Over the course of my first “Halloweekend” at the University of Michigan I saw some great costumes. Some made me laugh, others made me think, and some were quite unoriginal, including my own; I was a cowboy. However one costume specifically caught my eye, the Ebola nurse costume.
When I went home Friday night I thought to myself, what type of world do we live in where people can make a joke out of such a horrible disease? After all, thousands of people have died from this deadly disease, and yet people are parading around Halloween making a mockery of it. As I thought more about it though I began to realize that the fact that someone could wear an Ebola nurse costume, and it could be seen as comical, is a testament to how our society feels about this notorious disease. Although Ebola gets a lot of news coverage, on a daily basis the American people are not too concerned about getting Ebola. So why is this the case? Why is Ebola not striking fear into the hearts of Americans?
Attempting to understand American society is an extremely difficult task. In order to further explore American society, it is important to first delve into how any society functions. According to Thomas Hobbes in a state of nature, society is chaos. Hobbes went on to argue that man is a selfish being and will do whatever is in his best interest in a state of nature. As a result, Hobbes argued we need organization in our society. Organization allows us to set social contracts with ourselves and others in order to better society as a whole, Hobbes claimed. Hobbes also said that society needs government to provide stability for it’s people, but more importantly a sense of security to the people.
Although Americans may not realize it our government does do just what Hobbes was referring to. The United States government may indeed be in some turmoil these days but in general the American people have faith in their government. This faith allows Americans to feel more secure whenever an issue comes about. Whether this be an epidemic like Ebola, or a international terrorist fight against ISIS, the American people whether they like to admit it or not depend on their government. With a government, specifically a public health department, as well developed and as well respected as ours, the American people really do not need to fear Ebola on a daily basis. Countries in Western Africa cannot say the same and as a result, I do not believe an Ebola nurse costume would be seen as socially acceptable in Western Africa. In the United States however, we are confident and feel assured that we will not personally get Ebola.
However, a governing body does more than just make people feel safe, it also can actually make people secure. The American people trust that their government will be able to contain the disease, and for the most part they are right. According to Fran Quigley, there is a direct correlation between poverty levels and health epidemics. “As for Ebola, we know how the United States would respond. Those suspected of being infected would be isolated and provided care in a way that also protects health-care workers. All the while, at the state and federal levels, officials would implement a public health communication and response strategy.” Quigley’s point is simple: the main issue with Ebola is not the disease itself but how the disease is contained. In a well developed first world country like the United States, in which there is a governing public health force in place to contain a disease, something like Ebola is not too much for concern. However in areas such as West Africa who lack organization, Ebola can and will spread rapidly. If we think back to Hobbes’ state of nature the Ebola out break in Western Africa is really of no surprise. Although Western Africa is in no way a true state of nature, it is a relatively unorganized society. In a society like this few will be concerned for the general good of the country, and little will be done to prevent the spread of an epidemic.
Hobbes was correct when he said society needs a governing body. Ebola being more prevalent and more worrisome to underdeveloped countries is just another example of that. Whether it be college sports and the NCAA, the American people and the US government, or children and their parents we all need a governing body. They make us feel secure and provide us with social barriers to help us from listening to our inner sirens.