Why the Coronavirus Panic

March 20, 2020

One characteristic thatdistinguishes humans from other living creatures, that makes us unique, is theneed to understand.

Other living systemshave an organism that guides the what,how, when, and with whom ofaction, but none have philosophers or scientists who try to explain whatis going on. Similarly, none have a house of prayer, a place to worship a mysticalentity that provides us with an answer to what we cannot explain or control, howthe world was created,for example, or why someone dies. So, when you run out of explanations, youmight say “it is God’s will” or “the Devil made me do it.” Religion providesour souls with answers: if you follow your religious prescriptions, you will goto heaven and your suffering will end.

We humans have a need tounderstand why. There must be anexplanation for why we experienceanything. Some of those explanations are true—whatever truth is—but someexplanations are based on prejudice. Prejudice like racism: “the Jews did it”or “African Americans are causing it” or “it is white people’s fault.”

Other ways to satisfythis need to understand are rumors, fake theories, voodoo rituals, and anythingelse that gives us the illusion that we can influence outcomes like with a prayer.

Sometimes neither Godnor prejudice can provide the answer. So we need to exaggerate the phenomena wedo not understand. The more exaggerated the picture, the clearer it makes us believe it can be. Whenwe exaggerate, we panic. We behave extremely. We shoot in all directions, believing it  might somehow hit the target.

How come there is nopanic about influenza? More people die from the flu than the coronavirus. Howabout malpractice in hospitals? In the US alone, medical errors kill about 500people per day. People do not panic about these things because we think weunderstand what causes them and what we must do to avoid them.

The coronavirus,however, is new. We have never had COVID-19 before. We do not know what it isbut we seek to understand nevertheless; Rumors fly all over the place. Conspiracytheories of a hidden plan to destroy humanity are floating around. Chinaaccuses the US. Iran exploits the opportunity to claim that Israel made thecoronavirus happen. Dozens in Iran died from drinking a toxic alcoholicconcoction sold by corrupt people claiming it will save peope from the virus. Andsoon, I have no doubt, this will also be labeled an effort by Jews to take overthe world. We need an explanation at any cost.

The fact is that we donot know much about the coronavirus and should act accordingly. Take measuresthat are obvious and true for any infectious disease: wash your hands,avoid large crowds, eat healthy food, sleep well, keep a good attitude, andwait until you know more. In the meantime, there is no need to panic. Calmdown. Live with uncertainty for a while. Panic generates fake explanations thatlead to fake therapies that could have  muchworse side effects than the disease itself.

Just thinking,

Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes