“The progress of a great calamity yields valuable information about the nature of the society so stricken.” Marc Bloch, historian.
They have failed us on a biblical scale. Most provincial governments in this country and the federal government in Ottawa, with the apparent exception of provincial governments in the Maritimes, failed to promptly and effectively handle the COVID virus calamity. Some of which we have had damaged or lost over the past year: livelihoods, security, physical and mental wellbeing, routines, vacations, education, community, trust, time, futures. And the progress of the great calamity hasn’t affected us equally. We were not in this together. Over 21,200 lives lost thus far, with more to come, many among the most vulnerable, the Golden Years turned to rust. People of colour and low paid workers in the service industry seemingly disproportionately affected. In Canada, governments were basically unprepared, they dithered, they gambled: people’s wellbeing versus the economy, while desperately hoping and betting that a vaccine would come along and accomplish what they failed to.
And then of course there was a small but noisy minority of individuals whose definition and exercise of individual rights and freedoms seemingly took precedence over the rights of others. And the bellicose anti-lockdown experts whose predictions have proved to be wrong for Canada and elsewhere.
However, the worst thing of all, by far, was how governments ignored decisive “successes” elsewhere, places with far fewer deaths and incidences, places that didn’t have to rely on vaccines, places where life apparently returned to near normalcy months ago – Australia (909 deaths), Vietnam (35), New Zealand (25), Finland (710), Norway (592), and South Korea (1522), are some among many others.
It seems to me the choice we were presented with early on, given the experiences in the early months of 2020 of the countries mentioned above, was a fairly simple one: take very rapid strict measures, including the use of lockdowns until the virus had no place to hide or go, or face an unrelenting wave costing a great many lives, hospital systems at the breaking point, billions upon billions spent, waves of uncertainty and insecurity midst an unending assortment of fluctuating restrictions.
Why did governments fail so many so terribly? Who will be held accountable? What has “the progress of this great calamity” told us about the nature of Canadian society and the governments we elect?