Utilitarianism and Trust

The lens in which we Americans view China stems from anti-communist sentiments that can be traced all the way back to the 1940’s during WW2. We actively depict China as a ruthless nation that sacrifices its citizens for monetary gain just shy of slavery. A hypocritical evaluation on America’s behalf to say the very least. Communist governments are consistently grouped with Nazi Germany or North Korea – never taking into account the benefits of a system that consistently prioritizes the good of the majority, a whopping 1.4 billion people for China. And while the country does have its flaws, most notably the infamous Tiananmen Square protests and the restriction of family planning, their utilitarian attitude towards this virus was incredibly effective.

The story of Liu stood out as exceptionally utilitarian. He was forced to endure complete isolation for 65 days resulting in a clear disruption of his psychological health, but his sacrifice diminished the worries of an entire community – a community that worked incredibly hard to achieve control of the illness. The mental wellness of many exceeded the mental wellness of the individual (he was never physically sick!) and it resulted in something amazing: a near elimination of the virus in their area and a reopening within 11 weeks. This scenario absolutely would not happen in America without uproar. We don’t even keep our most lethal inmates under solitary confinement for more than 30 days. Equally so, America is likely to suffer through the new year with January marking our 11th month of quarantine. Utilitarianism simply fails to apply in America due to the divided nature of the country. There is no unified community to do good for. From the very inception of this country, communities were created out of the need to separate themselves from their oppressors – Native Americans, African Americans, and even Mexican Americans can attest to this seemingly voluntary yet necessary segregation. In America, Liu isn’t one person but instead a conglomerate of minority communities being psychologically and physically tormented at the hands of white greed and privilege. Can it be considered good for “most” if half of the country is suffering?

What struck me the most was Chinese citizens reporting a heightened trust in their government – a shocking contrast to American citizens’ current opinions on the state of our country. Racial tensions have resurfaced from viral documentation of police brutality, the BLM movement, and the rise of white nationalists. Simultaneously, an entire section of the country, unfortunately including our most powerful leaders, denies the very existence of science and insist on sickness being their American right. Our political system hasn’t been this openly polarized since the civil war and it’s become difficult to trust our neighbors let alone our government. So to see China find unity in the midst of America’s domestic crisis is jarring.

The truth is that America doesn’t trust itself. We don’t trust our government, we don’t trust each other, and we don’t trust ourselves to make the change we want to see. It feels like a lost cause but the diseased state of our country is curable with the vaccine of trust. When we dedicate ourselves to rebuilding trust in our communities we focus on creating a government and most importantly a country we can be proud of.

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