The Ethics of Epidemic
3 practical insights from the coronavirus outbreak
It was my pleasure to address the PCMA Heartland chapter last month. In my program, I identified the three enemies of ethics, the third of which is:
Just as we are responsible for our own physical health, we also have to preserve and protect our ethical and social well-being.
This has become particularly relevant now that we’re living through possibly the worst pandemic in modern history. What lessons should we be learning? Here are a few suggestions.
#1 Everything you do matters
Authorities believe that the coronavirus originated from a wet market in China’s Wuhan province. These unregulated marketplaces offer a bizarre menagerie of creatures not conventionally found on the menu, including donkeys, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs, and snakes, many of them traded illegally. This allows for easy transmission of viruses from animals to human hosts.
So here’s the question: if I want to go shopping to make bat stew for dinner, what’s wrong with that? I’m not hurting anyone else. Probably not… unless I unleash a global pandemic. Private actions can have very public consequences.
That’s why personal ethics and moral discipline are so important. If you don’t set standards for yourself, even in private, the fallout from your actions can seep into the world, and you may set in motion destructive events you never intended or imagined. Conversely, the more you refine your personal conduct – especially when no one is watching – the more naturally you will make a positive impact on the people who share your world.
#2 Don’t expose yourself to unhealthy people
Jim Rohn observed that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Character traits transmit like viruses. You absorb attitudes from those around you, until eventually you become just like them.
Associate only with ethically healthy companions. That’s the best way to protect yourself from contracting debilitating moral infections. And preserving your own ethical health will help keep your work, family, and community environments healthy as well.
#3 What you don’t see can hurt you
Before Louis Pasteur discovered germ pathology, scientists refused to believe in anything they couldn’t see. Now we know better. But the danger to our well-being isn’t limited to microorganisms.