Airports and Aristotle

I recently traveled back home to Omaha, Nebraska, and was shocked at the way that the coronavirus was handled at the airport. When I approached the TSA agent and showed her my ID, she told me that I was required to take off my mask to ensure a “correct identification”. I grudgingly took off my surgical mask and struggled to get it back on before being shuffled to the bag check. I seemed to be the only one that was sanitizing my things after they had touched the security conveyor belts and the SkyRail was completely packed after security. With this experience in mind, Hessler’s documentation about the ways that China handled the coronavirus was shocking. On the college campus that Hessler taught at, there were gates at every entrance that were equipped with face scanners. Both he and the students did not have to take their masks off to use this technology to get access to campus. There were robots that roamed around campus, able to do certain tasks that reduced the amount of physical interaction between students and staff. China’s efficient and effective use of technology during this pandemic was incredible to me. Not only does it show massive technological advancement, but it also highlights China’s more collective approach to coronavirus. Instead of having certain individuals risking their health to deliver packages to students, Chinese scientists came together to find modern solutions to this new and common problem. They viewed the coronavirus as a communal project, emphasizing that it was a threat to the overall society, not just a personal one. Even if Americans would have treated the virus as more of a communal project, would the country have the infrastructure necessary to integrate newer technologies like these? 

China’s approach to communal freedoms and responsibility are very similar to Aristotle’s teachings. He argued that habits are rooted in our surrounding community, so having a well-functioning society leads to a more virtuous individual. Taking temperatures and sharing the results on chat platforms was the norm and allowed people to hold their peers accountable. Individuals were willing to participate in this system, even though it could be considered to be a minor time inconvenience. Contract tracers sacrificed their own sleep for the health of their community. Families had their own homes sealed by community officials but did not openly complain. With this value placed on life over freedom, China was able to combat the coronavirus in a more coordinated way that saved many lives. Even between the Omaha and Atlanta airport, the coronavirus was handled differently. In Atlanta, there were stickers on the ground reminding people to social distance. In Omaha, though, most people were wearing masks, but still standing incredibly close together. If American airports cannot even coordinate their coronavirus standards, I do not think that the entire country could come together like China did. Even so, it was inspiring to read about how well China was able to handle the coronavirus, and I hope that America will somehow find a way to follow suit.

One thought on “Airports and Aristotle

  1. J. Raymond

    Like Jess, I too found myself comparing my own experiences to those of Peter Hessler in his article “How China Controlled the Coronavirus”. As a Type 1 Diabetic, I fall into the at-risk patient group for COVID and have had to radically change my life amidst a pandemic. Over the summer, I had to distance myself from my parents (while living in the same house) as they both work in high transmission healthcare fields. Several friends have justified my theoretical death if it meant they didn’t have to wear masks. Additionally, my health has suffered as the influx of COVID-19 patients has put a strain on the services I typically would access every 6 weeks. Since March, I have been silently begging the nation to just wear a mask so that I could just return to my “normal” level of struggling with the healthcare system.

    As such, I too was amazed reading about China’s response to the pandemic. In particular, they implemented a lockdown so intense it has effectively eliminated the need for masks. I can almost guarantee you that this could never happen in the United States, especially following the politicization of face masks. However, I feel Jess makes an interesting point applying Aristotelian philosophy to China’s handling of the pandemic. As Jess said, Aristotle argued that having a well-functioning society with good habits leads to a more virtuous individual. Thus, if a community was trying to follow Aristotle’s principles during a pandemic, the society would practice the best habit and sacrifice personal liberty for the “greater good”.

    Following this line of logic, it is clear the United States failed to practice morality as preached by Aristotle. Of course, as we’ve learned in class, there are many different ethical lenses one can view morality through. Nevertheless, I feel that nearly all of them would condemn the actions of the United States for failing to prepare and protect the American people. At most, we can only condemn China’s actions for violating the personal liberty of its citizens, whereas the fundamental inaction of the United States has undoubtedly led to much more harm. I feel that if the United States had done anything, even it meant violating some personal freedoms, we would be much better protected.


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