Saturday, July 11, 2020

He Speaks For The Majority, I Suspect

That would be The Star's Patrick Corrigan:

Meanwhile The Star's editorial board offers some insights into why Canada has fared so, so much better in dealing with Covid-19 than the United States:
It’s a terrible thing for an old, dear friend to watch America — as a result of its wilful blindness, contempt for science and gross mishandling of the pandemic — descend to the status of a pariah state.

The Atlantic’s George Packer described in one searing paragraph recently just how pitiful the former promised land of the planet had become.

“When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills — a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public — had gone untreated for years.”

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational and collective, Packer said.

Instead, it got Donald Trump’s singular ignorance, delusion and pathological instinct to see everything, even matters of life and death, in political terms.
Canada is an entirely different story for a number of reasons:
Part values, part experience, part humility of people and their leadership, part consistency of government messaging.

At core, our national DNA favours the collective during a crisis that has demanded collective action, mutual sacrifice, looking out for the other rather than insistence on personal liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Many of the characteristics frequently cited as negatives in comparing Canada to the U.S. — our smaller size, our humility, our greater trust in government, our commitment to community and social services, no sense of our own mythic exceptionalism — have become assets in this crisis.
We have also shown ourselves capable of learning some hard lessons:
After SARS, Canada redesigned the federal-provincial relationship on public health and infectious diseases. Our public systems are more amenable to coherent reaction to widespread crisis than the private institutions in the U.S.
As well, not having the same level of poisonous political partisanship as does the U.S. also helped:
In Canada, unlike the United States, the partisan cudgels were put aside — mercifully avoiding the vexation of states forced to deal with what Washington wouldn’t, and governors putting political affiliation and loyalty to the president ahead of science and medical expertise.
As recent events have demonstrated, our leadership is far from perfect. But compared to the Americans, we do have things to be proud of as this first wave of Covid-19 wanes.

And, of course, we must keep that border closed for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

UPDATED: Utterly, Despicably Shameful

I'm not entirely sure why these things bother me so much, but I suspect it has a lot to do with my hope and expectation that Canadians are better than their American counterparts in dealing with Covid-19.

As you can see in the following ugly incident, which occurred at a Mississauga T&T Supermarket between an employee and a benighted fool, that is not always the case:

Perhaps the original poster of the video put it best:
"My heart was broken and tears shed ... When that guy shouted at him, he didn't know how to fight back, he kept saying 'I'm Canadian.' Obviously, Canada is his home! Where is our multiculturalism? Where are our national values?"

"Even PM Trudeau called grocery store employees heroes! Why are heroes treated like this? I don't understand."


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

UPDATED: Mask Madness

With increasing evidence that small, potentially infectious airborne particles of Covid-19 can remain in the air for hours, you would think that the use of masks in enclosed spaces would be one of the sanest and safest practices that people would readily and enthusiastically adopt.

Yet it remains a contentious issue for some, even in Canada.

You have likely heard of the hapless Letitia Montana, the Toronto woman who somehow thought she would garner sympathy and support by posting online her denial of service at a city hospital because she stoutly refused to obey the mask rule.

Rightfully, her misbegotten ploy backfired, earning her worldwide contempt from people like George Takei and model Chrissy Teigen:
“This is a new level of moronic and entitled,” actor George Takei tweeted.

“Proud of the healthcare workers who threw her out!,” tweeted model Chrissy Teigen.
Putting things into perspective, as I indicated in a recent post, it is my sense that the vast majority of Canadians are behaving responsibly during this pandemic. Nonetheless, this must be asked: What are we to do with those who are too selfish or benighted to act as responsible citizens in this pandemic?

The fact that this question even has to be posed irks me to no end and, quite honestly, does little to reduce my innate cynicism about our species. My own feeling is that simply refusing service to the selfish is the best response, but unfortunately, that does not address how to stop such individuals from spreading the virus.

The Toronto Star offers this from sexologist Jill McDevitt:
Scrolling through Instagram recently, she saw post after post raging against people not wearing masks. She found herself shaking her head. Public shaming didn’t make people practise safer sex, either, she said.

“We’ve already tried this with condoms, and it’s going to fail,” she said. “They might deserve to be shamed, I don’t know. But if we’re talking strategy, (shame) doesn’t work.”

While condoms in some form have been around for thousands of years, it wasn’t until HIV began to spread in the early 1980s that they became a matter of urgent public health policy, and advocates have learned a lot of lessons since then, she says.

The big one is that you can’t judge people into changing their behaviour, she said. “It’s going to make them feel more and more validated that people don’t understand whatever they feel is their particular reason why they don’t want to wear one or feel like they can’t wear one,” she said.
McDevitt also suggests some empathy is warranted here:
Much of the messaging has been “like, ‘Wear it and deal with it, otherwise, you’re rude and you don’t care about other people,’” McDevitt said. “But, can we acknowledge and have some empathy for the fact that this is not pleasant for people?” She notes that condom companies have made major strides in fit and comfort in recent decades, which has helped.
Peer pressure clearly has a role to play as well:
... a recent trip to the post office gave her hope.

Although the office had a sign encouraging everyone to wear masks, it wasn’t required. When McDevitt walked in, the lineup was a sea of masks. But while she was waiting a man entered without one.

“He’s standing there and more people come in line behind him wearing masks, and he finally says, ‘Can you hold my spot so I can go and get a mask on? I don’t want to be the only one with out one.’”
Were I more magnanimous of spirit, I probably could readily endorse all of the above advice. As it is now, I feel more like giving those mask-refusing ninnies a good slap across the face.

Guess I need to work on my anger issues, eh?

UPDATE: Apparently, Letitia Montana is still defiant. As a Canadian, this makes me feel deeply ashamed:

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Much-Needed Perspective

I don't know about you, but I have always felt deeply uneasy about fervid professions of patriotism, especially the kind that Americans are given to. Their earnest hands over their hearts, their shedding of tears upon hearing the national anthem, their stout professions of "My country, right or wrong," have always made me wonder about their capacity for critical thinking, self-reflection and humility.

In the following, 'the greatest country in the world' gets a much-needed reality check from Colin Kapernick:

Friday, July 3, 2020

An Unwanted Visit, But Something Heartening Was Revealed

Since the pandemic began, my wife and I have been very cautious. Because she has an underlying lung condition, we limit our exposure to outside influences as much as possible. For example, I shop for groceries once every two weeks at the seniors' hour, and even that, when I first started, was nerve-wracking, especially fearful was I of the contagion I might inadvertently bring home to her. And quite honestly, as we learned more about the horrible ravages this virus can inflict, I have also worried about my own safety.

Our purchase of masks have gone a long way toward assuaging anxiety, and I shall return to their use in a moment. But first, I'd like to recount a trip we had to take yesterday to Toronto, a city about an hour from where we live, and a place I have never enjoyed visiting. My wife had to see her respirologist at Toronto Western Hospital for an appointment we thought had been cancelled. Getting ready for it took on an aura of military planning and precision.

Hand sanitizers: check

Masks: Check

A list of washrooms open to the public (because I would not e permitted into the hospital with her): check

Lunches: check

My initial plan was to find the nearby washroom, have lunch at the adjacent park, and then just read until her chest x-ray and appointment were over, which we anticipated would take over two hours. However, despite the heat, after having lunch I decided to go for a walk.

Now where we live, wearing a mask outside is unnecessary, as crowding is almost non-existent. But by the time I got to Kensington Market, I donned the mask because the area was fairly busy, and I wore it for the rest of my peregrinations, which saw me go as far as Queen Street West, well past Spadina. What I saw on my walk heartened me. The vast majority of people wore masks, even though it was quite hot and humid, but I think everyone felt that the moderate discomfort of wearing one was nothing to what it must be like to experience Covid-induced shortness of breath or intubation.

It made me proud as a Canadian to see so many acting responsibly.

Which brings me to the report below. While there is undoubtedly some wistful exaggeration in it, I think it captures the Canadian spirit and ethos rather well:

Quite unlike this nonsense, eh?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

On Canada Day

On this day it is often difficult for us not to feel smug when we look at so much of the world beyond our borders. While such complacence is never a good idea, in her column today Susan Delacourt reminds us we have much to be thankful for, especially vis-à-vis the United States:
Happy Canada Day in the age of COVID-19 — the border between this country and the United States has never been this sharply defined, literally and politically. As many states in America are tumbling back into a resurgence of the virus, Canada and its health-care system are slowly emerging from the crisis in much better shape than our neighbour to the south.
The increasingly dire situation in Donald Trump's Amerika has prompted a turnabout in the thinking of Wendal Potter,
who used to work with the Cigna health-insurance firm, [and now says] he [is] sorry for all the lies he used to tell about Canada’s health-care system and pointed to the COVID-19 response in our two countries as proof of which one was better.

Potter’s Twitter thread confessed that big money was spent in his business “to push the idea that Canada’s single-payer system was awful & the U.S. system much better.” Now, however, he said it’s clear “it was a lie & the nations’ COVID responses prove it.”

Potter has now posted a video as well, called One Pandemic, Two Countries, which plainly states: “When it comes to keeping people safe from COVID, Canada has the United States beat by a long shot.”
Here is that video, and Happy Canada Day, everyone: