Saifee: Cast Aside Individualism for a Better Tomorrow


Jibon ASM Asib

Students at the University of Utah are following the COVID-19 guidelines by wearing masks while working on campus (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Zahra Saifee, Opinion Editor


We are now beginning the eleventh month of this hellish year. And unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Utah’s COVID-19 cases are increasing at alarming rates. Just this past week, Utah has seen more than 10,000 new positive cases. To compound the bad events of this year, climate change is becoming a reality for many Utahns. We continue to experience weather irregularities, from the wind event in September to the snowfall this past Sunday.

As this year comes to an end, a common thread in all these problems has been American individualism — an ideology that emphasizes the individual and exalts personal freedom and limited government. It is how we exhibit our agency in the glorious land of the free. This individualistic mindset is harmful to our entire country — it exacerbates public health and environmental issues. We must turn to collective action to solve these issues.

Public Health

As I reflect on the pandemic’s early days, I scoff thinking about the grocery stores that “strongly encouraged” customers to wear masks. Individual choice and concern took root from the beginning of the pandemic. Many Utah grocery stores now require customers to wear masks, but that individualistic mindset remains. We need to shift our mindset. We cannot afford to think about wearing a mask as an infringement of our rights because the refusal to wear a mask in this pandemic means potentially harming others. We must keep in mind the collective good we do by wearing masks. We are keeping people safe.

This same logic applies to getting tested. It is your responsibility to get tested if you are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. By getting tested and subsequently following the quarantine protocols, we prioritize our community’s safety over our immediate freedom to go outside and interact with others without regard for their health. Everyone is sick of wearing their mask, not seeing friends and family and living in the constant fear of getting COVID-19. However, that shouldn’t deter you from taking these precautions because our community health will be determined by our decisions as a collective.

Climate Change

We cannot continue living in denial of climate change. Our carbon emissions have reached a tipping point. Floods, fires and droughts are commonplace when they shouldn’t be. Our human-caused destruction of the environment has detrimental effects on our future.

The rise of carbon emissions can be attributed to corporations and companies. Individual actions barely make a blip of difference when it comes to the causation of climate change. Yet, our society still emphasizes the importance of individual actions when it comes to climate solutions. We are told to eat less meat, use public transportation and switch to renewable sources of energy when, in reality, those switches are not feasible for everyone and aren’t enough to create the change we need.

Don’t get me wrong — these individual actions are important — but only if coupled with large-scale, collective action. We need the government to focus on holding corporations and companies accountable for their contributions to climate change. Wide-scale policy change is much more effective than changing individual behaviors. In enacting policy change, we force the individuals to act as a collective. Let’s turn our attention to the candidates proposing collective action and policy implementation that places the burden of action on groups instead of individuals.

Presidential Race

One aspect of Joe Biden’s COVID-19 recovery plan is a national-wide mask mandate, which can save countless American lives and collectively work towards a safer world. Biden’s climate action plan involves holding polluting corporations accountable for their actions. Both are large-scale implementations that will lessen the load on individuals to make the right decisions.

Trump’s COVID-19 plan does not include a mask mandate but instead focuses on vaccine research and implementation. Trump’s climate policy plan focuses on increasing corporations’ use of oil, coal and natural gas to prioritize economic gain. These plans do not address the need for large-scale policy change, and once again, the right choices are left to the individual.

Let’s put aside our individualism during this year’s presidential election. Let’s choose to focus on the collective good, and know that by working together we can create a safer, healthier community. Let’s vote for candidates representing those same ideals — and feel confident that an individual vote towards a collective solution will be the best choice for our future.


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