Saturday, March 13, 2021

Pandemic pondering

Here we are, a year after starting to have COVID impact our lives. We'd known of it longer ago than that, following it in the news, but while on vacation in New Zealand the news started getting worse. When we had a week to go in our vacation the government started saying Canadians should come home. We watched the toilet paper rush with amusement, but the overall situation is anything but amusing. Meanwhile life in Auckland was just like normal. We got the second last Air New Zealand flight out of Aukland to Vancouver.

A year later, where are we, as individual people and as a society? Sometimes it's hard to know. We're kind of sort of on the cusp of opening back up, people are lining up to get their vaccine shots. I think we become eligible to sign up yesterday, and we probably will soon. Lots of other stuff on the go just now, mainly work, during the work week.

The vaccine is no big deal. Honestly, I don't get the anti-vax idiots. Yes, there are a few people that for real medical reasons cannot, or should not get vaccinated for various conditions. I mean real medical reasons as diagnosed by a real medical doctor, not some homeopathic quack, or someone who claims expertise on irrelevant grounds. They'll be fine, as long as nearly everyone else is vaccinated. Disease can't spread if there isn't anyone who will get it.

I got vaccinated as a kid any number of times, so I didn't get smallpox or polio or tuberculosis. Lots of shots as an adult. Tetanus, Hepatitis, Shingles, and probably more. All that isn't counting 70+ blood donations. It's no big deal. To see the production some people make of it you'd think they were undergoing the tortures of the damned. 

Disease has been the scourge of humanity, showing us lots of horrible ways to die. Disease doesn't care what religion you are, what political party you voted for, who your king is, where you live, how old or rich you are, or anything else. It can't be argued with. You can only do your best to prevent it from infecting you, and get cured if you do get it. 

The first is by far the most preferable, since much of what can ail us cannot actually be cured. All we can do is beat it back, and live with the fallout. Some people don't even go through the full treatment, and now we have diseases that are resistant to our medicines. 

For most people, COVID prevention is not rocket science. It's not like you have to go through some arcane complicated procedure involving expensive ingredients. Just wash your hands often, preferably with soap and water (and I realize that for some places in Canada thats a problem, to our shame), but use  sanitizer if that's whats available. That one bit of advice is actually effective for preventing lots of conditions. Wear a mask, and don't breath what other people are spewing out. Things are a bit more complicated for medical people, but they know the drill. Or should. 

So, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance, get the shot when it becomes available. And yet, for some people this is hard. They think it's a violation of their freedom. An infringement on  their religion. A denial of their civil rights. Or maybe they really are just too stupid to understand how various diseases spread, and that COVID doesn't care. I don't mind them paying the traditional evolutionary price for stupidity, but I'm upset about all the other people they bring down with them.

One of the problems during the last year has been understanding the rules around what was open, and under what conditions. The disease moved fast, so I get that it's difficult to gather the data and put it together, and even more difficult to get politician's attention to understand it's an actual problem, (still working on this step for some politicians where climate change is concerned), and still more difficult to get politicians to act in society's best interest rather than their own by announcing restrictions or shutdowns. Some politicians have surprised me by getting with the program (surprised to be looking at you, Doug Ford) and others were more predictable, (sadly looking at Jason Kenney, in full denial mode pandering to his donors). 

Some of the restrictions don't make a lot of sense, but that's part of the problem when your tool is a dull  chainsaw. There isn't time to understand where exactly for the scalpel to cut. As I told my boss once, when you're hunting big game you don't follow rabbit tracks. 

So you end up making overly broad generalizations, because, no, you can't trust people to make individual decisions on a rational basis. The stock market and daily life has proven over and over that most of the time people are motivated by the balance between fear and greed. They want what they want and the consequences be damned. Most people are not good at deferred gratification. They want that cookie now, and will scheme to get that promised other cookie now as well.

There are lots of people who say they are bored. This baffles me. Almost all of us have essentially instant access to nearly any book ever written, nearly any TV show or movie ever made, more games than Carter has pills as my grandfather liked to say, and good quality video to talk to nearly anyone you know at whatever time of day seems appropriate. Contrast that with the 1918 Spanish Flu, with no radio or TV, let alone internet. Letters could take weeks to reach their destination. How we suffer.

Let's think about some of the outcomes from COVID. Far too many people died or got sick from it. We'll never know how many people died from a treatable injury, like a heart attack, because they didn't call for medical aid because they were afraid of getting COVID, or the local hospital was already overwhelmed. 

There were huge impacts to people and society; kids not going to school for a year, support systems that people depend on being wrenched away, the normal chain of daily events being upended. The impact ranges from the government and the Bank of Canada worried about the macro economic impacts of COVID relief payments, inflation, GDP and other factors, right down to a small business owner wondering how to keep the business open and feed their family.

For almost everybody COVID was a big surprise. Not to the people who study disease, or read history. They knew it was coming, the question was just when. The USA was unfortunate in having a self-obsessed idiot in charge during the beginning of the pandemic, and some other countries weren't much better off. Canada is hobbled by the health system's jurisdictional squabbles, with the feds and the provinces arguing, but we've mostly muddled through.

Now that the other side is coming into view, what now? Lots of people want to get back to normal, so they can continue to plunder everyone else at varying scales. People want to go back to Walmart to buy cheap shit they don't need made by slave labor in China and not be slowed down by the stupid mask, because that's how they amuse themselves. The people running all the steps in the supply chain want that too. 

Business leaders want more tax cuts, and to cut off the COVID relief so that people have to accept their shitty job offers. Kenney and his minister of (conflict of interest) Health Shandro want to get back to the business of laying off public workers and forcing them to to rely on their private services, and forget about the $1.6 billion they pissed away on the pipeline that isn't going to get built. The people busy raping the planet supplying the dying fossil fuel industry want that to continue because filling their pockets, I mean, recovering the economy is more important than saving the planet.

And yet, there are signs of hope. History has shown that people are resilient, and after a huge shock, things go on, but differently. Many changes to public health happened in the wake of Spanish Flu to prevent it from happening again. Black Death essentially ended feudalism. In my own lifetime I've seen people realize that nuclear weapons could end all life on earth, and we've mostly stepped back from that brink. We realized that pollution was a major problem and we fixed some of that. There's lots of other problems to work on.

In many ways COVID relief is a trial system for a UBI. Nearly anyone that asked for it could get it. (I didn't, in case you're wondering.) Some think that workers aren't returning to work because they're being paid to sit at home and eat Cheetos. I think it's more because those workers are afraid of getting COVID. The fact that it's likely to be a shitty job is another factor. The rich want to remove the safety net so people have to take whatever job is on offer. I take the position that with a UBI system, people will be more able to put their creative energy to activities that make them happy. I believe people want to feel useful, to feel needed, and will look for ways to do so, if they don't have to worry about starving to death in the mean time. Corporations will have to offer better incentives to work at what they call jobs.

The way things were, worked extremely well for a few people at the top of the pyramid. You might want to read this rant for more background. Not so well for the rest of us, and downright not at all for many. Time for a change. Putting ourselves back together after COVID strikes me as a good time to step back and review. Do we really want to go through that again, just to maintain a system that only works for a few people?

Or do we want to take that step back, and think about what works for most people? Maybe there are ways of everyone getting a slice of pie, and fixing the climate, and improving the health care systems. The people running things now don't even want to talk about the possibility. Why? Because their slice of pie will almost certainly be smaller and that's all they see, though it's still likely to be far later than other pieces of pie. People don't like change. But more and more of us are asking ourselves, we're grownups, or say we are. Why can't we talk about these problems, and figure which solutions are the best?

The masks are going to form a layer in our landfills. Future generations excavating are going to talk about the 2021 COVID layer, as they date our stuff.

Of the Day

Celina, the sometimes sausage cat. It's this or curled into a tight ball.

Serendipity and a Flower
From a walk in Fish Creek last year.

The fading Amaryllis, though just now there's 5 new blooms looking wonderful.


Artsy, or at least thats what I'm calling it.


  1. I am still hopeful (maybe naively) that the number of people interested in looking after each other will increase and the consumption of crap will go down. Unfortunately though, I don't think enough of us will learn. This means that just as personal lessons are repeated until learned, society will have the current lesson repeated. Maybe, the rest of us will get the message once the US has reached failed state status, and that my friend is not too far off. Cheers, Sean

  2. PS 5 and 7 are particularly notable. 5 works due to colour, texture, composition and contrast.7 works due to the fuzziness of the wood in contrast with the rotting leaves, and the colour palette. Cheers, Sean


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