Crawford Killian writes that COVID has broken Canadian society:
After two years of the pandemic, Canada might well be diagnosed as a case of political long COVID: We know what hit us, but we can’t seem to muster the energy to do anything about it.
Public health has disintegrated into “personal responsibility,” though public health officials continue to be paid good salaries. Doctors, nurses and other health-care workers are catching COVID-19 or just quitting, leaving hospitals and clinics understaffed. Some of us are lucky to have family doctors, even if it takes weeks to arrange a face-to-face 10-minute interview. Pierre Poilievre has reportedly signed up 300,000 new members of the Conservative Party of Canada, largely on the promise of doing away with all vaccine mandates.
The data appears to confirm his opinion:
From the start of the pandemic, writer and researcher Jon Parsons tracked our response to it — not just the numbers of cases and vaccinations, but our ethical responses.
Our responses to the pandemic fall, he argues, into three categories: passive nihilism, active nihilism and ethical subjects.
The passive nihilist “perceives the world around them in chaos and, in response, then makes the decision to turn inwards and focus on themselves.... In the context of the pandemic, the passive nihilist wants their creature comforts. They miss most of all their haircuts and going out to brunch. They want to go on holiday amid suffering and disease.”
The active nihilist “sees the world in chaos and, in response, decides to make that world more chaotic still.... In the context of the pandemic, the active nihilist is the person who fights against any reasonable attempts to contain the virus. They are against lockdowns, against masks, against vaccines, and against anyone who tries to keep others safe.”
The third response is from what Parsons calls the “ethical subjects,” people who realize their inability to fix things but who try anyway. “In the context of the pandemic, they understand that it is an unfair situation, and they know it is not in their power to make the virus go away. Still, they commit to doing whatever they can to minimize the suffering of others.... The ethical subject makes a commitment to social solidarity even while recognizing there is some absurdity to it, in the sense that they know their actions will make little difference in the face of such tragedy. They cannot help but try.”
Most of us are nihilists, driven purely by self-interest:
North Americans have been encouraged for over 40 years to think that it’s “me against the world.” Margaret Thatcher, while still British prime minister in 1987, summed it up very well: “Who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”
Our inability to react collectively to COVID suggests that, as we face climate change, our future is hot and dark.
Image: The Tyee