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Seth Brown: A lack of commitment

One of the biggest things making our lives worse these days is a lack of commitment.

Or I guess maybe not, depending on how you look at it. Granted, there’s a contrary argument to be made, that people commit too easily to unsupportable ideas and then continue to support them in the face of reason, logic, and overwhelming evidence.

So, obviously, commitment to terrible ideas is bad. But it’s clear a lack of commitment has already made the opening of this column worse by immediately undercutting the initial strong thesis statement. Indeed, if I had stayed committed to it, this interlude paragraph could have been eliminated. As multiple people have said, I ought to be committed.

So let’s commit to exploring why a lack of commitment is making our lives worse. And we can start with COVID, which remains on many people’s minds, and lungs, and hearts, and wastewater charts, and reports from the recent big conventions, and will soon be much more prevalent once the school year starts.

The good news is, case numbers probably won’t increase too much. The bad news is, that’s only because we stopped testing and tracking case numbers assiduously, and the actual number of people with COVID will definitely increase.

The CDC (Covid Dithering Continuously) released a new study earlier this month suggesting that COVID creates a higher risk for various pediatric health issues such as blood clots, heart problems, and kidney failure. Also earlier this month, the CDC draft relaxed its guidance on COVID precautions for children in school, removing social distancing measures and quarantining for children exposed, as well as regular testing. Which is silly, because schools are all about testing.

In short, COVID is worse than we thought for children, but we’re relaxing the very limited precautions we had in place to prevent them from catching it because it interferes with how we want school to run: Smoothly, presumably greased by the blood of dead children. Which is not to lay all that heaviness at COVID’s door; obviously our national policy of no gun control helps ensure that’s how things run. Hopefully the mention of guns isn’t triggering.

But ultimately, we have the data and understand that certain measures would have to be taken in order to save lives, but to take those measures would be really inconvenient, so we don’t want to commit to it. And that’s very normal. It’s not very good, but it is very normal. Certainly our approach to climate change has followed a similar trajectory — downward if you’re looking at good, or upward if you’re looking at temperature.

Fear of commitment is common not only for governments, but for people. Plenty of complaints about a fear of commitment are lobbed at people in relationships who don’t want to get married. But perhaps the most common fear of commitment is the fear of committing to leisure time. If you have work that needs doing, but would rather be relaxing, you could commit to doing the work, or even commit to relaxing.

Sadly, often instead of doing either, we exist in a limbo where we have committed to neither and fail at both. We can’t commit to doing the work because we are unfocused, but we can’t just go commit to our leisure because we have work hanging over us. And so we suggest work and leisure but do neither. Instead, we spend too much time on social media or play a stupid game or watch something stupid — not the good stuff we’d commit to enjoying ourselves playing or watching, but stupid stuff we’re not invested in — and thus fail at both work and leisure because we committed to neither.

That’s where we are as a country. We’re suggesting COVID precautions, but not committing to them. Suggesting gun control and seriously addressing the climate crisis, but not committing to it (even if one bill might be a start). And the problem with suggestions is that they’re easy to ignore. If we don’t commit to making things better, our government won’t do the work that needs doing, they’ll just spend too much time on social media, while our country fails to do what’s needed to protect its citizens for the future.

And that would be committing a grave mistake.

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of “The Disapproval Of My Toaster,” and respects comedians who commit to the bit. His website is RisingPun.com

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