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Irresponsible Citizenship

The Cultural Roots of the Crisis of Authority in Times of Pandemic

Jean-François Caron

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the serious crisis of political authorities that liberal societies are currently experiencing. Indeed, a significant number of individuals living in these societies did not hesitate to defy the sanitary rules enacted by their government which has made it difficult for them to stop the virus from spreading. What can explain such a situation? This is what this book is discussing. Whether it is the growing popularity of conspiracy theories, the distrust towards governments or cultural and religious beliefs that take precedence over the respect of governments’ directives, all these factors that have led so many individuals to act in an irresponsible way during the pandemic find their roots in the liberal tradition as it originated in the 18th century and in its more recent development which has had the effect of decentralizing the individual from his collective responsibilities in favor of an almost unlimited enjoyment of his individual freedom. This health crisis has revealed the urgency for liberal societies to establish a better balance between collective interest and individual freedom through responsible citizenship capable of protecting its citizens against the adoption of draconian measures when they will be struck again by upcoming pandemics that appear to be unfortunately inevitable.

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Chapter One The Cultural Foundations of Disobedience and Conspiracy Theories

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“5G technology is related to COVID-19,” “It is a way for Bill Gates to implant digital microchips that will control people once they receive the vaccine,” “COVID-19 does not really exist and is simply a way for political elites to take away our freedom.” Everybody has heard at least one of these assertions since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, polls have found that 29% of Americans believe the virus was made in a lab (Pew Research Center 2020), 19% of Americans believe that this virus is part of an orchestrated depopulation plan by the United Nations or the New World Order, and 23% believe that it is either definitely or probably true that the vaccine will deliberately infect people with a poison (Boyle 2020). It is possible to observe similar trends elsewhere. A study published in October 2020 showed that 22% of respondents in Great Britain found the claim that COVID-19 was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory reliable. The percentage rose to 26% in Ireland, 33% in Mexico and 37% in Spain. It also showed that 22% of people in Mexico, 18% in Ireland and Spain thought that COVID-19 was part of a plot to force global vaccination, while 16% in Mexico and Spain, 12% in Ireland and 8% in Great Britain believed that 5G was somehow connected with the virus ←11 | 12→(Roozenbeek et al. 2020). Needless to say, such beliefs have tremendous consequences on the rest of society as well as on their believers. Indeed, when...

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