Personal Choice and Societal Ethics

LRRR!
LRRR, ruler of Omicron Persei 8

TL;DR: If you are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine and do not do so, then you are responsible for the consequences.

Now, before I get into this, may I remind you I have a degree in Philosophy and I’m not afraid to use it? Because I do, and my sense of ethics, particularly in relation to societal terms, was heavily influenced by some pretty heavy-duty thinkers, including Immanuel Kant and John Rawls, and, to a lesser extent, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Practically, I’m a utilitarian by nature, but I find the hedonistic aspects of the Good as defined by Mill and Bentham a bit tricky. I like Kant’s Categorical Imperative, and while I find Rawls a little too optimistic about human nature, I still like his notions of justice as fairness.

So, having said all that to establish (to some extent) my philosophical bona-fides, let’s go.

I’ve been concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning, when I first heard about a new SARS-related disease spreading rapidly through the Wuhan district in China. Given the international connectiveness of the world, it was only a matter of time before it reached the States, starting with New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles, the big port cities. The first community contracted case was, I believe, seen in UC Davis Medical Center here in Sacramento. To be perfectly honest, I was less concerned about it until then-President Donald Trump announced that he had it under control; at which point, I knew we were screwed.

Politics aside, I figured we’d see the pandemic and vanquish it fairly quickly; within a couple of months at most. I figured we’d find a vaccine and people would rally around it and we’d all be better and this thing would go away soon. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The vaccine didn’t come into nearly a year into the pandemic, and the newest (at this time) variant of the SARS-COV2 virus, the Omicron variant, is blazing through our population like wildfire. All told, we have nearly one million people dead in the United States, millions more are sick, our hospitals are overrun, and the health care system is on the brink of collapse.

It didn’t have to be this way.

The pandemic and its mitigation measurements have become politicized, which is a shame. Conspiracy theories surround the vaccine, and notions of mask wearing, social distancing, and vaccine mandates have been decried as socialism and tyranny by certain parties (never mind that said parties probably don’t actually know what socialism is). There is one refrain that bothers me the most, and that is that getting the vaccine and wearing masks are individual choices not to be imposed by the state.

I have Thoughts about that.

Vaccine mandates do work. People who get the vaccine are less likely to come down sick with COVID-19, and if they do catch it, they are less likely to require hospitalization, and far less likely to die from it. They are also less likely to spread the disease to other people. And where vaccine mandates are in place, more people definitely get it. Sure, some people resist the mandate, but employers (such as hospitals — and it blows me away that there are health care workers who refuse the vaccine — and government services such as police departments) report that less then 1% of their employees quit over the mandates.

“But it’s all about personal freedoms and individual choice!” say the ones who (maybe) recognize the utility of the vaccine but who do not believe in vaccine mandates.

And they’re right. Whether or not to get the vaccine is a personal choice. But it’s one with societal consequences. As I said above, getting the vaccine significantly reduces the probability that you will spread COVID-19 if you catch it. which is a good thing. If you’re unvaccinated and contract the disease, then you have a much higher chance of spreading it, even if your symptoms are mild or simply nonexistent. If you do exercise your personal freedom to refuse the vaccine, though, and then you contract the virus and spread it to someone who is unable to get the vaccine because they are too young or are immunocompromised or some other legitimate reason (and I don’t believe in religious accommodations here), then you are responsible for the consequences.

Society has a responsibility, I believe, to protect its most vulnerable members: the elderly, the very young, the injured and sick. This comes right out of my Christian value set. If you are a member of society, then you have the responsibility to partake in that protection. My utilitarian mindset is in favor of the greatest good for the greatest number, and that greatest good means good health.

This is also why I believe governments have the authority, nay, the responsibility, to restrict travel to those have been vaccinated and test negative for the virus. If an athlete from another country tests positive for the virus, or has publicly refused the vaccine, then the government has the responsibility to keep that person out.

“YOU CAN’T FORCE ME TO GET THE VACCINE!” yells the societal libertarian. This is true.

But you should be held responsible for the consequences of not doing so. And if, say, your elderly grandmother, your immunocompromised neighbor, or your child’s playmates, if any of them contract COVID-19 because of your own anti-vaccine position, then you are responsible for the outcome.

If you disagree, feel free to let me know. I’m not likely to change my mind, though. I’ve done my due diligence in informing my opinion and philosophy here, so I believe my conclusions are sound and valid.

NEWS!

I just confirmed that the Autumn 2021 issue of Sci Fi Lampoon, which contains my short story “Arkham House Rules” is now available! Go forth and read this story about Great Old Ones playing Dungeons and Dragons!

SciFi Lampoon Cover

I’m thrilled because this is one of my favorite stories, and I’m happy that it’s found a good home.

Writing Goals for 2022

Writer with dragon
Me, writing, under close supervision from a dragon

Last year I submitted 100 manuscripts to various markets in fantasy, science fiction, and horror. This year I plan to do the same. I’ll collect more rejections, to be sure, but I’m certain there will be at least one acceptance.

Rejections, of course, are part and parcel of being a writer. 99.99% of writers experience rejections of their fiction (John Scalzi, who apparently has been paid for every piece of fiction that he’s written, is, of course, an outlier). Wise woman Mur Lafferty, however, points out that working writers always experience rejections, and it is, in fact, the mark of a working writer. That certainly helped me last year when I was collecting rejection letters left and right, and has helped inure me to the process. I have built up callouses. They still hurt, a little, but not nearly as much.

My other major writing goal for the year is to write a short story every week. I’ve done it before; in 2007/2008, I wrote or revised 53 short stories, and some of them were awfully good (one of them, “Trying to Stay Dead”, was even published in a paying market). Some of them were eye-bleedingly bad. Most were just okay. I tried again in 2013, but didn’t get nearly as far, though one story, “And the Devil Will Drag You Under”, became the basis of the novel I’m working on with the same title. Ray Bradbury originally suggested this exercise back in the day, and said that it was impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row, and in my experience that is true.

The two goals — 100 submissions and 52 stories —are tied together. I mean, after 100 from 2021, I’m sort of running out of stories to submit, so it’s time to create some more. My first story, which I have planned on completing by Sunday the 9th of January, is a science fiction horror story called “Stay Away”, and takes place in a colony on the moon of a distant planet.

I won’t be sharing these stories, either on my blog or via my mostly defunct mailing list. This is because if I shared them anywhere (save for a password-protected post on my blog, I suppose), many markets wouldn’t accept them; they would consider them reprints, and there are plenty of markets that don’t accept those. But if you ask me very nicely, I might share them with you privately.

So watch out! 2022 is going to be a heck of a year, writing-wise. Things might get stressful, especially when school starts up again on January 24 and I try to keep up with my writing, but I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.

 

Locus of Control

Frankenstein Stamp
This is me at the beginning of the year

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I think I’ve said that already in this blog, but I’ll say it again. It’s just that January 1 is such an arbitrary date to decide that you’re going to improve yourself. I used to make March 25 resolutions for reasons that are no longer relevant, but I don’t do that anymore either. But this year, I do have some goals, and I have decided to focus on various areas of my life — loci, because I like to use fancy words — that need attention and improvement. I’m listing them here to keep myself accountable, but you’re welcome to read them as well and comment just in case you want to.

Loci/Goals:

  • Writing: I want to focus even more on my writing and make it a larger priority. I want to end the year with at least fifty submissions; one hundred was manageable, but I think I’ve run out of market/manuscript combinations. I want to write some more stories so I can send different stuff out there. And finish one novel and at least start another.
    • Goal: To end the year with 182,500 words written. That’s a minimum of 500 words per day, which is easily done as long as I make it a priority. Those don’t count words on my blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
  • Daikaijuzine: My main goal for Daikaijuzine for the year is to switch platforms, from Drupal to WordPress. Drupal has issues that WordPress does not, and I know I can make it look better with WordPress. Also, I know WordPress a lot better than I know Drupal. Fortunately, there is a good Drupal → WordPress migration tool that I can use to help with this.
  • Health: Physical and mental. I’ve been doing pretty well with this already; Jennifer and I both signed up for Noom, and it’s helped quite a bit. We also signed up for The Outbreak Challenge, and that’s gotten us moving around a lot, and that also helps. My blood pressure is down, my resting heart rate is down, and I’ve lost ten pounds so far. Yay me. Just gotta keep on keepin’ on.
  • Church and Community: I plan on attending church more regularly, at least online. I haven’t for over two years now, primarily because of the pandemic (ugh, so much because of the pandemic), and I always feel better on a Sunday morning after going. I also want to get more involved in the community by doing some volunteering. I lump these two together since giving of oneself to the community is part of the Episcopal Church’s primary teachings. Love God, love your neighbor, change the world, and all that.
  • Learning: I already go to library school, and I enjoy that, and I aim to continue. Jennifer offered me a Master Class annual membership for my birthday, but after a lot of consideration I turned it down. I would like one, but I know that between work, school, and writing, I simply wouldn’t have time to devote to it. And that would make me sad. I should also read more nonfiction. Maybe write some nonfiction, too, but let’s not get too crazy.
  • Friends/Family: Reach out more often. I have many good friends (some I’ve known for thirty years or more), and that makes me happy.  I’ve always known this, and I cherish them, celebrate their accomplishments (and try to minimize my own sense of envy or jealousy if it comes up), and so on. I want to reach out to my friends more, especially my long-distance friends who make an effort to contact me from time to time. And family, too. I’ve been lax in calling my parents and sisters over the past couple of years. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Then there are some other areas of my life that need constant attention: the household (note: clean more), the cats (note: pet more), and so on. No specific goals come to mind for these, but I don’t want to ignore them.

And that, I think, is it. That’s a lot. I’ll keep on keeping on, and that’s a great thing to do. May the new year bring you peace, prosperity, and love.


That’s it for Holidailies!