Guest Column: Dr. Prabhudeva, former vice chancellor, Bengaluru University
Privileges increasingly become the province of those in power or those who have proximity to power. Hypocrisy and Corruption Are Features of the law makers in India. They flout COVID protocol with remarkable recklessness. The glaring “rules for thee, but not for me” approach of our political class during the pandemic to date is yet more confirmation that inequality and selective enforcement are inherent to big government systems.
The boundaries of responsible behavior are less clear than they once were. The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is, of course, to protect and take good care of you and others in the society. Healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care. Jerks are people who culpably fail to appreciate the intellectual and emotional perspectives of others around them.
The classic COVID jerk still thrives. We all know this guy – walking recklessly unmasked through the mall, supermarket, in the crowds exhaling clouds of risk on one and all. They defy and flaunt their disdain for scientific consensus. They are right behind you breathing on your shoulder. Highly effective vaccines have been available for a long while, and as the Omicron wave subsides has made these jerks more conspicuous and loud.
Jerks fail to appreciate the civic behavior expected of them. Conversation aims at winning – that what they do is correct! They embarrass others. Listening with an open mind is for other people. Other people’s feelings, priorities, and values barely register in consciousness or register only as targets for ridicule.
Having been given the enormous power to declare some businesses “essential” and close others, outlaw some livelihoods and not others, and more, politicians drunk on pandemic power were inevitably going to abuse this wild authority. So, the many examples of COVID hypocrisy from our elected officials have grave ramifications far beyond the individual officeholders and their personal integrity. They deal a serious blow to the arguments of those who think benevolent big government will lift us up instead of grinding us down.
The opposite of the jerk is one with the sweet disposition. The jerks insult others almost by instinct. Having the wrong opinions about COVID safety is not what makes someone a COVID jerk. They stipulate hypothetically that the risks of COVID are overblown. They profess with all the power they don’t have, that COVID now poses little more risk than the ordinary flu. It’s the dismissive attitude toward others’ concerns that makes a COVID jerk.
Adhere to rule and custom. Be willing to compromise. Try respectful conversation. I should stress here that COVID-cautious people can also be COVID jerks by insisting too stridently on precautions that others find excessive rather than respectfully considering alternative points of view.