In endemic situation of a new type of disease, the first person infected is often known as patient zero. The patient zero may travel, interact or engage in any kind of situation that enable a physical transfer for the disease to the next person, or next several persons.
We have a similar situation in the workplace, community and other social circles.
The disease, however, is the mental type of disease. The endemic it creates behaviors that has bad impact to the social environment.
Be careful of making the incorrect diagnostic, though. The mental disease is not negativity, selfishness, violence, lack of motivation, laziness or any other attitude issues. Those are natural traits, which are indeed come along with other better traits we have as human. Like it or not, they are parts of our nature.
The real disease is the act of not doing anything on these problematic traits. This can be done through ignorance or negligence. This can also be intended, or be accepted on purpose.
The moment those traits are approved or sanctioned or accepted, it is effectively infecting us. Then, contagion is merely inevitable consequences. We have seen how fear and distrust spread among people who work in the same place. We have seen how one pessimist deactivates more people much quickly than one optimist encourages another.
Unfortunately, this social infection, if I can call it so, is not as simple as having a patient zero as a start of the endemic. In many cases, the patient zero can be a lot of people infected at the same time. I think it is due to its mental nature, where infection is done through simultaneous and massive communication.
What we could see in social media today is just one good example.
Controversy and negativity is spreading in immense rate through media, and they not allowing people to have enough time to be aware and build immunity to their infection. The exposure of fear and uncertainty – delivered through act of violence and assaults – create more infection of distrust and fear among many communities. In the workplace, the uncertain stressful economy makes more people more competitive, and some of them becoming increasingly selfish and corrupt. While some become more creative, some other actively give in to the endemic of corruption and power abuse.
The vaccine, and when it goes wrong
It is not that we do not aware about this. We actually foresee the risk. Hence, we provide learning for people around us to prepare for this. We expose them to these problematic traits, with a hope they will be ready to cope with them. In a similar manner with the way our immune system, we sometimes allow these traits to influence our live to some extent manageable. The intention was actually to build immune system in those who are not yet. It is behavioral vaccination.
But sometimes, the infection created was too strong, and instead of developing immunity, it becomes endemic. Instead of developing a vaccine, our intervention just helps the virus to mutate into a stronger type of strain. We have seen this in many examples. The endemic of fear, endemic of corruption, endemic of violence; were initiated from our effort to make people immune to them.
The war on terrorism creates the new type of terrorists. The justice system put more criminal in prison, and later sees many of those criminals are getting stronger after they got released. Executives exercise stronger control in organizations, and in many cases, that leads to resistant and rejections and higher desire to hack the control system.
We exercise freedom in our market economy, believing that too much control will limit the economy to provide the best result. But it seems the free market tend to be self destructive at certain times, and cannibalistic in other times.
Those efforts would still be the right things to do, but we might have taken it too far. Instead of getting immunity to the disease and strengthen what has been working well, we make the disease stronger and jeopardize the very system we want to protect. The mental vaccine becomes the carrier of the infection of a stronger disease, like what we see today. The free market slowly hurts the market, while it was intended to free it to grow. The social media was intended to bring more people closer and provide more transparency, and now we see how it distance people and poured with lies and twists.
Beyond patient zero, we need to understand what had we decided or ignored, to let that infection begin. Beyond patient zero, we need to clearly aware to what level we should go with our vaccination.
In other words, we need to know what had started the infection, how to administer the vaccine and when to stop it. The trick is to find in every decision we take everyday, and see whether we create infection of problematic mental traits, or whether we really stop it instead of make it stronger.