American society was built upon the foundation of individual liberty, the idea of meritocracy, and the inflation of self over the community. In times of crisis, though, Americans have often left those ideas in favor of communitarian ones. In light of the current pandemic, much has been made of the idea of mutual aid. While American society is built on root capitalism and the inflation of self-interest, society in crisis is built more on the lens of commiseration and community. Are these two philosophies at odds or is America on the precipice of finally negotiating a new national idea that merges old ideas into a new, progressive empathetic America?
An illness that makes no distinction of socio-economic status
If America decides to reject Trumpism, the complete refusal to care about anything but oneself, and instead decides to promote progressivism, then the pandemic itself feeds into that new idea. Individuals now see their need to take care of each other, to prevent a healthcare system from being overrun by cases, and ultimately, are unable to fight the infection alone. Americans, who have long toiled under the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, can finally see a new country in which there is no difference in socioeconomic status – anyone can be infected by coronavirus.
In effect, while we had discussed how much mental illness impacts individuals, regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, we finally see a physical illness (one not buried in stigma), in which anyone of any socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc. can be impacted.
Communitarianism taking center-stage
While we could sit here and discuss all the inequities, all the miscalculations by Trump’s pressers, those Generation Zers forgetting the whole “we’re in this together” and putting themselves at risk, we could still tout what has happened. Communities are now caring about each other. What was once individualistic is now communitarian.
Are individuals themselves happier in a communitarian society? Possibly. But what does that say about late-stage capitalism? That while we exist in late-stage capitalism in what many would regard as a dystopian present, we see progressive ideas finally seizing within American society. New ideas like universal basic income, paid sick leave, and not connecting employment to health insurance, are being discussed.
We had used these inequities in our society as reason to fear, hate, and demean each other, and write policies without an ounce of empathy or even understand that many individuals may experience things we don’t. Our society now can say progressivism as a response to a pandemic has led individuals toward a newer American society, one in which we can promote progressivism, not as a pie-in-the-sky idea, but instead, as the America we all really want to exist.
The new late-stage capitalism
If we denounce the cruelty of Trumpism and the promotion of profit, we can live in a society where progressivism is considered the new late-stage capitalism. It’s not socialism anymore if we understand that a pandemic itself is unfair and requires a response that highlights what’s good about America. We can cease to create those divisions that make us hate each other, and have a new order of policies that finally address what conservatism has lied about for ages. You cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps if a pandemic with no regard for your supposed rank in American society will cost you your job, your insurance, and your livelihood. If this is true, this America has finally set in motion an idea that progressivism is about empathy, caring, and promoting the best of American society.