Canadians did their duty during the COVID crisis, but enough is enough

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It seems the lack of party is over.  And having showed up late, the politicians don’t want to leave.  They’re just having too much fun while the rest of us survey the pandemic wreckage and start to get cranky because we’re tired, hungry and have a headache.

The latest piece of buffoonery on that score came from Toronto mayor John Tory, playing the usual scold over a bunch of young people practicing social lack of distancing in an upscale park while himself botching the mask business.  Which to some extent is just one more do what I say not what I do performance of the sort we’ve seen from our PM, the Ontario premier, that top advisor to Boris Johnson, the UK pandemic guy visiting his married lover and so on.  But I think there’s more to it.

When this scourge arrived we were told “Duty, citizens”, we must flatten the curve lest we flatten the medical system.  Well, we did our duty.  We stayed home.  We watched jobs and businesses fail (and by we I mean the people doing the actual work, not those in the public sector).  We did it in a very Canadian way, polite and peaceful and orderly.  And by golly it worked.  The medical system sat around in a state of eerie calm and quiet.  And then we were told well, stay home anyway.

What?  Why?  What’s the goal here?  Apparently it had ceased to matter.  The politicians were enjoying bossing us around and handing out money so much that the concept of justifying their behaviour had come to seem quaint, even absurd.  Justin Trudeau is certainly in no hurry to answer to a parliament in which his party doesn’t have a majority.  And to their shame, the NDP also seems to feel that legislative checks on the executive are for chumps, though next election odds are they’ll discover who the chumps are in a painful way.  (Right after agreeing to sweep aside that silly old Parliament, Jagmeet Singh tweeted that the MMIWG report “cannot sit on a shelf” to which my National Post colleague Chris Selley responded “maybe don’t agree to shut down Parliament until September then?”)

Of course the politicians say the usual stuff about the safety of our children being their top priority, along with the safety of seniors, the safety of the middle class and those working hard to join it and [insert pandering term of choice].  They would, wouldn’t they?  Even though one tragic failure of our response, political, medical and social, has been with respect to vulnerable seniors, something for which people are now demanding some sort of accounting.  Perhaps at least in a provincial legislature?

Meanwhile, the politicians and experts who say can’t even be bothered to tell us why, having saved the medical system, discovered SARS-CoV-2 is not very dangerous to the young, and put up with all the economic, social, psychological and physical consequences of a quarantine, we can’t now go out again.  It’s just too much fun having us obey orders and eat from their hands.

Indeed, so exciting is it to be the omnipotent, omniscient, richer-than-Midas authorities that our betters are cheerfully talking about going back into lockdown should there be a second wave or even ripple.  But if they try, I think they’re going to find that Canadians’ usual well-mannered compliance has been exhausted.  Back in March they got all the Canadians out of the pool by saying “Hey, you Canadians, get out of the pool.”  But we were promised we could get back in once better weather arrived and the curve was flattened.  And it’s no good saying “Just kidding, summer is cancelled.”

We’ve been hanging on with courage, determination and courtesy.  But we were hanging on.  We had not embraced the “new normal” even if “Experts say.”  (For instance from NBC: “Experts say wearing them [masks] will become a new normal.”  Who could possibly be an “expert” in that sort of thing?  As usual it’s just mediaspeak for “you should”.)  When you’re hanging on, sooner or later you climb back up, with or without help, or get too tired and fall.  Time to climb.

For one thing, people now realize the panic was exaggerated.  Not necessarily unwisely; early on we did not know (a) how lethal or (b) how contagious it was.  But now we do, and the answer is (a) for most people not very and (b) anybody’s guess; possibly half of us have had it and don’t know.  At a minimum 10 to 20 times as many people have had it than the testing has yet indicated.  Yet we’ve seen that the streets are not full of bodies and they’re not going to be, and that if it’s in the community, we’re all going to get it sooner or later.  Killing the economy and our social lives won’t make us healthier.  At some point, among other things, we better get back to working out or we’re going to get sick and die early.

I concede that those young people in the park may have been showing a bit of the typical sense of invulnerability that comes with youth, and goes with age if you make it that far, along with the smooth skin that does the same.  But they were also exhibiting a hefty dose of common sense.  They knew they were being neither reckless nor culpably anti-social by getting some sun and chatting with potential mates or whatever they were all doing.  And when some politician showed up and nagged them, they were not impressed.  Nor should they have been.

For many of those park-going youths, even the ones employed in the private sector, the quarantine has not been economically bleak.  They have the kind of professional, high-status, highly-paid jobs that you can do remotely from your pleasant dwelling and for which demand has not suffered dramatically, at least not yet.  The situation is considerably more grim for the less photogenic blue-collar types.  Try imposing another lockdown on cleaners and servers and mechanics who live in cramped apartments, including telling them they have to stop earning money again.  (Although there is some question whether overly generous payments don’t have a bunch of them saying your proposal is acceptable.  If only we had a parliament we could debate it there.)

The fact is, COVID-19 doesn’t warrant us all hiding under the bed for the next four months.  And woe betide the politician who doesn’t just want to tell us to do so, they positively relish the prospect.

Photo Credit: Twitter

More from John Robson.    Follow John on Twitter at @thejohnrobson

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