Campaigning on Covid

by Marie Snyder

I’m running for an elected position: school board trustee. It’s a relatively minor position and non-partisan, so there’s no budget or staff. There’s also no speeches or debates, just lawn signs and fliers. Campaigning is like an expensive two-month long job interview that requires a daily walking and stairs regimen that goes on for hours. Recently, some well-meaning friends who are trying to help me win (by heeding the noise of the loudest voices) cautioned me to limit any writing or posting about Covid. It turns people off and will cost me votes. I agreed, but then had second thoughts the following day, and tweeted this:

I’ve been cautioned not to tweet so much about covid because it could cost me votes. But we’re sleepwalking through a crisis that could be averted if we can just open our eyes to it. Hospitalizations and deaths are way higher now than this time in the previous two years. 

Protecting kids by possibly saying that one thing that finally lights a fire under chairs to #BringBackMasks is far more important to me than winning a popular vote. Look at young people dropping dead from strokes! The pandemic didn’t end. We’re not easing out of it. We’re in the thick of it. But it appears that some people in power want you at work and going to restaurants and bars and travelling more than they care to prevent children getting sick and hospitals overflowing.

There are variants that bypass vaccines. A well-fitting N95 can stop all variants. And CR boxes filter all variants. If we #BringBackMasks then more of us stand a fighting chance at avoiding getting this repeatedly, accumulating risk factors for brain damage or strokes. Masks don’t stop us from living; Covid does. 

I closed my laptop to avoid reading the expected onslaught from haters, but, once I mustered the courage to look,  found incredible support instead. Hundreds of new people followed me, and my email was suddenly full of donations and requests for signs. That one tweet appeared to do more than weeks of walking door to door. Read more »

Why Is “Moral Grandstanding” Even Supposed to Be a Thing?

by Tim Sommers

Moral Grandstanding is using moral talk as way of drawing attention to oneself, seeking status, and/or trying to impress others with our moral qualities. Moral grandstanding is supposed, by some, to be a pervasive and dangerous phenomenon. According to psychologist Joshua Grubbs, for example, moral grandstanding exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis and is “part of the reason so many of us are so awful to each other so much of the time.”

Moral grandstanding is intimately related to virtue signaling, and both are, let’s face it, first and foremost internet problems – if they are problems at all. Since virtue signaling came first, it actually has a dictionary definition. The Cambridge Dictionary defines virtue signaling as “An attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media.”

What’s the difference, then, between virtue signaling and moral grandstanding? Maybe, there isn’t one, or, maybe, it’s this. According to philosophers Brandon Warmke and Justin Tosi, the principal investigators on a multi-year Koch Foundation funded research program leading to their 2020 book, “Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk,” grandstanding is about using “moral talk to dominate others”. So, virtue signaling is about fitting in, while moral grandstanding is about taking over. Read more »

The pandemic, work, and wages

by Emrys Westacott

Numerous reports have been compiled and articles written about the way that the covid pandemic has affected, or will affect, work: the way people do it, and their attitude towards it. But although certain general trends can be identified–e.g. the percentage of meetings held online rather than face-to-face has, naturally enough increased–people’s attitudes towards work and the workplace haven’t been affected in a uniform way.

Many of those who have been able to work more from home relish the advantages of doing so. They avoid time-consuming and often stressful commutes; they are able to integrate the business of ordinary living–going to the dentist, picking up a prescription, working when the kids are off school, etc.–with getting their work done. Hours can be more flexible, and the same goes for the dress code.

For others, though, working from home all the time has many drawbacks. Commuting may have a bad reputation, but for a surprising number of people it can be positively enjoyable. A Canadian study found that where the commute take less than 30 minutes more than 50% of respondents said that they enjoy their commute. And among people who cycle to work, almost a fifth said that the commute was the best part of their day.[1]

The flexibility and freedom that working from home allows is undeniably a plus. But for some, the stricter routine provided by a requirement to show up at the workplace by a certain time brings order to the day and to the use of one’s time.

Most of all, though, physical workplaces serve an important social function. Just as it is good for our physical and mental health to to get outside every day and to be in regular touch with the natural world, so it is beneficial for most of us to meet and interact with other people regularly. The relationships in question may not be the most important ones in our lives: those with our fellow workers often are not. The conversations we have don’t have to be especially intimate or stimulating. But they can still be meaningful: occasions for sorting out a problem, cracking a joke, complaining about something or someone, giving or taking advice, offering or receiving a compliment. Read more »

Trying to understand vaccine resistance

by Emrys Westacott

Upton Sinclair famously remarked that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” It is easy to imagine the sort of scenario that illustrates his point. A drug company rep works to increase how often a certain drug is prescribed, putting aside any worries that it is addictive. A video game designer seeks to increase the number of hours young players spend hooked on a game, not thinking about the impact this might have on their education.

Yet the current situation in the US regarding vaccine hesitancy–or, more accurately, vaccine resistance–seems to offer some striking examples that call Sinclair’s claim into question. A number of states, including New York State, have mandated vaccinations against covid for health care workers. Those who refuse to get the vaccine face termination. Some of these workers have nevertheless chosen to forfeit their jobs, income, and benefits rather than be vaccinated. Their salary depends on them not allowing their judgement to be influenced by the anti-vaxxers; yet they appear to have fallen under the influence just the same. Read more »