When the need for choice runs into the need for safety, which one will you choose? On today’s podcast, Bill Stierle and Tom look into a recent post published on Reddit called “Freedom to not wear a mask” credited to Kathony Jerauld of Amador City. In the short passage tinged with a hint of sarcasm, the author welcomes everybody to a place called The Freedom Café, emphasizing everybody’s (both customers and employees) capacity to do exactly as they please. Join the conversation as Bill and Tom examine the strong push and pull between the need for choice and the need for safety, the need for independence and the need for community.
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Truth And The Freedom Café
Bill, I’m excited to have this conversation with you about something that we’ve both seen on social media. I don’t want to set it up too much before I read it. This is something that I saw on Facebook and it comes from Reddit. I’m going to say, thank goodness it was on Facebook because I can’t do Reddit. That is a very complicated platform for me. Anyway, I’m going to share it and then we’re going to have an interesting discussion. This is called Freedom to Not Wear A Mask published in a newspaper. It says, “Welcome to the Freedom Cafe. We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. In the same spirit of individual liberty, we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they prefer to follow as they prepare and serve your food. We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom. We understand that some people may be allergic to certain soaps or may simply prefer not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do. We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees.”
“We do have to respect that some of our cooks may have seen a meme or a YouTube video saying that 100 degrees is fine and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs. Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person with clean hands can’t touch your food. We will take their word for it that they are healthy and clean. Water temperature and detergent are highly personal choices. We allow our dishwashing team to decide how they prefer to wash the silverware you will put into your mouth. Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you’ll agree that it’s a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of no one ever being told what to do, especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers healthy.”
I’m going to give credit to this. This is credited by Kathony Jerauld of Amador City. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t know where Amador City is. This is an interesting piece that was a photograph taken of in a newspaper. I enjoyed it, Bill. I enjoyed reading it but I have to say, I have mixed feelings about it. This being a communication show, I like messages that are going to stick, that are going to resonate with people and that are going to be convincing to people. I don’t know if this is going to do it because it seems to me the headline of freedom not to wear a mask would draw a lot of people in who are in alignment in their thoughts with, “I think being forced to wear a mask infringes on my freedom.” As they start to read it, they’re going to get a couple of paragraphs in and be like, “This isn’t about the freedom to not wear a mask. This is trying to trick me into thinking that I should wear a mask to protect others. I don’t like that.” They might feel bait and switch, but I’m interested to know your thoughts and opinions on it, Bill.
The challenge has to do with when the need for choice runs into the need for safety. I want to choose something and then I want to be safe about something. The need for choice is something that we value as independent American citizens. We do get a lot of choices here versus other countries. Do other countries depend upon the goodwill of others greater than or do they do the opposite? Some countries do. The other thing is that we do not trust other people and we have a lot of rules around oppression. In America, we have this very strong push and pull between the need for choice and the need for safety, the need for independence and the need for community. We had this pull and the thing that always gets me upset is that we need to have the and/both conversation, not the either/or conversation. The and/both conversation is that if you’re in your house and we know some of the constraints of the virus the way it is and you’re safe with all the people that are safe still means you get to you get the freedom to do that.
The challenge is that when you go out, the need for community goes ahead of the need for independence and the need for freedom because we’re trying to do something as a collective. We’re looking to collectively stop something. It’s the same thing with vaccines or the same thing with health regulations. It’s the same thing with emission standards. Emission standards say all of a sudden, we don’t want smog, that kids can’t breathe and can’t go out into the playground during lunch or breaks. They can’t go out because the smog warning is too high. That forces California’s cars to have a high degree of emissions control. Other states don’t have the same emissions control. It doesn’t mean that they’re not polluting. It means that when a person can’t see it, they think it’s not there.
If it’s not impacting the greater good of the state, then we’re not going to put it in. We’re not caring about what’s going to happen at the ocean. We’re not going to care about the atmosphere because our state is not like California. Why is California unique? We have these things called mountains and these mountains trap smog into and press it down to the ground. In Florida, they don’t have that. The admissions control in Florida cars is less than the emission controls in California cars. Why is that? Every night, the Atlantic Ocean blows all the smog away from Florida and either into the Gulf of Mexico or back out into the Atlantic.
How do we know this to be true? Anybody that’s familiar with smog, stand there, look at Miami, look at Fort Lauderdale and you will see the yellow stuff going right up into the clouds. It’s like, “Can’t you see that?” “I can see it, but it doesn’t bother anybody because it’s going one way or another.” What about the ocean and the coral reefs? It bothers something in the environment. You went through your hot spell, Tom, in California about the temperature. What was your temperature?People resist change. They want to do what's easy. Click To Tweet
Where I live in Southern California, we were 110 degrees, which I’ve lived here for many years and it’s never been that hot here. It was two days in a row, 106 one day, 110 the next. That’s like Phoenix, Arizona weather or Las Vegas weather in the middle of the summer.
We’re in the middle of September. There we have that. In my house, although I wasn’t there, my son reported it. It was 121 where he was. I was going like, “That’s not something that we’ve had here. The hottest day in the record of Woodland Hills, California being 120 or 121 and the power outages, the rolling blackouts that took place and then people trying to scramble to stay inside. Some people had their power out for eight hours. That’s a tough run because now all of a sudden, it’s like, “What happens if we’re in a prolonged 1- or 2-week period of something like that?” That’s a what-if scenario, but bringing it back to what does the need for safety look like? What does health look like? How do we do this as a community versus what this wonderful passage that you read for us? This is individuals get to choose whatever they want at the consequence of these other people’s choices. It’s a little hard. This is a hard discussion.
I think the vast majority of Americans could agree on proper food preparation and safety. We’ve all seen in the news reports when some food item at Chipotle causes an outbreak of norovirus and that’s happened a few times. People get sick from improper food handling and preparation. There was a big effort to clean stuff like that up. There are many regulations. I believe they come down to either state or even county or local regulations for food, safety, preparation, and all that. The other thing is maybe some of you reading have watched the TV show on The Food Network called Restaurant Impossible or something like that where they come in and clean up restaurants that a lot of times are failing financially or from a business perspective.
Oftentimes, what’s scary honesty that we get sometimes is poor food storage conditions, poor cleanliness in the kitchen, the walk-ins and refrigerators. The environment your food is cooked in that none of us ever see when you get this plate of food served at the table. This is when we could go out to restaurants. This is scary stuff. To return to my point, most Americans could agree that having rules, regulations and standards for food preparation is a good thing for public safety. I would hope at least most Americans can agree on that.
I think there’s a general sense of agreement. Does everybody need to be at the consequence of somebody’s bad choice and do human beings err on caring for others or meeting their own needs at the expense of others? What we’re starting to realize is that we’re leaning towards the individual gets to meet their needs at the expense of other people. That’s where we’re landing. That could be the swing back to, no, we’re not doing it that way. We’re all in this together. We’re going to take who’s here, not wishing there were other things here or other people weren’t going to be here. We are the people that are here and we need to move back to a collective sense of this is what’s good for the entire nation versus this is good for some people who want to be independent over the community.
I’m not interested in your grandma. I’m interested in my independence or my point of view or my choices. I’m going to express that out on the internet and find other people who are as mad about their need for independence not being met at the expense of the needs of others. That’s when it gets unsettling is because we don’t have as healthy a community dialogue as much as an individual or identity, “This is who I am as a group of people advocating for this. Because you’re looking after the needs of the many over the needs of the few, you’re taking my rights away.” No. We’re asking you to pay attention to the needs of the community. This is what a lot of politicians are missing. It’s like, “Here’s the community narrative. It sounds like this and here is what independent narrative and it sounds like that. Which one are we going to pick?” Are we going to be a nation that does it at the expense of others or are we going to be a nation that doesn’t do that? We’re going to be in this together. Which one?
It’s interesting how wearing a mask has become such a symbol of freedom or oppression, depending on your perspective and your beliefs. It’s become politicized in a way that it shouldn’t, probably largely because the president of the United States doesn’t wear a mask. He’s worn it only one time, maybe two times and allowed himself to be seen wearing it. People whose political views are in alignment with his I believe take that to mean, “Yeah, he doesn’t support wearing masks. He doesn’t think it’s American. He doesn’t think people should have to.” He’s leading by example and creating some of this political polarization regarding mass wearing.
I do think that the food prep analogy and the washing your hands in the bathroom before returning to work analogy are good ones. Can you imagine at the Freedom Café, instead of the little sign by the sink that says, “Employees must wash hands before returning to work,” if it said, “We respect the right of our employees to express their independence and give them the option to wash their hands or not before returning to work.” How many people would leave that restroom and walk right out of the restaurant instead of going back to their table to sit and eat?
They would never come back again.
What is it going to take for people to believe that mask-wearing makes a difference and is equally important to some of the rules that we have around our food preparation at restaurants?
Mask-wearing is one thing, but the bigger issue has to do with the assault on regulation. Nobody wants to be regulated, but at the same time, regulation is a law that says this is a standard of activity that we’re doing. To have those regulations is to be independent and bipartisan is what it used to be at the EPA or at the Health & Public Services. There was no political agenda. It’s like, “Here’s what we know as the best thing to do for this thing.” The politicians were supposed to go hands-off. It’s an independent thing. You point to it and say, “It’s an independent thing and this isn’t an independent science thing,” so that you could allow a discussion of truth to be around this independent thing.
As soon as you say, “Change this regulation into this organization that’s supposed to be independent,” now it’s an assault on truth and trust, which is very unsettling. Anybody then with an idea gets to be an expert and that’s not good. You and I talk about this often. When you read something on the internet and you go like, “Is that true? It seems like it is. It makes sense to me.” Meanwhile, it’s like, “Did I take the bait on somebody pushing a bias in my direction?” It’s a part of what makes some form of logical sense. Therefore, it means X, Y, Z. Where somebody that throws their belief in on it and says, “I’m all in on this belief,” they’re now pinning their identity and their self-worth on their face. Therefore, they can’t let it go because if I let this go, then all the other house of cards that I’ve constructed gets let go too.
Instead of just being a human being and say, “Yes, and I got this one wrong. I got this one right.” It’s okay that ten years from now that we can say, “Ten years ago, we got this one wrong, but now I’m going to make adjustments in my belief so I can have it right. I can adjust my thinking.” We need to adjust our thinking about how we’re communicating with each other. I don’t know about you, Tom, but you and I might have a family member that comes over at Thanksgiving or a family member that comes over at Christmas time. They might have a belief that’s different from ours and it could literally throw anything between sand, dirt, mud, or violence in the middle of one of our holidays.
It can be difficult. In the past, I’ve had some tricky situations that some of those family gatherings. I don’t know if it was Thanksgiving or not, but especially around somehow if the second amendment comes up, that’s another third-rail issue. It can be difficult to have a conversation, even with a member of your own family about these things. There’s going to be an awful lot of that taking place at the dinner tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Politically, of course. The irony is when you’re talking about regulations and regulation is seen as a dirty word, especially if you’re on the right side of the political aisle. Regulation equals bad. Usually, because it gets in the way, it’s perceived any way to get in the way of business.
The irony is it was Richard Nixon who put the environmental protection agency in place. He did stuff about the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act. These things led to the EPA, I believe. Now it’s become such a thing where it’s seen as bad, but again, that always surprises me. Usually, people complain about regulations, especially when polluting is the easy way out. There may well be a way that you can still make as good a profit in business if you obey the regulations and do things differently. People resist change, businesses resist change. They want to do what’s easy and this becomes a tug of war. Eventually, things do go in the direction of people generally want clean air and clean water. They don’t want their yard to be polluted. They want somebody else’s to be polluted. It’s the not in my backyard attitude. Why does it get political?If we don't meet the need for certainty and safety, freedom is prolonged, and there's this trail of death that follows behind it. Click To Tweet
The power exchange is the hard part on this. This is this one is hard to stare down and take an action on. This could be any city at all, but there is the one specifically I know about. There’s a city in Utah that has a processing plant that literally dumps the waste for the processing plant in the river that goes by the town. They dump it in. The city, the members, the constituents had it. They said to the mayor and to everybody, “We cannot have this company keep dumping their sewage in their place.” City members go to the company and say, “We got to clean this up.”
The company literally said to the mayor and the citizens, “If you make us clean this, we are going to move us out, which will then decimate the town because a third of this town is being employed by this company.” All of a sudden it’s like, “We have no power now because they’re going to move.” The integrity answer is move. “Please move now. Congratulations. You will be moving. We’ll be fine without you because our citizens can rebound. We might not rebound the way we would like to, but quite frankly, we’re going to pick the environment over jobs.” As soon as I say that, you can see the security. I cut off all of these different employees. All of these different people just lost their jobs. That’s their livelihood. That’s the schools and their shelter.
If there’s not a relationship between regulation and there’s nobody overlooking things, basically you can say, “Let’s make asbestos legal again. Let’s make lead in the paint legal again.” As I went down those two, that’s happening. It’s a part of something that happened,” Let’s bring asbestos back.” Now that it’s legal, you can’t sue it for it because it’s legal. Now you can’t have a case because it’s legal and we’re going to favor those people that own those companies. It’s tough because human beings, we do have to take care of ourselves and our own needs, but we do have a relationship with the other human beings in the environment.
We can’t keep saying, “I don’t care about my neighbor. I don’t care about my community,” or “I don’t care about the next city. The next city has a bunch of people that are lower-income than me. I can’t care about them. All I care about is my city, which is why I moved out of that other city into this other city because I didn’t want to live in a low-income city over there.” It’s very unsettling this discussion because it’s the relationship between economy and regulation. How do we do efficiency versus a regulation or a rule? How do we do regulations versus safety? It’s a little bit tweaky because we need to have the and/or dialogue, either/or, or and/both dialogue versus then the yes/no or one way or another. It’s hard to discuss that.
The issue with the mask is complicated a lot because a lot of people in America have a belief that the virus is a hoax or that it’s not as bad as they’re being told it is. Therefore, if they were to read this passage I read from the paper about the Freedom Cafe, they would say, “Food safety and preparation and washing hands when you’re preparing food, that we all can agree on. We know we all know that’s real, but you’re not believing this stuff about the virus, are you?” I could see those biases playing into why they wouldn’t see food preparation, food safety, even washing dishes in the same category as the wearing masks. It’s maybe a bit of a flat earth mindset because you can see dirty dishes, you can see dirty hands. You can see a dirty kitchen that food’s prepped in. You can visualize that more than you can these aerosol, teeny tiny droplets staying in the air for hours when people breathe or cough or sneeze.
There is the carrying capacity of those things in the environment. There is a certain resilience and non-resilience to the virus in the environment. The question is that if we meet the need for safety and meet the need for certainty in certain ways, then we get our freedom back. If we don’t meet the need for certainty and the need for safety, then freedom is prolonged and also there’s this trail of death that follows behind it.
The infringement of freedom is prolonged is what you meant. It’s interesting. There is irony there. People don’t want to feel the short-term pain. They are hoping. One of my mantras in business is hope is not a plan. Hope is not a strategy. You can hope it’s going to go away. Donald Trump said, “In April 2020, when the weather warms up, it’s going to go away.” You can hope that’s going to happen and I’m not saying you shouldn’t hope for the best, however, hope is not a strategy. If you get what you hope for, you were lucky.
The word regulation as a structure thing is a part of the relationship between safety and efficiency. Efficiency can give you profits, but it doesn’t necessarily increase response time, which is exactly what our economy has shifted to. This all is doubled down over the need for efficiency in order to meet the need for profit does not necessarily cover things when they get there in a crisis. I know we’ve had discussions about this. The greatest profit that the medical industry has is the emergency room. Who wants to get rid of the emergency room with planned care? None of the hospitals do because that’s their greatest profit.
To shift from a system that the economics of it are built around, healing people that are sick is much more profitable than preventing people from getting sick in the first place. Preventive care versus sick care is a big thing. Bill, before we wrap this episode, let’s have a little humor injected into it. I think we could use a little levity, don’t you?
That would be fine. What have we got in levity?
Over the Labor Day weekend, there were these Donald Trump boat parades that were going on around the country. They were organized. Maybe humorous to some and not others, I will admit, but all these are emblazoned with Donald Trump flags, Donald Trump signs and all sorts of Donald Trump icons. What was notable, especially in Texas, that there were several boats that were in the parade that were sinking due to a number of circumstances. There were high winds, there were other issues and they sunk. All the memes are starting to come out of these Donald Trump emblazoned boats sinking like Donald Trump is a sinking ship. It was so humorous to me to see that.
I also was thinking back to one of the hurricanes early in the Donald Trump administration where President Donald Trump visited South Florida maybe. I forget where, but he was looking at a bunch of wreckage and there were a bunch of quotes and tweets he put out that one of them became the title of a book that Stephen Colbert wrote and put out. The entire book comes from Donald Trump’s tweets. The book is called Whose Boat Is This Boat? It was humorous. All the late-night comedians were off in the run-up to Labor Day, but I’m waiting for Stephen Colbert to roll out the images of the boats sinking with Donald Trump flags and then for him to bring out Whose Boat Is This Boat? again. I’m sure he’ll do something on it.
It’s a great example to stick the landing on boating regulations, boating safety and how do we care for each other in the environment. As soon as you start railing against regulation, you’re railing against safety and protection. We’ve got to restore our memory that do we want to live within an unregulated, dirty America that doesn’t have the ability to care for our neighbors. If somebody is unaccountable for something, we’ve got to make ourselves more accountable collectively. Not from shame or a guilt place, but from a place of integrity and accountability. How about that? You see something on the ground, pick the damn thing up. If something is out of place, throw it in the garbage can.
If a car is polluting, make it so it doesn’t pollute. If a piece of food needs to be kept and we need to rate the restaurant to an A, B or C, rate the restaurant and have that restaurant inspected. The need for safety and protection, can it go overboard? Sometimes it does. Sometimes it’s not that cost-effective to do it, but how do we pay for the need for safety or a collective agreement and make that work better? The next time, Tom, we can talk about accountability and move that in as well as how can we restore expertise? That might be helpful for us.
That sounds good, Bill.
There are more to come, Tom. Thanks.
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