Dr. Rokita

During the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people quarantined, utilizing technology and social media more than ever. With so much more free time, shaming people on social media became easier, and the massive amounts of boredom made it more appealing. In my opinion, quarantine created a sort of pressure cooker of emotions. People wanted something to blame their isolation on, and with such increased use of social media, they were able to find countless different causes via technology. In Max’s article, “The Public Shaming Pandemic,” he touches on how public shaming on the Echo Dnia Website impacted a renowned gynecologist, Dr. Rokita. Before testing positive, Dr. Rokita carried on with his daily life, just like everyone else would have. Though I personally believe that he should have quarantined in the thirty hours between the initial tests and receiving the results, I can honestly understand why he didn’t. There were no known cases of COVID-19 in Poland at this time, so I assume he felt safe enough to partake in seemingly normal tasks. With such a new and novel pandemic, there were no set norms about living during a pandemic, so he just relied on old habits. After his test results were returned to him, he voluntarily quarantined in the hospital, ensuring that he did not put anyone in his family at risk. After his results, he did what he was supposed to do, but that was not enough to stop the public shaming. The hateful comments about his handling of COVID-19 eventually caused Dr. Rokita to commit suicide. If he had not committed suicide, would people have even given him a chance to learn from his mistakes? Or would he forever just be known as patient zero? Would people ever be able to focus on his professional and personal achievements, or would they always blame him for bringing COVID-19 to Poland? With this ending, it is impossible for people to justify public shaming as a way of teaching others what is right and wrong. People shamed him because they could, not because they wanted him to be a more virtuous person. Though the public shaming of Dr. Rokita did bring the community together, it also isolated him and his family, removing them from the community when they were the most fragile. In a time that people desperately needed to rely on others for support, public shaming further divided them, clearly doing more harm than good. This example shows the fragile balance between teaching and chastising, which is nearly impossible to maintain with peoples’ emotions running so high.

2 thoughts on “Dr. Rokita

  1. Kaeli Thompson

    In her response to Max’s article about Public Shaming and the pandemic, Jess highlights how social media made it extremely simple to shame and humiliate people all around the world regarding their actions surrounding Covid-19. She particularly comments on Dr. Rokita, a Polish gynecologist that ultimately ended up committing suicide because of the amount of harassment he received after possibly being one of Poland’s first citizens to have Covid. Jess claims that people shamed Dr. Rokita not because they desired to have him be more virtuous, but rather because they could and were looking for something, and in this case someone, to blame their social isolation on. I would agree with Jess in the idea that in this instance, because the average person was probably not shaming Dr. Rokita in the ancient sense of “being out of sync with community norms,” but rather did so in a deontological sense of trying to evoke guilt for violating moral laws. Guilt can be an effective way to diminish a negative behavior, but in this instance it went much too far. I have not heard of anyone purposely spreading Covid knowingly to others (except for college “Covid parties” on some campuses) and am confident Dr. Rokita was not attempting to do such a thing, as exhibited by his actions subsequent to him finding out he was positive. The question thus arises, if people do purposely spread the virus, would shame in a deontological sense be warranted?

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  2. Kris Chari

    In this cathartically introspective post, Jess tactfully categorizes the crux of the public shaming issue within two important socio-cultural perspectives. She speaks on the intrinsic redeemability of humanity and the necessity to differentiate between teaching and chastising. I strongly agree with the strain of thought that human mistakes are not universally defining. People deserve chances for rehabilitation and to learn from their mistakes. This is a fundamental principle of the human experience and is present in essentially all moral philosophies, from Hinduism to Christianity. It also makes sense pragmatically, because a society is a collective of flawed humans. The only way for the collective to prosper is allowing humans to grow and learn and experience. Like I mentioned in my own post, this strongly correlates with Aristotelian notions of experience and habits, in that good experiences build good habits. The purpose is to try to better one’s self to reach eudaimonia. Jess then correctly distinguishes between teaching and chastising. In order to have conducive conversation, it is important to respect the other person’s perspective and grant them clemency with their flaws. It is more important now than ever to be cognizant of this difference and act accordingly.

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