COVID-19 Pandemic presents Risks and Threats to Civility and Public-Mindedness

At both the local/national and international levels, various actors and organizations have reacted to the pandemic in ways that have sometimes fallen short of the demands of normative and justifiable civility. 

  1. First, members of oppressed communities have been subjected to different types of bigotry and hate, violating their identity as free and decent people in morally reprehensible ways. 
  2. Second, a variety of political figures have used COVID-19 to further sectarian political interests or to overprioritize some political ideals in comparison to others, in ways that defy justifiable civility criteria. 
  3. Third, certain policymakers have enacted policies that place unfair ‘commitment burdens' on some classes of people, especially those who are already marginalized and disadvantaged structurally. This, we concluded, risks weakening the legitimacy of these measures in the eyes of the public. 
  4. Finally, challenges to justificatory civility have arisen as a result of a lack of scientific knowledge of COVID-19 and its social and cultural aspects, as well as the politicization of research by certain actors for personal or partisan benefit. 

If we wish to avoid an eruption of moral and justifiable incivility, we must act quickly to address these issues. 

We proposed a variety of options for governments and people to pursue this goal. Where it comes to moral civility, policymakers should take action toward more equitable measures that reduce inequality and strengthen the lives of those who are disadvantaged. 

This may include multi-pronged techniques such as clear messaging, localization, collaboration, and policy co-design. Identifying the roots of racism and hate speech, tracking and gathering evidence, working with civil society actors, using media and emerging tools for program implementation, and strengthening legal processes such as hate speech legislation are also ways that lawmakers can better combat the rise of racism and hate speech. 

Responding to COVID-19's obstacles to justificatory civility necessitates a variety of interventions. First, sectarianism can be averted through structural bulwarks against incivility such as judicial processes that can help to deter religious convictions from encroaching on political laws. 

Governments should foster justificatory civility at the same time by promoting the virtues of solidarity, other-regardingness, and reciprocity through educational institutions and the use of consultative and deliberative bodies. 

Furthermore, the implementation of ethics structures may assist governments and people in better articulating the requirements for determining when and how those political values should be prioritized over others in public policy justification. 

Furthermore, policymakers should gain a better understanding of the social and political realities that characterize their society, especially structural inequalities that place additional burdens on marginalized groups; develop more tailored policies that prioritize marginalized groups; and engage in greater activism to reduce the strains of commitment that certain policies may impose on those groups. 

Finally, policymakers must ensure that strategies are not implemented based on faulty or unreliable scientific data. This will necessitate encouraging and financing further scientific studies on COVID-19 (both medical research and research on the virus's social and cultural dimensions), as well as ensuring that governments and the scientific community have open and reliable lines of communication. 

In order to stop using scientific facts in ways that are unsound and unjust, and therefore endanger justificatory civility, policymakers would need to improve their scientific literacy.

You may also want to read more analysis about the COVID-19 Pandemic here.