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Where National Identity Meets Quarantine Rules

Social distancing brings more orderly lines to Naples, Italy
Social distancing brings more orderly lines to Naples, Italy
Rozena Crossman

Are some countries better at following rules than others? The U.S. is making global headlines as gun-wielding citizens from Michigan to D.C. take to the streets to show their disdain for mandatory confinement. Those Americans abiding by the lockdown rules will quickly tell you that this defiance is flamed by Donald Trump's leadership-by-chaos presidency, as he openly supports the protests against his own policy. To the rest of the world, however, Americans banging the drum of anti-government individualism were … just being Americans.

As over half of the world's population is currently in lockdown, the various national quarantine policies have been picked apart in medical, social and economic terms. But is there an anthropological factor? What role do culture and national identity and characteristics play in driving citizens' reactions? In the Ivory Coast, for example, where offering physical contact with the sick is a local tradition that has posed significant challenges to social distancing. On the other hand, residents of China, Japan and South Korea were already in the habit of wearing masks as a common courtesy long before the virus even started.

Yet navigating coronavirus is a complex emotional endeavor, and not all responses can be easily caricatured. In a recent article in La Stampa, Flavia Perina applauds her fellow Italians, who have now been in quarantine longer than any other country for their "unexpected discipline," after 96% of the five million patrol checks carried out found no violations of the rules.

The La Stampa article came just a couple of days after Queen Elisabeth's rare address to the British nation, in which she cited "the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling (that) still characterize this country." Perina concludes: "We're not English, nor German nor Prussian, we don't have that austere type of DNA … (but) when the rules are precise and objectives are clear, we fulfill our duty." Yes, around the world, culture is shaping how we're all living through this pandemic — just as the pandemic is bound to reshape our cultures.

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

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The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

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