The protests against the confinement reveal western individualism

Les protestations contre le confinement font ressortir l’individualisme occidental

A protest against the confinement, held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 20 April last

27 April 2020 13h43

Updated at 14: 00

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The protests against the confinement reveal western individualism

Melissa Couto

The Canadian Press

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The photos were circulated on social media throughout the week.

A man in Pittsburgh wearing a mask representing the face of George Washington and holding in his hands what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon. A woman in Denver, looking quietly through the window of his car at the time when a health worker first-line attempts to block the road.

The protests against the orders of containment that may slow down the spread of the COVID-19 are linked at a pace almost daily in the United States, with some spillover to Canada.

A demonstration held in Toronto on Saturday, has pushed the prime minister and Doug Ford to qualify the participants of the “band of boorish”. A similar consolidation against the restrictions associated with the coronavirus took place in Vancouver a few days earlier.

Although a majority of Americans and Canadians seem to adhere to the containment, experts in sociology, political science and history are not surprised by this recent increase in events.

Alison Meek, associate professor of american history at the University of Western in London, Ontario, is of the opinion that the United States in particular – a country “born of rebellion” – have always been reluctant to give too much power to the federal government.

“In all of this, I see very well the spirit of individualism of Americans, and it goes back to the founding of the country,” says Ms Meek.

“They will not listen to the federal government. They do not believe in this authority.”

Although public demonstrations have nothing new in the United States, Ms. Meek think of other aspects that motivate these protests related to the pandemic, including economic factors, and “a real component antiscience, anti-experts”.

“All the experts say it is necessary to practice social distancing, flattening the curve. But for many Americans, one sees this attitude like, “you can’t tell us what to do,” she said. They will follow their own instinct. They will listen to what is said on Facebook or Twitter, or any social media that they follow.”

The groups of protesters in the United States and Canada have been relatively restricted. About 100 people took part in the demonstration held in Toronto over the weekend, and according to a spokesperson of the police authorities, the crowd respected the social distancing after the request has been made.

Max Cameron, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said to have been “flabbergasted” by some of the images he has seen of the protests, especially in the United States.

Moreover, he adds, if the people who adhere to the social distancing have been disturbed by these images, it is important to remember that it is only a question of a minority of people.

According to him, the overall picture of the situation shows more “collective action is unprecedented,” put in practice for limiting the spread of the pandemic.

“You’re going to have to go back to a time of war to find a time where we asked as many people to sacrifice for the general good, he notes. Fortunately, you do not ask us to go to war, only to remain at home. And the idea that millions and millions of people are doing the same thing in order to achieve a common goal is a proof of the ability of good democracies to get results.”

Le Soleil

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