The Uncomfortable Truth of 2020
January 1, 2021. A new year. Hallelujah!
While the struggles of 2020 did not magically disappear at midnight last night, like all new years, there is reason for hope and optimism. The new year is also a time for pause and reflection. Thinking back of those we lost, of lessons learned, of who we want to be.
One of the benefits of the strife and struggle we faced collectively are the revelations they bring. About who we are and what we value, both collectively and individually. It’s important that truths revealed, however uncomfortable, are not lost. I’d like to focus this short narrative on this latter point.
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When the pandemic struck in mid-March, we knew very little about the virus.
I can recall over a three-week stretch as cases were ramping up, being the only person at my very busy grocery store wearing a mask. Everyone was exposed, no one was protected, and there I was, a masked pariah, filling my basket with groceries. To be clear, public health experts were at the time discouraging people from wearing masks.
Fast forward to mid-June, cases started dissipating, the weather was improving, and...masks became mandated?
What’s crazy, is I would routinely see people walking alone, in a sunny outdoor park, wearing a mask?
If this pandemic was an IQ test, it was clear we were failing.
As we navigated through the first lockdown in the spring, it became clear that the lines between essential vs. non-essential services blurred. I’m happy that health care providers are not locked down during this second provincial lockdown. To the government’s credit, we simply can’t afford to abandon the patients that need our care. I am equally pained however thinking of all the small businesses that are being shut down, that are frankly, not putting Ontarians at risk.
Health should be our primary goal, not just risk aversion. If the latter was the case, driving a car would be banned.
I think of my friend, Matt who operates CrossFit Orillia. A passionate and brilliant owner/operator, he has been able to utilize technology and social distancing effortlessly to provide an incredibly safe environment for his patrons. Moreover, his business directly improves the health of Ontarians. Yet, he was asked to shut down. Is this reasonable? Government officials would argue that it is. Maybe, but it’s also intellectually very lazy.
I was literally in a mosh pit of people at the grocery store yesterday. I’m told it was totally safe.
I understand that these aren’t easy questions, because they’re not meant to be. For example, isolating a senior doesn’t improve their health, but does reduce their risk. So what should we do and where do we draw the line?
This should involve nuanced debate, not unilateral decision-making. The historical precedent of governments making unilateral decisions is generally, not very good.
One issue that arose from the outset was the essential muzzling of healthcare providers on all matters related to COVID, by their regulatory bodies. Fair enough, you might say. Let’s not confuse the public. Let’s all sing from the same songbook.
The problem was, no one really knew the lyrics. Moreover, when the contrasting opinions of doctors, scientists, and healthcare providers are silenced, all kinds of crazy begins to percolate.
Truth emerges when dissenting and contrasting opinions are challenged headlong. Getting to the truth is uncomfortable, but the public shouldn’t be shielded from this process.
We need to engage everyone, not simply the handpicked few. From North Bay to North York, I want to hear the opinions of doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers. Their opinions are relevant to me, because they are, like me, in the actual trenches. This isn’t to slight the Premiers or the public health officials, but the reality is, they aren’t the ones treating patients.
Having traveled to many places, I’ve come to realize Canadians are very good at following the rules and that we generally don’t like to fuss -especially when we are involved in the process.
We will put up with all sorts of nonsense if we believe it is for the greater good. But we need to be engaged. Canadians are the most educated country in the world and have proudly maintained that ranking for over a decade. (1) When you disengage an educated public from the process, trust is eroded.
Our ruling provincial government is comprised of 72 elected officials. Of these, I’m not sure how many are actual decision-makers of any ilk. So is it fair to say that a handful of elected officials and making life and death decisions for 14.5 million Ontarians?
I’ll grant you that my university calculus grade was not very noteworthy, but does anyone else have a problem with this math?
The education process at its core teaches those to critically think and to appraise and to challenge. Are we being asked to think, or simply to get in line?
I personally don’t believe the government should be asking small businesses to shut down. In contrast, I believe they should be asking them, “Can you do it better? Can you do it safer? Can we help you find opportunities in these hurdles?”
We are either committed to decreasing pain and suffering or we are not. We can’t cherry-pick on this. Shutting down a small business induces pain and suffering directly onto that family. Doing it in the hopes of reducing the potential future pain and suffering of some other family seems nonsensical. It’s not altruistic. It’s ridiculous.
Distilling the argument down to essential vs non-essential is a philosophical slippery slope, that is honestly beyond my pay grade, and likely yours too. The simple truth is, everyone's work is essential. It’s patronizing to think otherwise.
I know that we’ll get through this, but it’s important that we get through this and be better. This is my hope for 2021.