When it comes to Ebola, we should listen to our hearts, not our hysteria.

In my previous post about Nancy Snyderman’s violation of her quarantine, I mentioned that this incident is just one of many indications that we in the United States should stop being so smug about how the countries in west Africa are handling Ebola.

I failed to state the most important point about the epicenter of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea: we need to help these countries massively and immediately.  The developed world is failing them dramatically.  Even tiny Cuba is shaming much larger, richer countries by sending 100 doctors.  The U.S. efforts to build treatment facilities are moving too slowly, but at least we’re trying.

The best way each of us can help right now is to contribute to Doctors without Borders, the one organization that seems to know what it is doing and is doing the most to help the victims of Ebola and to stop its spread. Donations can be made online at https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org/onetime.cfm?source=AZD140001D53&utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_term=brand_sitelink&gclid=CN7mzJ6Ut8ECFSVo7AodaW4AzA. Or checks can be sent by mail as explained here: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/support-us/other-ways-give/donate-mail.

One reason that I reacted so strongly to the quarantine violation was that it appeared to be a a clear instance of the “masters of the universe” attitude and behavior I see everyday in the town where I live. I may have been mistaken to attribute this attitude to Nancy Snyderman. I hope the quarantine violation was a mistake, and not typical of how she usually acts.

In the past few days Princeton exhibited a different, but equally unhelpful behavior: that of the hysterical vigilante. There are kiosks on the main street in the downtown where people can post notices and signs of all sorts. It was reported that someone posted fliers telling people to be on the lookout for Snyderman, giving not only her name, but her address and the names of her children. Even though these signs disappeared overnight, the fact that they were posted at all is another indication that we well-off, highly-educated Americans should not be smug about our ability to act civilly and considerately under threat.

When we are talking with friends and family about the Ebola situation in this country, in fact when we are talking with ourselves about how we feel and what we should do, I recommend that we focus the discussion on the real threat that is killing the peoples of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. We can direct attention and energy towards how we can help them. If we do that, we can lower our anxiety and dissipate the rush to hysteria.

As we saw in another recent post, Confucius teaches in essence: Focus on the heart. Do as the heart does … as all hearts do. That’s the way for Confucius, nothing more.





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