Archives for posts with tag: Covid-19

I have a hard time caring about the Trucker (Freedom) Convoy occupying the capital city of my country right now. This could be because I’m on the West Coast, and the noise from all the car horns fades out somewhere over the middle of Alberta, so I’m not directly impacted by the enhanced interrogation being meted out on hapless Ottawans. Unfortunately for me, and for those who only follow this blog out of spite, I’m forced to write about it because despite my best efforts to evade the garbage fire of social media that defends far-right protests, the garbage fire found me. I won’t get into it. Anyway: freedom! That’s never been a toxic buzzword belying oppressive undertones! Let’s get into it!

The garbage fire demands that I ignore all the images and stories of atrocious behaviour because there are nice people in the protest too. Yes, there may have been cheers and people shouting, “Yes! Right here!” when a speaker asked what a white supremacist looked like, but some protesters also cleaned up the Terry Fox statue after it had been previously defaced by the crowd. So like, just because residents of a women’s shelter are being harassed for wearing masks, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some benevolent act of kindness happening elsewhere to cancel it out.

The thing is, the behaviour of protesters has nothing to do with the content of their protest. Does a Nazi in a nice suit having a polite conversation eliminate the violence intrinsic in the belief of callous disregard for the humanity of “lesser races”? No. It’s all public relations. If people looked at the burning of a Target during the Black Lives Matter protests and thought, “Well, I guess I think unarmed black people minding their own business should be killed more now!” then… there’s a protest in Ottawa that might interest you.

The Canadian South will rise again! I mean, unless that flag has some other connotation…

This is all very lucky because despite the Canadians demanding States’ Rights by protesting Provincial guidelines in front of the Federal Government, all they want is freedom! It’s the name of the damned convoy, after all! Just a wee bit of freedom! When you started asking freedom to do what, or freedom from what, that’s when it starts getting a little wonky.

In theory, this protest started as a bunch of truckers upset that they would be mandated to receive a vaccine despite being an essential service that didn’t even need to quarantine during the worst of the pre-vaccine pandemic. Honestly? Given the historical amnesty to truckers the government had been providing thus far, an about-face of that magnitude could reasonably be demonstrated against to some degree if only on principle. However, the big trucking alliance of Canada didn’t organize this. They’re against it. The people who organized this convoy have something else on their mind.

Canada Unity, which did organize the rally, proudly posted their Memorandum of Understanding to their website. It has since been taken down because people keep pointing out how problematic a polemic demanding the overthrow of a democratically elected government is, but fortunately links to it still exist. Now, it cannot be overstated how dumb this Memorandum is – I’d recommend giving it a read. Anyone listening to the news has probably heard that they’re calling for the Senate and the Governor General to ally themselves with Canada Unity to overthrow the Liberals and band together to eliminate pandemic restrictions; again, a provincial jurisdiction. That’s not why I’m dedicating a whole paragraph to this thing. They refer to every single piece of human rights legislation in the last hundred years, including the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, without actually pointing to where any of those human rights are being violated within the strictures of the legislation. It’s like they did a Google search for “human rights” and “medicine” and just copied out everything they could find without reading any of it. They also wrote out, “This Memorandum shall be construed in accordance with the Laws of Canada and the International
Human Rights Commissions” as if wishing could make it so. Ultimately, my reason for writing so much about this Memorandum is this:

Because real legal documents go all the way to the end of the page, so we have to let people know that we left this space intentionally. This is the 4D chess we are playing!

Because it’s funny.

Other organizers include Tamara Lich, former secretary for a Western separatist party that wants to abandon the federal state, and Benjamin Dichter who is a smidge racist, but so far hasn’t been overtly demanding the overthrow of the Canadian government. With these players behind the scenes, it kinda seems like the whole convoy is being driven by a far-right desire to abandon democracy and get rid of the government because they just hate the Liberals and Trudeau so much. The pandemic is more of a pretext. This would certainly explain why they went to Ottawa rather than, say, the provincial governments who are, and I can’t stress this enough, actually in control of the mandates and restrictions that impact every day Canadians.

Now, it’s entirely possible that the organizers of a protest are merely the catalyst for a movement that spiraled out of their control, and the vast majority of protesters don’t align with what the convoy organizers had in mind when they sent them all to the nation’s capital. Fine. Let’s say they really do just want to get rid of all vaccine mandates, all restrictions, everything to do with the pandemic and go back to normal. Unfortunately, at its core, what this belief entails is a tacit acceptance with the dying off of the elderly, the immuno-compromised, and the vulnerable. Even if the convoy is only about what its most ardent apologists say it’s about, it still espouses a eugenicist belief that makes sense for white supremacists and Nazis to hop on to. The weak must be purged to allow normalcy for the strong. Pointing to a few ethnic minorities at the protest doesn’t eliminate that fact.

Other Nazis are fine

Let’s look at some context. The Americans recently surpassed over 900,000 Covid deaths. Let’s compare that to the number of American deaths from every war they’ve ever been in since the Revolutionary War that started the dang country. Take a moment to think of what that number might be, and then read that it’s 1.35 million. In two years, America has had almost as many deaths as they’ve ever had from war. Add in a new variant after Omicron, and they just might beat it in another year. People have made jokes that the anti-maskers wouldn’t have survived the Blitz on England during WW2 with their whinging about having to wear a piece of fabric over their mouths for a much more destructive catastrophe, but if we’re making war analogies, they wouldn’t be whiny babies, they would be collaborators, traitors to the common good of society by facilitating the spread of the virus.

Masks work. Vaccines work and are safe. The vast majority of people are in favour vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and restrictions because the vast majority of people understand that masks and vaccines and all of those things are effective in saving lives and keeping the world going. It’s arguable that the Liberals won over the Conservatives in the last election because Justin Trudeau was stronger on vaccine mandates than Erin O’Toole. We have plenty of government mandates that nobody argues about; you can’t smoke in restaurants anymore because people noticed that what smokers exhaled was toxic to those around them when it was contained in an indoor space – sound familiar? And how many in the convoy do you think wore their seatbelts, used their turn signals, and stayed on the right side of the road on their trek to Ottawa? Data doesn’t exist on this, but I can safely imagine it’s all of them. Could be because these mandates keep road users safe, and the truckers didn’t want to die on the way to their protest demanding their right to spread a deadly disease. Golly gee.

When the garbage fire expresses shock at the mainstream media disregarding the “good” happening in the convoy and wish they took the protest’s message more seriously, this is why nobody takes it seriously. What the protest is asking for doesn’t work in protecting people from the virus, isn’t popular, and wouldn’t even return life back to normal, economically-speaking. #BestSummerEver! Unless what is being asked for is actually to overthrow the Canadian government, what is being asked for doesn’t actually make empirical sense. At least a far-right coup is logically consistent.

If no one can work because they’re sick, and no one can obtain any services because those workplaces are now closed or impoverished in staffing, and the hospitals are overflowing because people keep dying, at least our Prime Minister won’t be wearing those dumb socks anymore

With all that said, the same article I linked to suggesting that very few people are against Covid restrictions still outlines that mental health levels are reaching critically low points, and government approval is tanking. Nobody is enjoying the pandemic; nobody is enjoying restrictions. Most people just recognize that extreme measures are needed to make sure we don’t kill off all our loved ones. That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done.

If I turned this into a blog about all the things that could be done to ameliorate people’s lives during the pandemic, it would be way too long and I’ve already spent more time than I wanted writing it. Just-In-Time supply lines have proven ineffective, and the general motive to consistently seek out the lowest bidder to develop every aspect of our economy has proven incredibly destructive. The number of hospital beds in 1980 was 6.75 per 1000 inhabitants, and that dropped to 2.5 in 2019 – we have been very much neglecting our health sector. “Flattening the curve” was argued to ensure our healthcare system wouldn’t be overwhelmed, but it was overwhelmed every day before the pandemic even started. There’s lots more that could have been done. Uniform and reliable paid sick leave would have been nice. Maybe a Universal Basic Income so that people wouldn’t be forced into unsafe working conditions? We’ve tried it successfully before…

Wouldn’t it be nice if the convoy expressed ideas that might actually make lives better? Become a communist today!

The idea of protesting pandemic measures, or seeing the nuance in guideline enforcement, is necessary because we haven’t done it perfectly. We can always be smarter in how we handle the pandemic, and democracy demands public accountability. Heck, most provinces have even already cut back a lot of restrictions, though a gradual return makes far more sense than quitting cold turkey. However, Covid-19 has highlighted a significant number of issues in our society that I never even got into: the deadly consequences of insufficient housing and evictions, what counts as essential to society and how well it’s respected, and so on. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us turned to Tiger King to comfort us in our ennui rather than do something about it. The far right decided to do something about it; they’re just myopically focused on their hatred of liberals and Liberals. People who might have more nuanced views about how pandemic measures could have been done better either keep their mouths shut, or join a thinly-veiled fascist and ableist mob. That’s not a binary that’s going to make the world more livable. I mean, doing nothing is clearly the better choice, but it’s choosing the conditions that are allowing the fascistic percolation to maintain itself. Who knows what kind of monster the status quo will birth if we give it enough time.

People have a hard time with the concept of privilege. No one likes to feel like they didn’t earn the good things that they have in their life, that they just had them handed to them on a silver platter, and that their struggles are illegitimate. Not saying any of these are a reality, but this is a common thought process in response to conversations around privilege. These people tend to get a bit defensive because they interpret privilege as an accusation, as a judgment, but it’s not. Privilege is simply a fact about the world. Take being Canadian, for example. I am a Canadian, and as such, I have the benefits of Canadian systems and institutions. Even a homeless Canadian can walk into a hospital and get a wound stitched up without cost. Other countries don’t have that. I can’t logic my way out of that privilege: I am embedded into the structures of Canada, and I just have to own that.

How dare you accuse me of privilege! I built this universal healthcare and independent judiciary with my own bare hands!

Granted, national privilege is not often the example given when privilege is discussed. Usually it’s things like male privilege, white privilege, etc. For example, men make up 88.1% of all the billionaires of the world, and women make up ~60% of minimum wage workers in Canada. Again, this isn’t a judgment, it is a factual statement about the world. It’s simple math that if you are a man, you are statistically more likely to be making more money than the average woman. Same thing goes with race as white people will make more money than racialized minorities. When people say “white men are privileged,” it’s typically shorthand for pointing out these statistics. Not all statistics are created equal, sure, but denying these things usually requires peer-reviewed rebuttals of methodology. Unfortunately, it does get a bit more complicated: as another example, 72.9% of the folks in homeless shelters are men. So if you’re a man, you’re more likely to both be homeless and a billionaire.

Checkmate, libtards!

But how can this be!? Those are two sets of completely contradictory statistics! The thing is, having a home is a privilege. Having money is a privilege. Being a man might make you statistically more likely to fall under a certain category, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily will. No group is a monolith, and everyone is going to have an array of privileges and barriers. Unless the statistic is 100%, there is going to be wide diversity across the spectrum, in all categories. Even for us privileged Canadians, there exist barriers for some of us in accessing our allegedly “universal” healthcare. Having access to healthcare is a privilege. Again, these are not judgments. Some people may frame them as judgments, but you don’t have to listen to the opinions of everybody. Healthcare is a good thing to have. Money is a good thing to have. If you have them, you are privileged. This is best explained by an example from the followers of Jesus Christ.

The Christian tradition of saying Grace before a meal is a basic acknowledgement of privilege. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked for that food, you have food on your table, and others don’t. You say ‘thank you’ to God because you are acknowledging that there have been things outside of your control that brought you this privilege, and it is better to humbly acknowledge that fact rather than be a jerk about it. Privilege obviously scales here, because someone with an abundance of nutritious food is obviously more privileged than someone with scraps. The idea is that having a good thing is a privilege, and what matters is how you behave with it.

Humility with privilege may not be widely practiced, even within the Christian community, but it’s still a good idea

I recently received the Coronavirus vaccine. This is a privilege. Millions of people around the world are literally dying to have one. People are committing fraud in order to obtain this coveted prize. I received it because I am completing my Master’s degree in a hospital setting. One can wonder whether I earned this position, quantifying the family affluence needed to obtain a higher education mixed with my social background and the opportunities made available for me, or wonder at the risk I am enduring by being in an acute healthcare setting. However, what it boils down to is I have something that is a good thing. It is a privilege. Am I more at risk than warehouse workers and other workplaces that have the second highest transmission rates who aren’t being recognized as vulnerable likely due to a paucity of labour coverage in Canada? Is it less of a privilege because those in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver are being vaccinated? Of course not. I have a good thing. That is a privilege. Crackdown is a podcast that explores the lives of substance users in the DTES as told by their peers, and the host of the show worries that drug users need to take advantage of the privilege of vaccination while they can, because historically they are a forgotten demographic, and given enough time, this privilege will be taken away as the vaccine rollout moves on to more affluent populations. It is a privilege for homeless people to have the vaccine. It doesn’t matter that they are homeless, just as it doesn’t matter if you are a man or white; everyone will have some privileges and some struggles. There will be some people with an imbalance between these two poles, certainly, but ultimately everyone will always have at least some of each. Again, what matters is what you do with it.

Who has the privilege? Well, one has the privilege of a vaccination, the other has the privilege of healthcare. They both also have their pretty severe struggles. It’s not supposed to be a contest, you guys.

To reiterate, privilege is simply having a good thing. The important thing is what you do with it. To bring us back to Canada again, this country has the highest number of secured vaccine doses per capita in the world as a result of the diverse portfolio of contracts that were negotiated under our government. Our rollout is a little slow because we hedged our bets across multiple horses, but as additional vaccines are approved and become available, Canada is likely going to benefit greatly in the long run. We have access to a high number of vaccines. That is a privilege. What is Canada doing with that privilege? It’s taking vaccines out of COVAX, a vaccine charity organization, because it paid for them and is now staking its claim. It’s like if you participated in one of those ‘buy a pair of shoes and a second pair of shoes will go to a developing country’, but there is a worldwide shortage of shoes, and, despite already having a bunch of shoes, you decided to make sure you got the extra shoes before the people who are shoeless get theirs. It’s little wonder Canada is being criticized by human rights organizations for this.

You can be greedy with privilege. You can reinforce your status against those without your same privileges. Or, you can use your privilege to alleviate the suffering of others. Privilege itself is irrelevant to the path the individual who has it will take. Once privilege is acknowledged, you can also reflect on where this privilege came from. Community members in the DTES received the vaccine in the early rollout because activists (notably people with the privilege of enough time for activism) have been working on humanizing this marginalized demographic for decades. It is unlikely that many residents currently receiving the vaccine participated in that humanizing process, but they are receiving the benefits of it nonetheless.

Myself, I too have been vaccinated. When I get my second dose, I plan on visiting my parents, giving them a big hug, and I’m not going to have to worry about whether or not I am killing them in the process. Not everyone can do that right now. I hope I can do so with humility and gratitude.

So apparently China wants to steal the Coronavirus vaccine! Russia probably does too! How dare they! Don’t they know that some pharmaceutical corporation is supposed to make an infinite amount of dollars from that patent? With that infinite amount of money, the shareholders of whatever company succeeds first will gain a significant amount of millions of dollars to their already many millions of dollars! It would be an absolute crime to allow the people of China or Russia to survive the pandemic; heaven forbid, they could even release that information world-wide and then everyone would have the opportunity to cheaply manufacture whatever vaccine is produced! It is such a heinous crime, it is like a reverse-holocaust: millions of people would be relieved of arbitrary and pointless suffering and death, rather than being exposed to it. Obviously, we must put a stop to this.

All sarcasm aside, what in the actual fuck? How can media organizations criticize China’s delay in releasing the virus’s genome while allowing the privatization of vaccine data to go unchallenged? Would it have been better if China had held on to that genome indefinitely, giving them a market advantage to develop a vaccine before the West? Surely those in the West would have graciously accepted that capitalist doctrine. It was China’s decision to delay in order to save face that was the grave error. Rational people don’t care about face if millions of people might die; rational people care about money even if it means millions of people might die. Oh God, the sarcasm came back!

gettyimages-1205553157

Blame China for the delay or scapegoated them for the delayed response many Western countries delivered? Neighbouring Asian countries seemed to have enough time to respond appropriately

I have previously written about copyright laws, but this is ridiculous to the point of needing to repeat myself. An argument could be made that pharmaceutical companies need a patent in order to recoup the huge startup costs that it took to develop whatever they end up producing, and to count against the risk of producing a failed product. But what about the risk of all the essential grocery store workers who labored at minimum wage to ensure those heroic pharmacologists could eat? Or of the truck drivers and migrant farmers who made sure those shelves were stocked? Society kept functioning because of the sacrifices of so many who barely scrape by. Do they not deserve consideration? Should they have to pay a fee to protect themselves from a virus they’ve been supporting us through this entire time? It’s especially egregious since those most able to afford a profit-driven vaccine are those most loftily enduring this from the sidelines. Or how about how none of this research would have been possible had China not release that genome data in the first place. Is China not thus entitled to a little corporate espionage as recompense? Clearly humanity in its essence is not a good enough motivation; there must be market share.

It is incomprehensible that vaccine data is not being openly shared worldwide. On such a global scale of community impact, any resolution that is not global in its outreach is nothing short of treasonous. Treasonous not to any nation or state, but treasonous to the human population as a whole. All of us have risked. All of us have contributed. Yet only a few of us are entitled to survive?