Fear and Chaos, Stability and Tranquility. The battle for our minds largely depends on you.
This morning I woke up at 6:30 am, tried to fall back asleep for a few more hours, but alas the morning had gripped me. I brushed my teeth looked at my ugly mug in the mirror, went downstairs and fried two eggs, made toast and a cup of coffee. What an odd feeling it was. There is a pandemic raging, a race to vaccinate as many whoever demographic your government thinks deserves it, extreme political unrest in the United States and yet this one morning seemed normal, but was it? I had my two cups of coffee, organized my weekly schedule, and sat looking at my screen with a blank head. I’ve always held the ethos if you can’t write around writer’s block write about it. But this wasn’t writer’s block, it was something more insidious, a calmness that crept in threw a cracked window that had been left open with a cool chill to spread. It left me wondering, if calamity and panic are the new norm, how will we go back, will we go back? Sadly I do not think we will.
When I Was a child I was lucky enough to fly Croatia in the mid 90’s (then a war-torn nation) to see my grandparents. My grandfather held a lot of respect amongst the local people and was a soldier himself in the Croatian army. That’s another story for another time. What I remember was asking, with glee to the young, clearly Germanic, Lufthansa flight attendant if she would let us go see the cockpit! It was a privilege that hadn’t been torn away yet. I remember looking at the vast amount of instrument panels and the pilot laughing asking “what’s this one do?” over and over again. He even let me touch the sheepskin cover of his seat. The engineer, co-pilot and pilot were amused that these gaggle of preschoolers so fascinated, we felt like rock-stars WE got to go into the cockpit. Then, one day on September eleventh 2001 everything changed. Airports were different, security protocols were different, flying, as I knew it growing up, was dead. At one point you could have attended your family members to the gate! That’s so far from the security theatre and bureaucratic hellhole airports have become. We’re at the point where we can’t even bring mouthwash onto an airplane. The degree in which we have let fear change our culture over a series of events that took place in one day is staggering. We started wars that lasted generations and we are still fighting them. We hung a dictator, on live local television, albeit not the best human to walk God’s green earth, Saddam Hussein was not the orchestrator of 9/11, Saudi Arabia was, who still is our ally who we trade with and sell weapons (including yes, us, Canada, though that’s changing). This day affected international relations, views on Islam, fanned the flames of the radical right in the USA “No Terrorists Allowed” signs and people being beat up for wearing Turbans, a religious symbol of Sikhism who, ironically are historical enemies of islam going back 500 years at least. The world was overtaken by this radical form of insanity and chaos. We gout our fireworks show in Iraq and right now I imagine it is a prosperous democracy with a massive pro-american neo-liberal view of the world. It’s become a post apocalyptic shithole that we can’t fix. Back home in America Guns and ammo were bought en masse, multiple nations invaded, thousands dead, Afghani farmers thinking the Americans were the USSR, it was a mess. How can you win the hearts and minds of a people who don’t even know where your country is on a map? This was just another invader, this time with scarier weapons. The cultural shift at home has had irreversible consequences. Bin Laden wanted an unwinnable war, and he got one. He won.
So how does all of this relate to covid-19? We are in the same place we were back in 2001. In 2019 no one cared if you gathered in groups by the thousands or even hundreds of thousands. It was normal, acceptable, and encouraged. Today, where I live, we cannot gather in groups larger than 5. The rules that have been strictly and are now about to be even more strictly enforced are for the better, for now, medically speaking, but what about sociologically, anthropologically and psychologically? Was there no better way? Will a vaccine kill an invisible ghost which is what Covid has become? My assumption is no, it will not. A culture of fear has been created. People are “dirty” now and anyone who gets a cold will definitely consider the possibility of this virus that’s ravaged us. In a scientific way I believe public health officials are absolutely correct in the mandates, things like wearing masks and social distancing. What’s lacking is two especially important words: “for now”. We are currently undergoing one of the most important logistical projects humanity has ever faced. We need vaccinate almost 8 billion people as fast as possible against this virus, and the faster the better. Questions as to who and why are left up to public health officials and logisticians who have a much better grasp on the subject then I do. It’s very easy to say: “PUT THE VACCINES ON HELICOPTERS AND EVERY FIXED WING AIRCRAFT AND GET IT DONE IN A DAY”, as if that option hasn’t been considered. As Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.” Rest assured there will be hiccups, but I do believe we will get this task done.
The question I have for all of us; is what next? Will life just simply slip back to normal? We have largely defeated the significant terror threats (think organized cells like Al-Qaeda and ISIL), with drone strike after drone strike, yet people still get nervous if someone from the Arabian Peninsula hops on a 747. I worry that the fear created by public health policy which was drastically needed to flatten the curve or reduce the r-not, even once everyone is vaccinated, needs a part two. We need a come back to reality, my worst fear is that our public health policy celebrities will lose the limelight, and everyone will just be left to their own conclusions. They need to show us its okay to hug a family member again, to go to a concert again, to ride the subway or shake someone’s hand. We need to enforce vaccinations and prove they’re safe for all. The work, it seems is just beginning, yet we’re celebrating like it’s the end. We’ve all gone through trauma with this disease either personally or by simply watching it unfold and witnessing the sheer numbers of those infected and dead. “This country did better than that one, etc”. We’re all on the tips of our toes and come this autumn when our government (Canada) predicts a large majority of the population can go back to a normal life we need to relax our toes, rub our feet, sit down and reflect. The virus without a doubt will come to an end, but the real question is will the fear created by public health come to an end. Much like my days as a lad touching the sheep-skin of a 747 Captain’s seat, will our kids be allowed to play in the mud without fear? When we normalize absolute sanitizaiton and encourage a fear of anything dirty they tend to become norms, these are not good for our health in the long term. What strange things that is and what strange times we live in. We’re in for a rough 8 months or so, and need to stay vigilant but the thought of walking back these crazy times we live should be on the back of every politicians mind. I know I don’t want to live in fear of getting sick or touching a door handle for the rest of my life. As Franklin D. Roosevelt put it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Remember that when all this is over, we have a lot of healing to do.