Pre-Pandemic Ethics and Post-Pandemic Ethics
The novel Alas, Babylon is set during a nuclear between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Early in the novel, as the bombs are beginning to fall on the United States, the main character – Randy – races into the local town to try to gather medical supplies for his injured niece. Along the way, he passes a car wreck that has just occurred. The driver of the car has been horribly injured and is possibly dead.
The following except picks up from that moment:
In this second Randy made an important decision. Yesterday, he would have stopped instantly. There would have been no question about it. When there was an accident, and someone was hurt, a man stopped. But yesterday was a past period in history, with rules and laws as archaic as ancient Rome. Today the rules had changed, just as Roman law gave way to atavistic barbarism as the empire fell to Hun and Goth. Today a man saved himself and his family and to hell with everyone else. Already millions must be dead and other millions maimed, or doomed by radiation, for if the enemy was hitting Florida, they would hardly skip SAC bases and missile sites in more densely populated areas. Certainly, they would not spare Washington and New York, the command posts and communication center of the whole nation. And the war was less than a half hour old. So, one stranger on the roadside meant nothing, particularly with a blinded child, his blood kin, dependent on his mission. With the use of the hydrogen bomb, the Christian era was dead, and with it must die the tradition of the Good Samaritan.
This scene presents an example of what you might call “pre-and-post” ethics; there was ethics prior to this moment (the rule of the Good Samaritan, altruism), and ethics after this moment (save yourself and your family and to hell with everyone else, egoism). The moment the war began a line was drawn separating the ethics of the past from the ethics of the present moment. For many, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 presented a similar scenario; with pre-9/11 ethics, and post-9/11 ethics. Of course, one can debate whether such a change occurred or the nature of that change.
Consider the following questions and provide a short response of no more than one page.
Given the extraordinary situation we are in right now as a result of the global pandemic, has a similar shift in ethics occurred, or, is it simply business as usual? If such a shift has occurred, in what way? Can you point to specific examples to support such a claim? If you do not believe such a shift has occurred, despite evidence to the contrary, how do you support your claim?