Rutgers sociologist Karen A. Cerulo, author of Never Saw It Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst, is available to discuss how our cultural fixation with positive thinking may prevent many Americans from preparing for the worst.
“From childhood, Americans learn cultural lessons that encourage ‘blind optimism.’ Such positive thinking can have dire consequences. When society directs us to emphasize the positive, it prioritizes the storage of sunny-side images in individual and collective memory. That can expose us to real risks.”
“In fact, we’re seeing the ill effects of blind optimism right now,” argues Cerulo. “Some polls show that people recognize the risk of COVID-19 in general, but they don’t believe it will happen to them. In some cases, only one in three Americans see COVID-19 as a real risk to them. And as time goes on, we can see people becoming more and more lax in masking and social distancing.”
Cerulo advises, “Don’t panic, but don’t ignore worst case possibilities. As unpleasant as it may be, take some time to prepare someone to help with your job duties should you get sick, to make a family plan should a relative become ill. As frightening as it may seem, have an advanced directive in the ready. Most importantly, check CDC preventative guidelines daily and follow them religiously. If you do these things now, as uncomfortable as they may be, you will be prepared.”
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