Over the last few months a great deal has been written about the nature of a virus. How does the novel Coronavirus spread? How does it behave once it finds a new host? I hold two degrees, one in English and a graduate degree in Communication, and so I am decidedly unqualified to say much at all about the nature of any virus. Throughout these weeks of quarantine one thought has lingered in the back of my mind: we are discounting human nature. I do understand a few things about human nature.
My favorite authors earned their spot on my “Favorite Authors” list because of their understanding of human nature and their ability to pour that knowledge into their writing. In All Art is Propaganda George Orwell asserts that, “On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.” Most people have truly tried to follow the rules these past few months even when they questioned the need for the sudden Dystopian-like requirements that everyone stay home and spend time only with those with whom they share a dwelling. For nearly six weeks my kids saw and spoke to their grandparents only via phone, FaceTime, or drive-by visits during which they all loudly chatted while my parents and my in-laws remained confined inside their vehicle.
My home state of Louisiana finally, at long last, entered Phase 1 of reopening as of this past Friday, and so after weeks of isolating ourselves my kids and I headed to my parents’ house for the weekend where we enjoyed a two-night sleepover with the cousins with whom my children hadn’t played since early March. While it warmed my heart and thrilled my parents, a cousin sleepover isn’t what many Americans have been missing, and people are channeling Freddie Mercury and letting officials know they want to break free.
The moment lockdowns began a clock began ticking, and only foolish government officials ignorant of human nature did not realize this. As quarantine drags on and temperatures rise people are understandably becoming restless, bored, and perhaps even desperately lonely. This is apparent as recently-deserted streets in New York City morph into outdoor gatherings of patrons who pick up their to-go cocktail and then stay to mingle with other mask-less drinkers no longer inclined to hurriedly return to the confines of their home to enjoy their drink alone.
In Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte posits that, “It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.” There are a cacophony of voices competing for attention right now. For weeks Americans have been inundated with information from doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, politicians, and economists. While the advice of various experts is needed, it is never wise to ignore human nature. It has been my position from the outset that in order to successfully traverse these unfamiliar waters we must consider not only the nature of the virus but the importance of economic health as well as human nature. People are not automatons. Even those who seek to comply with government edicts have a breaking point. With or without a vaccine, lockdowns are no longer a realistic answer.
Anyone who says we must remain in our homes until the virus is no longer a threat is ignoring both the nature of a virus as well as human nature.