Are you wearing a protective mask during this pandemic? Donning a face mask when you are sick is normal in many Asian countries. And it is strictly enforced for everyone during an epidemic. This morning, I learned that you can be fined $600 in Thailand for being caught in public without a face mask.
Its a different story in Europe and the US. President Trump announced the CDC recommendation to wear face masks in public a few days ago. The President emphasized that this would be ‘voluntary’ and that he, himself, would be unlikely to wear one. It was a pretty soft sell.
A Clash of Cultural Values
Many of us resist wearing face masks. Why? There is the science, as well as the limited supply of masks. But, there are also cultural factors. Generally, Westerners don’t like being told what to do in these matters. We don’t like to conform until we have been educated. Then we will make our own decision about the matter. Its our individual choice.
Culturally, the Individualist versus the Collective Identity values have something to say about this.
|Individual Identity||Collective Identity|
*For more cultural values go to ‘Common Cultural Values’
You can easily guess where your culture lands on the above table. Westerners tend to identify with Individualism. Other nations may be more prone to be Collectivists.
To successfully influence change, leaders tap into the cultural values of the group. In a collectivist culture, the leaders issue a directive appealing to the collective good and folks are on board. These are cultures where people are strongly inclined to do what is best for the group. That is why there is large-scale compliance in China, Singapore, Taiwan and other collective cultures.
How will more individually oriented nations get on board? How can leaders appeal to the value of individualism to influence change? I have three thoughts:
- The CDC did the right thing in making masks ‘voluntary.’ Trump may have over-emphasized that, IMO. But coming on too strong would go against our sense of personal liberty.
- Appeals should be made that include the opportunity for self-expression. I’m talking about designer masks. Run of the mill, boring white or hospital-blue masks, will not do, especially for the most ardent individualist among us.
- To inspire us Trump should wear a mask. It should reflect his personality. It could say MAGA, or “Read my tweet.”
What does your designer mask look like?