I don’t know how many times during this whole COVID panic I have heard people say that others are being selfish because they do not believe we should all have to shelter in place. They say things like, “I have medical problems, and when everyone else stays at home, then I’m less likely to get the virus.” Or they say, “I have a loved one with serious medical issues, and I’m afraid I might bring something home to them, and they will die.” Then there’s my favorite, “You might kill someone’s grandma if you don’t stay home.”
I am not going to deny that these are serious concerns. I too have loved ones with medical issues that I worry about during every cold and flu season. My mom is susceptible to pneumonia, and I worry that if she catches a cold, it could turn into something more serious. I have high blood pressure, and I just don’t know how certain things might impact my own health. The reality is that we could even get a potentially deadly infection from being in our own homes like my husband did while working right in our backyard. We all take calculated risks living in a fallen world because we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and we will indeed all die someday. Death is inevitable.
The problem becomes, however, that people use these concerns, these fears about death and dying, to dictate what they believe others should do. Out of their fears, they engage in fallacious thinking wherein they begin to verbally abuse others. They begin to call others selfish or a variety of other names to justify their anger about others wanting to maintain freedom and civil liberty. This fallacious thinking is what is known as an ad hominem abusive fallacy.
In an ad hominem fallacy, the person attacks another person as opposed to addressing the argument. So instead of having a logical conversation about what their concerns are and what possible solutions there might be, they go right to the “You are being selfish” argument. They attempt to discredit someone else’s belief by attacking that person personally.
When someone has made it personal, I cannot let it go unnoticed. I have a difficult time letting illogical thinking go. It is not logical to call others selfish because people do not want to lose their businesses they have worked their whole lives for. It is not logical to call someone selfish because they want to be able to feed their families but they don’t know if they will be able to afford to buy groceries. It is not logical to call people selfish when they want to keep their freedoms, they want to preserve civil liberties, and they don’t want to see the demise of a free America. It is not selfish to not want to see millions of people suffering economically, spiritually, and emotionally, especially not from a virus they will likely never get or likely already had and didn’t even know about it!
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “selfish” as “arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others.” So when you argue that I am being selfish because I am not thinking of you and your loved one (even though I am advocating for millions of people throughout our nation), couldn’t it realistically be said that based on the definition of what it means to be selfish, you are the one being selfish? Couldn’t it actually be said that you are living out the definition of selfishness because you are only thinking of your own or your loved one’s welfare to the disregard of all the other people in the world that have just as significant of concerns as you? The tables could easily be turned onto you based on the definition of being selfish.
You see, this ad hominem abusive fallacy just does not fly. It doesn’t work logically based on what the definition of being selfish is. Your own concern about you and your loved one are real, but these concerns actually could be construed as selfish because you are disregarding the welfare of nearly everyone else in the world who beyond yourself who have been impacted by this virus panic in thousands of other detrimental and devastating ways. In other words, it is like the pot calling the kettle black as the old saying goes. It is like trying to take the speck out of another’s eye while having a board in your own.
That being said, I would never think that you are being selfish by wanting to protect your health or your loved ones any more than I am being selfish by wanting to help others who are suffering and wanting to protect the freedoms this great country stands for. I would not seek you out to call you selfish for only wanting to protect yourself and your loved ones. You are entitled to be concerned about your own health and that of your loved ones. You should definitely do things to protect yourself and your loved ones if you believe you are particularly susceptible to a virus. I’m not going to say you should not behave in this manner. I am concerned about my health and that of my loved ones, so I get that. However, you are not entitled to call me selfish because I am concerned about millions of other people and what they are currently through. You are not entitled to call others selfish for being concerned about the future for millions of people and what the trampling on of civil liberties will do for freedom and democracy in this great country.
I am not selfish in this regard anymore than you are being selfish in this regard, period. Your fallacious thinking just simply is not legit.