always a minority and are present in every group, regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender. If anything, certain professions tend to attract people with these personalities. The key is to be mindful of dysfunctional and manipulative behaviours. We need to recognize the patterns of speech and action of these individuals and avoid putting them into positions of trust.

Because of our common humanity, the most poignant threat to the world community is an “us vs them” mentality. Fear is an extremely powerful emotion, and manipulators are very aware of this. If we fear “the other,” we become very easy to control. Colonizers used this method throughout history, as did factory owners who tried to crush unions by playing groups of labourers against one another, often using ethnicity to do so.

COVID-19 has proven to be another major threat to our humanity, both from a medical and social perspective.

As one who has studied human conflict throughout history, I am very concerned about the division which currently exists. People who choose to get vaccinated are characterized as mindless sheep, and those who choose to go unvaccinated are seen as ignorant morons. Neither view is accurate, but someone is espousing these myths and telling us to hate one another.

Social media certainly has a part to play. Their algorithms are designed to fuel confirmation biases. They also play on our psychology and favour posts which generate negative emotions. Their focus is in creating profit, not promoting truth. When I go online, I often find myself asking, “Who is paying for all of this? How is it benefiting them to create this kind of societal chaos?”

These questions are easier to answer in the mainstream media. We can observe the sited commercial sponsorships to get an idea of who is paying for programming. Many advertisements are from pharmaceutical companies who are experiencing record profits. Given the sordid history of the drug industry, skepticism in the populace is quite understandable. 

How does an ordinary person know who to believe? No one is always right and even a broken clock is right twice a day. Information may be contradictory, but universal truths remain constant.

People are free to remain unvaccinated, but with that freedom comes the responsibility to follow other health advisories because the consequence of being wrong could well be the death of other human beings. No one wants to carry that responsibility.

Some of my unvaccinated friends have shared with me information that, to them, proves that we should not get vaccinated. I cannot comment on the validity of the medical arguments made in these documents, but as a social observer, I am very suspicious of the anger and sarcasm that is generated in many of these texts. 

As far as civil liberties are concerned, we are free to refuse to follow laws we consider unjust. In doing so, we consciously choose to accept the legal consequences of our actions, thus making an impactful political statement. Unwillingness to tolerate even practical inconveniences resulting from the choice not to follow health mandates, however, simply demonstrates a lack of moral credibility.

As much as they are demonized in the mainstream media, many of those who choose not to get vaccinated are educated people who comprehend the importance of critical thinking.

What is most important to remember is that we are all neighbours who walk this world together and are responsible for one another. We cannot allow anyone to manipulate us into doubting this essential truth.

Gerry Chidiac is a Prince George teacher.