Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What We Have Learned About Ourselves

The coronavirus provides us with a societal mirror in which we can see our flaws. In the United States, the flaws are glaring. Bruce Arthur writes:

In the United States the country’s fundamental sicknesses have not been put aside for the pandemic, and the structural weaknesses of the superpower — the bluff of a tilted economy, for-profit health care, the failed state of the Republican Party, and the irredeemable black hole of narcissism and ignorance from its president — have not budged.
Donald Trump trumpets unproven cures, promises empty solutions, and argues with scientists on live TV to cover his failures. He is pushing the idea that the economy is more important than a health system crushed, and perhaps millions dead, as Senate Republicans fight things like paid sick leave.
In America, the mirror shows something like the days before the French Revolution, but with fewer wigs. Trust and information levels between political parties are a chasm. It is a daily tragedy.

In Canada, we've done better. But we've been slow to recognize the danger:

Several public health authorities, including Ontario, are still limiting gatherings to 50, which doesn’t make any scientific sense epidemiologically, or when the message is stay six feet apart. (Quebec has limited public gatherings to two.) Especially given the testing gaps in the system, especially in Ontario, which has us still a little blind. Several doctors who do front-line testing in Toronto are apoplectic about the public health standards for who gets a test.
We’ve been too slow. Governments have been too trusting in establishing restrictions, and Canadians have not had enough societal discipline to listen to governments or responsible media. If you played beer pong in Vancouver or anywhere this weekend, your posterior should be paddled in public by someone standing six feet away.

This is a test for our society. It will take a while before we can grade ourselves. But the mirror tells us that we can still do better.

Image: Facebook


Danneau said...

I have a bit of a tradition that on the day following my birthday, I listen to Paul Simon's "Have a Good Time", principally because the opening lines are: "Yesterday, it was my birthday/ I hung one more year on the line." However, if I'm apt mistaken, the song is a bit of a wry comment on the direction of society:

Maybe I'm laughing my way to disaster
Maybe my race has been run
Maybe I'm blind to the fate of mankind
But what can be done?
So God bless the goods we was given
And God bless the U. S. of A.
And God bless our standard of livin'
Let's keep it that way

This would be from 1975, just before the bumbling of Jimmy Carter and the resultant onset of Wall Street Junk Bond à go go trickle-down Reaganism with shiny cities on the hill and baubles and bangles and the gutting of civil society. Almost first and foremost, the idea of education for anything other than work and greed became anathema. We have a couple of generations of North Americans schooled to believe that they're entitled to jet around the globe, that they really ought to have a new car, that life is a party, and mostly, that it's every person for hisself. Imagine the discombobulation of having limits imposed, even on personal freedom of movement, and being asked to believe that, even if one is presenting no symptoms that one should keep to oneself physically for the possible protection of others. It's gut-wrenching, I would imagine, cognitive dissonance for those who can neither pronounce the word nor fathom its meaning. Notive that newscasts are laced with cat videos and instances of selfless good-deeding to sugar coat the idea that we're looking down both barrels of a self-inflicted existential crisis. Praying to the golden (orange) idol installed at the pinnacle of power will only exacerbate the sorry circumstances, and, lest we be too smug north of 49, the play by our current crowd in Ottawa for dictatorial power in the face of disaster speaks to a willingness to play the usual gotcha style of politics rather than looking for consensus on redress. Just about what you'd expect from a crowd that buys pipelines to solve a climate crisis.

Owen Gray said...

I've come to firmly believe that character is destiny, Danneau -- and character is not just individual, it's national.

lungta said...

i woke up this morning wishing our national "character" had written a better euthanasia law, lack of respirators and smothering lungs and all that.

Owen Gray said...

This could be a test for that new legislation, lungta.

Lulymay said...

I don't know, Owen. I'm thinking that some entrepreneur should print off thousands of T-shirts with a giant red maple leaf and a one liner that says "Are we all spaced out yet?"

Corny as it is, its usually some crazy gimmick that engages the public rather than the real, raw truth. Realiity is not wanted any more --- I rest my case!!!

Owen Gray said...

Actually, Lulymay, that's not a bad idea.

John B. said...

What I've been observing personally to no surprise is a reinforcement of the principle of everyone for himself. People who are used to having very little of it are having trouble coping with the stress and seem to have no trouble at all when it comes to embracing the principle. It's the perfect situation for rationalization of greed. A lot of friendships and family connections are going to be put to a test. (I haven't said "fuck 'em" yet, but I'm getting close. One damned week and it's already past the point where I could reasonably be accused of being the first to do it. Maybe I'll just wait till later if we survive. Weak sisters and fucking in-laws - you'd never know that under calculated but seemingly casual prompting mother used a major portion of her retirement savings to pay for almost every extra in their lives. They've got a new mission now, but maybe not so new. That's their bliss.)

Owen Gray said...

For almost half a century, John, we've accepted the mantra that hyper-individualism is the goal of life. These days, it may lead to the end of life.

Lorne said...

Bruce Arthur up to now has primarily been a sportswriter, Owen, so I seldom read him. Since he has been writing on the current crisis, I have been most impressed by his work. The other day he wrote about his lifelong friend's wedding. His humanity and depth is quite touching. It is that humanity we have to keep in the forefront during these very difficult time.

Owen Gray said...

It's easy to get lost -- and depressed -- by the numbers, Lorne. We need to remember that, behind each number, there's a human being.

the salamander said...

.. as a 'North American' I'm outraged that Canada's Government and all political parties have not publically DENOUNCED Donald Trump. His meandering public hallucinations in regard to 'getting America back to work' by Easter Sunday - APRIL 12 is a twisted failing.. a direct threat to all of us on this continent.

In his enfeebled and reckless view, it would be wonderful to return the US from just Essential Services to a massive return to work. In the opinion of many leading Healthcare experts, the USA will eventually 'peak' as far as Infection & Mortality yet by then may already have become the EPICENTER of the Global Covid-19 PANDEMIC !! That the 'Peak' could plateau in a graphic 'plateau' = socio-economic collapse, anarchy.. meltdown. 'Back to Work' .. does that include Canadians who have or had work in the USA ?

What are other examples .. no, sorry.. what are ALL the scenarios whereby Canadians will be infected by Americans because Donald Trump and his 'brain trust' want to flip flop and fly based on their non existant Healthcare 'wisdom' and microscopic ethics. remember eh .. we have a political party in Canada that takes every opporunity to faithfully embrace & emulate the GOP. They find Donald Trump 'exciting'

As far as the Liberal 'strategy'.. it can be looked at through many lenses. I sense pragmatic aspects of a 'stalking horse' manouvre. Also, the truism of 'exceptional times often call for exceptional tactics'. With a shocking healthcare driven socio-economic disaster well underway, Trudeau et al 'went big' .. the expected Opposition parasites and their hyper-partisan media leapt into their fainting couch routine.. howling about 'Democracy'.. and the rape of Decency. Perhaps I expect too much from the louts.. they're such feeble & conniving lightweights.. just like their American counterparts.. totally interchangeable asshats. Canada aint changing horses in the stream.. this aint a stream.. this is a hellish big hole in the dam upstream.. There's a huge difference. Right now, our governments are working the economics that are being thrashed and trashed.. the social aspects are really in the capable hands and minds of Science.. Science as in Medical Science.. Government listening to Science.. ! Who'd a thunk it ?

Trump et al seem under the divine monetary guidance of that televangelical shrew entrenched as The White House Spiritual Advisor.. who simply wants money.. and then their all powerful gawd will spring into action somehow.. Thoughts n Prayers.. hmm.. and everybody get back to work.. Trump always says what he thinks... ... thinks...? hmm..

Owen Gray said...

I long ago reached two conclusions about Trump, sal: First, he's crazy; and, second, he's hopeless. Therefore, it's not easy to be his neighbour.

the salamander said...

.. Danneau may enjoy this link..
I certainly did.. & think anyone could
As if the ghost of Hunter S Thompson.. rides the wind
Damn, but I wish I could write like that ..

h/t Dead Wild Roses
Progressive Bloggers

Owen Gray said...

Like him or not, sal, it looks like Biden is the nominee. Time will tell if he was a wise choice.