First I just want to say I respect you and your opinions and the decisions you make within your family. Sure I’d love to convince you, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last two years it’s this: Decisions people are making around covid are not necessarily about covid. My beliefs and yours are more likely tied to an overall world view.
To let you know about my world view, I’ve been associated with media my entire adult life. I’ve always loved it even though I can pinpoint the very day I realized journalism and truth were not the same thing. I spent New Years Eve 1999-2000 in a fully staffed news room because of the Y2K panic. That multi-billion dollar boondoggle turned out to be an incredible farce. In short, rather than investigate the truth thoroughly, the media as a whole convinced itself of an oncoming tragedy. In the end nearly every business in the western world spent time and money trying to fix something that was, as it turned out, absolutely nothing. When it was over the media simply didn’t talk about it. No one was at fault. No one paid a price. There was certainly a financial crime in the needless spending of billions of dollars, but there was no follow up. No one was ever charged. Who would you charge anyway? It was like a rumour no one knows who started.
Missing the big party at the turn of the century taught this young reporter a valuable lesson. Even if the vast majority of people are ‘certain’ about something that has turned into a narrative, it’s OK to question it. In fact, it’s important to question well established narratives. Basic journalism really.
Enter covid. In the winter of 2020 we all locked down for two weeks to flatten the curve. When the curve didn’t flatten we agreed to do everything we could to continue to battle the virus we were told might kill 3 or 4 percent of us. How innocent we were. I was an early proponent of masks. This was back when our government said we should NOT wear masks. I was looking at articles from Asia at the time, which made sense to me because that was where most of the covid was. I saw people in Hong Kong and South Korea going to school and shopping in their masks and I thought they must be on to something. Then for the first, and not the last time in covid, our leaders lied to us. Not just our health leaders, but our provincial Premiers and the people running our public health agencies. “Sorry. We needed all the PPE we could get for people working in health care. It was important for us to lie to you, to save them.”
Hhhhhm. No! That was a mistake or something worse. Canadians would have been happy to breathe through an old sweaty shirt if they would have told us the truth. Heck you know Canadians. Half of us would have delivered masks along with Tim Hortons to our nearest hospitals within hours. Healthcare workers would have been wading in masks, drowning in coffee and choking on timbits. That’s how Canadians would have acted. We never got the chance. Because they lied. Public health care officials and politicians decided as a group that the public was not to be dealt with squarely, but we should be handled. That makes them liars. They have not changed that position. I can’t explain why people continue to believe everything they say.
Somehow the VAST majority of media failed to take our officials to task for lying to us. It broke our trust. Like so many I have not accepted anything media or government and public health officials have said since, without checking on it first. What kind of a reporter would I be if I did? The officials we elected to serve us could have apologized and stuck to the truth and earned our trust back. Instead they double down every chance they get. Politicians are caught breaking the rules they’re setting for us constantly. They allow the large multinational store to operate, but they shut down the neighbourhood pub. They allow thousands to attend some events, but punish preachers for opening their doors to a few hundred. They greet each other with drinks and hugs, then put on their masks and step away from each other for the official photographs. Now they’re allowing only the double-vaxed to travel while restricting people who have actually tested negative. Comically absurd. All this under the eyes of the media who lift not one finger to complain on our behalf.
So here we are. People have fallen into their camps and very few are switching sides. On one side, are the Pro Mandaters. They continue to invest their trust in the institutions we grew up with. The politicians and the health officials, and the people on TV and in the newspapers have always told the truth right? OK maybe they don’t ‘always’ tell the truth, but our health is their top priority right? You’d certainly hope so, but there’s a simple fact that proves differently. TREATMENT. Despite the fact politicians and some leading health officials declare ignorance, they know millions of people are being treated. They know India and Japan have had miraculous results after offering treatment.
They know doctors in the United States and Canada have used over 20 different treatments with results ranging from interesting, to incredible. They don’t care. It’s not that they just insist vaccine mandates are the best way forward. Those in charge go as far as to ban treatment for desperate, dying people. Then they punish anyone who dares to try to save lives through safe, trusted, well known and widely used treatments. Let me repeat that… they ban treatment for desperate, dying people. Take a second to let that sink in.
When I was younger, a veteran reporter once told me how things really work. At a city council meeting I came to him perplexed at a seemingly stupid decision. He told me that whenever things don’t make sense it always has something to do with money. “Stop trying to make sense of it, and start looking for who is making money from that decision.” Probably the best advice I ever got until this next piece about politicians. I’m paraphrasing: “When you phone a politician and ask for a call back, you’d better keep this in mind. Politicians don’t care about you. They don’t care about your tv station. They care about being reelected. If they think talking to you about something voters care about will get them reelected, they’ll call you back right away. If not, they’ll avoid you like the plague. You need to make them understand this question will influence the next election. You’ll get a call every time.”
While it’s difficult to believe politicians could deny treatment to dying people, it’s nearly impossible to think public health officials would be so cruel. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting my head around that. These are good people. They are in public health care after all. This is a good time to think of that advice about things that don’t make sense. So, forget about trying to make sense of it and ask “who is making money from this decision?”. Well in this case it’s the pharmaceuticals. These are some of the biggest businesses in the world. They have been the most heavily fined businesses in the world. Pre-covid, they were viewed as among the most untrustworthy businesses in the world. Then their public face turned from lawyers and multi-millionaire executives, to public health officials and we forgave (or forgot). In his new book Robert F. Kennedy Jr. examines the relationship between pharmaceuticals and the world’s most influential (dare I say powerful) health official, Anthony Fauci. Kennedy outlines how over the many decades of Fauci’s leadership, the US has turned into an incredibly unhealthy nation with an insatiable thirst for pharmaceuticals. Instead of promoting healthy lifestyles, public health officials have become intertwined with the pharmaceutical industry. Now it starts to make sense.
Then there’s the other side, widely known as the Anti Vaxers even though this is the only vaccine most of them haven’t taken. The Pro Mandaters may not know it, but the other side are not against vaccines, they’re against MANDATING THIS PARTICULAR vaccine. They know the risk for a severe outcome for people below 70 with no comorbidities is extremely low. They’re OK with that risk. They’re not OK with being ordered to take part in a medical trial. A lot of them, tens of thousands in fact, have had covid already. Even the NIH admits readily that covid survivors have lasting strong immunity. Can’t catch it. Can’t pass it on. Unlike vaccinated people who still get sick and pass covid on to someone else. There’s only one way to protect yourself from catching covid with statistical success. That’s to have had covid already. Why these people are being asked to also get vaccinated is something future medical students will shake their heads at.
Many of us know someone, or know of someone who has died of covid. Other people we know of have been saved by a treatment we’re not supposed to even talk about. Those who have died are poorly mourned at small funerals. Those who were saved are buried in a different way. We’re not to talk about them. Incredibly as doctors in other parts of the world are treating, and studying, and creating data, our front line health care practitioners are relegated to the sidelines, waiting to see what their public health officials will allow. Some step up at great risk. They diagnose and prescribe treatments their training and experience tells them will work. I’ve met two people who felt they were close to death when a very brave doctor swept in with treatment cocktails. Neither of the people I talked to knew each other. Their experiences happened months, and miles apart. Both swear they turned around dramatically within hours of their first dose. You’d think they’d stand on the roof and yell out their truth. But they’re scared. Who can blame them? Both doctors who treated them have been disciplined. If lives are not as important as the narrative, how could mere careers have a chance?
I’m not personally against the vaccine. I am very much against mandating it, and I am very much against giving it to children. We are here to protect our children, not to ask them to protect us. Knowing that young people are statistically at a greater risk of a serious reaction from the vaccine than they are from covid, I will keep my child away from this particular vaccine. Knowing that children are at less risk from covid than they are from the yearly flu virus I will act accordingly. Children have a statistical 0 % chance of dying from covid and they are not good at spreading it to adults. They don’t need to take the risk, as tiny as it is, of suffering from a vaccine reaction.
My final argument is the simple fact that our government’s Zero Covid Approach is obviously failing. Show a single country in the world which is both highly vaccinated, and has wiped out covid. There’s not a single example. Meanwhile, two prominent countries with good record keeping and advanced health care systems have had remarkable success against covid. Japan has a vaccination rate well above 70%. India is struggling to get to 20%. The two countries have completely different levels of vaccinated citizens, but they share one thing in common. Facing brutal waves of covid earlier this year, in desperation both Japan and India allowed medical treatments.
Less than 20 percent of India’s population is vaccinated. Japan’s rate is in the 70’s. Clearly something other than vaccinations is in play. Treatment.
So how do we get out of this mess here in Alberta, Canada? I’m certainly open to ideas. Personally I only see one way out and one path to get there. It starts at home and leads directly to our local politicians. We need to face our fear of speaking the truth within our families and among our loved ones. We need to resist the name calling and the emotion (speaking to myself here), and stick to reciting boring facts and data. Then a very critical step. We need to talk to our school board members, and our city councillors. They are not affiliated with a political party and don’t have to worry about being punished by political bosses. We need to insist they take the measures they can to set us on a new path. The approach of mandating vaccines on employees and restricting citizens while banning medical treatments is a colossal misstep, a divider of families and community, and a devastation on local business. Most importantly it steals the lives of desperate, dying citizens. We need to beg, plead and demand our local politicians stand up against vaccine mandates and restrictions against their citizens in private and public buildings. We need to respect the legal choices of individuals. Together we need to demand doctors be allowed to treat patients the way they always have. With treatment, the need for the restrictions and mandates will vanish. This is the only way to get our communities and our families back, if it’s not too late already.
As for the politicians who are in a position to make changes quickly. Remember the advice from my friend and veteran reporter. We need to stop waisting our time with common sense arguments and start appealing to them about the next election. They’re reading the polls and those polls tell them most of the voters are afraid. It’s a tragedy that leaders with courage are so few and far between, but this is the world we live in and this is the fault of the courageous for avoiding politics. The good news is if we start to demand treatment and this movement grows it’s only a matter of time! The very second those same poll-reading politicians see enough people are demanding treatment, they’ll suddenly rise above their role of vaccine sales person and switch over to medical treatment advocates. It will happen in the blink of an eye. If you want treatment there when you’re the one who gets sick, start advocating now. The best thing about it is everyone wins, because medication is a both – and solution. Medications don’t need vaccines to go away, they just make them a voluntary extra precaution.
Premiers tremble at the very thought of contradicting the public health officials they used to hire and fire as they saw fit. The cowardice is embarrassing. Worse. Their cowardice stops so many thousands from encountering a doctor who wants to treat them with available drugs. For the rest of us, their cowardice means we’ll continue indefinitely to live in a suspended existence, restricted from going where we want to, when we want to, to do what we want. In fear, we willingly surrendered our freedoms and assaulted our small businesses and our community life. Those freedoms and those communities will not come back until effective medical treatments for covid are no longer banned.
Even though I’m vaccinated to protect my mother my child will not be vaccinated. My older children have made their decisions. My youngest is too young to make that decision. I’ll take the lesser of the two risks, and the one that will protect him the most going forward. Most importantly I know there are treatments available and I know who to talk to if someone close to me gets sick.
Here’s the Guide to Home Based Treatment for Covid from the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, and here’s the Guide to Covid Early Treatment from a group of US doctors on their website TruthForHealth.
If We Only Knew
From the Brownstone Institute
Last September, I released a video in which I explained my moral objection to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate being implemented by my employer, Western University. That video went viral.
Since its release, I have watched the video only a handful of times, and not once at my direction. I find it hard to watch, it being an acute reminder of the unfathomable world in which we now live.
But I have wondered, why did it resonate so much with people? Was it because I had the science right about the mRNA vaccines? Maybe.
Was it because I gave a good ethical argument against the mandates? I think so, but that surely isn’t the whole story.
Or was it something else?
I’ll let you think about that and offer my answer in a little bit.
One thing that video did is it instantly and irrevocably gave me outlier status. It put me on the outside of a system that has no tolerance for questioning or independent thought of any kind.
How many of you, at some point over the last two years, felt like an outlier, a misfit? How many of you felt like a foreigner within a new operating system in which conformity is the social currency, its reward the ability to keep your job, preserve your reputation, and avoid the censure of rebellious thought?
For its devoted followers, the stigma and bother of questioning that system is too costly, too inconvenient. But for you, it’s the price of conformity that is too high, and the need to question and, possibly resist, too hard to ignore.
It’s this social operating system that singled me out, expressed its intolerance for my nonconformist ways and, ultimately, did its best to string me up in the proverbial public square.
Until last September, I lived the quiet life of an academic, removed from the world of politics, podcasts and protests. I published in journals only a few colleagues ever read. I taught ethics, but it was always theoretical and, often, relied on the entertainment value of fantastical thought experiments like:
“What would you do if a trolley was barreling down a track toward five people inexplicably tied to it?”
Teaching ethics, I always felt, honestly, like a bit of a hypocrite, trying to envision what one would do if a crisis arose, or criticizing history’s moral villains. My work mattered, or so I told myself, but only in a big-picture way. There were no acute moral crises, no bioethics emergencies, as a good friend used to tease.
Not until last September, anyway, when all the theory culminated in what felt like the supreme ethical test. Faced with the decision to comply with my university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate or refuse and lose my job, I chose the latter, for better or worse, and was efficiently terminated “with cause.”
I failed the test spectacularly according to my colleagues, our public health officials, Justin Trudeau, the Toronto Star, the National Post, the CBC, and even the NYU ethics professor who said “I wouldn’t pass her in my class.”
When I spoke at events at the height of the crisis, when almost unfathomably, we couldn’t even legally gather to do what we are doing today, I talked a lot about science and evidence, and why the mandates are unjustified and harmful. But I couldn’t imagine doing that now. And I don’t think that’s why you are here today.
We have all drawn our battle lines on that front and we aren’t seeing much movement across those lines. The pro-narrative position is alive and well. Conversions are uncommon and mass revelations unlikely.
Events are starting to impose vaccine passports once again and masking is returning. A Moderna plant is being built in Quebec…with production to beginin 2024.
And, honestly, I don’t think the situation in which we find ourselves was generated by a miscalculation of the data in the first place but by a crisis of the values and ideas that led to it.
So when I was invited to speak today, I started thinking about where you are these days, I wondered about your stories. What are your experiences of alienation and cancellation? What would you have done differently over the last two years if you could go back? What keeps you on the road less traveled? Are you ready to forgive?
So what I offer today are some thoughts on the themes of regret and endurance, thoughts on how we created the deep culture of silence that now stifles us, and what we can do now to move through it.
First, regret. Regret is, simply, the thought that it would have been better to do otherwise. If you give your friend expired milk that makes her sick, you might think “It would have been better first to check its expiry date.”
If you comply with COVID public health measures that end up causing harm, you might think “I should have questioned the lockdowns before McMaster Children’s Hospital reported a 300% increase in suicide attempts last fall, the vaccine rollout before the mandates came along.”
But the vast majority of us who should have known better, done better, didn’t. Why not?
There is no doubt that the government response to COVID is the largest public health disaster in modern history.
But what is interesting is not that the authorities demanded our compliance, that our sycophantic media was too lazy to demand the right evidence but that wesubmitted so freely, that we were so ready to trade freedom for the assurance of safety that we inverted the demands of civility to the point where we applaud sarcasm and cruelty.
And so the question that keeps me up at night is, how did we get to this place? Why couldn’t we see it coming?
I think part of the answer, the part that is hard to hear, hard to process, is that we did know. Or at least the information that would have allowed us to know, was available, hiding (we might say) in plain sight.
In 2009, Pfizer (the company that claims to “profoundly impact the health of Canadians” — no doubt) received a record-setting $2.3 billion fine for illegally marketing its painkiller Bextra and for paying kickbacks to compliant doctors.
At the time, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said the case was a victory for the public over “those who seek to earn a profit through fraud.” Well, yesterday’s victory is today’s conspiracy theory. And, unfortunately, Pfizer’s misstep is not a moral anomaly in the pharmaceutical industry.
You might be familiar with some of the notable moments of the industry’s history of collusion and regulatory capture: the thalidomide disaster of the 50s and 60s, Anthony Fauci’s mismanagement of the AIDS epidemic, the Opioid epidemic and the SSRI crisis of the 90s, and that just scratches the surface.
The fact that drug companies are not moral saints should never have surprised us.
So we really can’t say “If we only knew” because the evidence was there; the collective ‘we’ did know.
So why didn’t that knowledge get the traction it deserved? Why did our blind adherence to “follow the science” lead us to be more unscientific than at, arguably, any other time in history?
Do you know the parable of the camel?
One cold night in the desert, a man is sleeping in his tent, having tied his camel outside. But as the night grows colder, the camel asks his master if he can put his head in the tent for warmth.
“By all means,” says the man; and the camel stretches his head into the tent.
A little while later, the camel asks if he may also bring his neck and front legs inside. Again, the master agrees.
Finally, the camel, who is half in, half out, says “I’m letting cold air in. May I not come inside?” With pity, the master welcomes him into the warm tent.
But once the camel comes inside, he says: “I think that there is not room for both of us here. It will be best for you to stand outside, as you are the smaller; there will then be room enough for me.
And with that, the man is forced outside of his tent.
How could this happen?
Well, it seems you can get people to do just about anything if you break the unreasonable down into a series of smaller, seemingly reasonable ‘asks.’
It is the humble petition of the camel — just to first put his head inside the tent — that is so modest, so pitiful, that it seems unreasonable, even inhumane, to refuse.
Isn’t this what we’ve seen over the last 2 years? It’s been a master class in how to influence a person’s behaviour one step at a time by encroaching a tiny bit, pausing, then starting from this new place and encroaching again all the while making us feel somehow beholden to those who are coercing us.
We got here because we consented to tiny encroachments that we never should have consented to, not because of the size but the nature of the ask. We got here not because we fail to see the harms we do or because we consider them to be a reasonable sacrifice for the sake of public good (though some surely do).
We got here because of our moral blindness, because we are temporarily unable to see the harms we do. How can little things like collateral damage and “autonomy” and “consent” possibly stack up against the deep, blinding devotion to the idea that we are “doing our part,” saving the human race?
Let’s go back to the camel for a moment.
One way to describe what the camel is doing is to say he is ‘nudging’ his master’s behaviour for his own purposes, in much the same way we have been nudged over the last two years.
I mean that literally. The COVID response of most major world governments was framed by the nudge paradigm, a form of behavioural psychology that uses the active engineering of choice to influence our behaviour in barely discernible ways. Based on the 2008 book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the paradigm operates on 2 very simple ideas:
- Someone else, a supposed expert, will make better choices for you than you could make for yourself
- It is right for that person to make those choices for you
The real-world actualization of this model in the UK is MINDSPACE, a behavioural insights team (or “nudge unit”) composed largely of academics from the London School of Economics.
Some of the unsurprising insights of MINDSPACE include the fact that we are deeply influenced by the behaviours of those around us and by appeals to ego (i.e. we typically act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves proven, I think, by the virtue-signaling practices of masking and social media vaccine stickers.)
Our equivalent of MINDSPACE is Impact Canada, housed within the Privy Council Office, which not only tracks public behaviour and sentiment but plans ways to shape it in accordance with public health policies. This isn’t a secret. Theresa Tam bragged about it in an article in the Toronto Star last year.
These “nudge units” are composed of neuroscientists, behavioural scientists, geneticists, economists, policy analysts, marketers and graphic designers.
Members of Impact Canada include Dr. Lauryn Conway, whose work focuses on “the application of behavioural science and experimentation to domestic and international policy,” Jessica Leifer, a specialist in self-control and willpower, and Chris Soueidan, a graphic designer responsible for developing Impact Canada’s digital brand.
Slogans and hashtags (like “Do your part,” #COVIDvaccine and #postcovidcondition), images (of nurses donning masks that look like something from the movie Outbreak), and even the soothing Jade green colour on the “Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines” fact-sheets are all products of Impact Canada’s research and marketing gurus.
Even the steady flow of more subtle images — on billboards and electronic traffic signs — normalizes the relevant behaviour through the subtle suggestion and justification of fear.
With greater than 90% vaccination rates, our nudge unit’s efforts are wildly successful.
But why were we so susceptible to being nudged in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to be the rational, critical thinking descendants of the Enlightenment? Aren’t we supposed to be scientific?
One of the great lessons of the last two years is just how much we are all affected by fear. The world’s nudge units masterfully manipulate our fears according to a precisely calculated cadence. But this is a dicey business.
If we feel helpless, fear appeals will make us defensive but, if we can be made to feel empowered, like there is something we can do to minimize the threat, our behaviours are highly moldable. We need to believe, for example, that the little mask we theatrically don at the entrance to the grocery store will fight a deadly virus, that the injection we take will save the human race (or at least give us the reputation for doing so).
But where did the idea that we should be manipulated in these ways come from?
None of it happened quickly and it didn’t start in 2020. Our moral blindness, our moral panic, is the culmination of a long-term cultural revolution and a devolution of our core institutions. As Antonio Gramsci, founder of the Italian Communist party, proclaimed, to achieve socialism’s triumph in the West, we must “Capture the culture.” And what he envisioned to do so was what Rudi Dutschke described in 1967 as a “long march through the institutions.”
Gramsci’s followers created, as Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, the powerful cultural left. With the universities as their laboratories, the West’s radical leftists for decades taught students the virtues of relativism and groupthink.
These students graduated, worked their way up their respective professional ladders, molding each of the institutions we have been trained to trust: academia, medicine, media, government, even the judiciary. Molding them with the guiding ideology of the “politics of intent” which assumes that, if your intentions are noble and your compassion boundless, then you are virtuous, even if your actions ultimately lead to disaster on a colossal scale.
There is no accountability in the politics of intent. No apology. No autonomy. No individuality.
This is what’s behind social activism, progressivism, wokeism, neoliberalism, purity politics and the cancel culture that seems to run roughshod over reason in the frenzied rush to protect “acceptable” ideas.
And this is why language came to be the ammunition of the COVID war: because it is the most expedient and effective capture-the-culture tool. Think of everything from “Self-isolate” to “covidiot” to, of course, “Anti-vaxxer,” the linguistic scalpel that carved society up at its joints. Even the fact that “COVID” came to be capitalized (in the US, Canada and Australia, in particular) has an effect on the weight we give it.
These insidious shifts in our language help to entrench a social operating system that has proven its ability to reshape society without limitation, that led to my termination, that upheld the suspension of Dr. Crystal Luchkiw for giving a COVID vaccine exemption to a high-risk patient, that made Tamara Lich and Artur Pawlowski political prisoners, that saw narrative spin at its finest as our Prime Minister testified (under oath) at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa yesterday, that demands amnesty for the (apparently) innocently ignorant, and that brought us all together today.
If this is the cause of our moral blindness, how do we cure it? How do we ‘wake people’ up to the harms of what we are doing?
As the Belgian psychologist Mattias Desmet says, jarring awake an acolyte of this system is like trying to wake someone up from a hypnotic state. If you try to do so by giving arguments about the effects of pandemic measures on children starving in India, for example, it will be futile because you are relying on ideas to which they give no psychological weight. Like the hypnotized person who feels nothing when a surgeon makes a cut, evidence that runs counter to the narrative is outside their focus of attention.
I have, personally, yet to hear of a case of someone being convinced of the absurdity of the COVID narrative on the basis of reason or evidence alone. I worked for months with the Canadian Covid Care Alliance to provide evidence-based information about COVID but I didn’t see any real traction until I made a video in which I cried.
Why did you cry when you watched that video? Why do tears well up when we meet at the gas station or while walking the dogs?
The answer, I think, is that none of this is about evidence and reason. “Effective versus ineffective” was never the point. It’s about feelings, on both sides. Feelings that justify our purity obsession, feelings (for many of you here today, I suspect) that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” as Hamlet’s Marcellus quipped, and that we don’t matter.
Do facts matter? Of course they do. But facts, alone, will never answer the questions we really care about. Let me say that again. FACTS, ALONE, WILL NEVER ANSWER THE QUESTIONS WE REALLY CARE ABOUT.
The real COVID war is not a battle over what is true, what counts as information, what it means to #followthescience; it’s a battle over what our lives mean and, ultimately, whether we matter. It’s a battle over the stories we tell.
Do we keep telling the seductive story of statism (which is what happens when we ask the state to assume authority over all spheres of our lives)? Do we outsource our thinking and our decision-making to the state that says:
- Don’t worry about providing for your family, we offer welfare;
- Don’t worry about taking care of each other when sick, we’ll give you free health care;
- Don’t worry about caring for your aging parents, there’s long-term care for that;
- And now insurance and overdraft and lines of credit, and even perfect student loan forgiveness?
Do we tell the story that our individual lives don’t matter, that we are expendable for the sake of the greater good, that technology will purify us, that if only we elect the right leaders, all our problems will be solved?
Or do we tell a better story? A story according to which our leaders are just a reflection of ourselves, that making ourselves wiser and stronger and more virtuous will always be better than relying on the state to make us healthy, safe and good, a story according to which we keep reaching for what we all deeply crave: meaning, mattering, and connecting with the humanity in others. This, I think, is a much more compelling story and the one we need to tell as we continue to fight.
So, where do we go from here?
Much has been written about the moral qualities of today’s outliers. In an eloquent letter to the unvaccinated narrated by Del Bigtree: “If Covid were a battlefield, it would still be warm with the bodies of the unvaccinated.”
Very true, but lying there alongside them would be anyone who refuses to outsource their thinking, who refuses to wallow in the comfort of willful ignorance, and who keeps trudging along through the darkness without a lantern to light the way.
Moral endurance is a problem these days. Empathy is low, and not just on the pro-narrative side. I don’t know about you but the feeling I can’t quite ignore or reconcile these days, something I am not proud of as an ethicist or a human being, is a palpable feeling of being numb. Numb to the repetition of history’s atrocities, numb to the laziness of the compliant who helped to create the world in which we now live, numb to inauthentic pleas for amnesty.
Those who have been speaking out are growing tired and we don’t even know what round of the fight we are in. With the injury of time, even the most devout can fall away, and what once seemed a noble, unrelinquishable goal can start to lose its force in the haze of shifting crises. And it will be a long time before the choir of humanity sings our praises, if it ever does.
But those who can persist are the ones, I believe, who will one day lead us out of this moral catastrophe, those who can remind us that more rules, restrictions, and signals of our apparent virtue are just a veil over our moral emptiness.
You might wonder, what if I’m ignored? What if I’m not brave? What if I fail?
The truth is, we all fail… every day. It’s unavoidable. But I think the greatest human failure is to pretend that we are gods, saints, or perfect heroes, that we can be made pure and invincible.
We all want to be the hero in our own story, of course — to slay the villains around us. But it’s turning out that the real villains are living inside us and growing stronger every day.
The true COVID war won’t be fought across the aisles of our parliaments, in our newspapers or even in the boardrooms of Big Pharma.
It will be fought between estranged sisters, between friends uninvited from Christmas dinner, between distanced spouses trying to see something vaguely familiar in the person sitting across from them. It will be fought as we struggle to protect our children and give our parents dignity in their last days. It will be fought in our souls.
Is COVID amnesty possible? Of course it is… if we hold onto our willful blindness, if we whitewash our mistakes. It is possible if I forget that within the last year, my prime minister called me a racist, that police came to my door, that I stayed home while friends sanctimoniously went to restaurants without me, that I lost rights that only the truly unreflective enjoyed, and that I am trying to teach my 2 year-old how to play and imagine and hope while the world crumbles around her.
But to “forgive and forget” will only solidify our brokenness. We need to look our mistakes in the face. We need to say our sorries. And we need to mean it.
We are going to be in this war a while longer and there will likely be more casualties than we can fathom in this moment. As Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Strand wrote, “…. if only we knew how long the ruins would last we would never complain.”
In the meantime, we tell our stories. We tell our stories because this is what we’ve done for thousands of years to make sense of our fears, to communicate with people from other tribes, to give our ancestors some degree of immortality and to teach our children. We tell our stories because we believe a cry in the dark will eventually be heard. These stories are what set a crisis in context. And sometimes a crisis can be productive.
In 1944, Jean Paul Sartre wrote an article for the Atlantic about those who fought against the occupation of France. Sartre begins the article with an apparent contraction:
“Never were we freer,” he wrote, “than under the German occupation. We had lost all our rights, and first of all our right to speak. They insulted us to our faces….The deported us en masse…. And because of all this we were free.”
For Sartre, it isn’t our circumstances that control us; it is how we interpret them. Sartre said they were unified because they all experienced the same fears, the same loneliness, the same uncertainty about the future.
And it was the courage of those who resisted suffering amidst all of this that led them out of it.
Leading us out of this will be up to those who, for some reason, choose resilience over helplessness, whose need to question is as natural as breathing, whose voice rings out in the silence, and who can see the humanity in others through the thick fog of shame and hatred.
It will be these outliers — people like you who were brave enough to be here today — that will make us look back on this moment in history and say, “Never were we freer.”
Government to un-redact text messages, notes of PMO staff at Emergencies Act inquiry
OTTAWA — Lawyers for “Freedom Convoy” organizers have won their bid to get access to unredacted versions of 20 documents at the Public Order Emergency Act.
Lawyer Brendan Miller applied to have the public inquiry release information in government documents that it had blacked-out, arguing the information should not be protected by parliamentary privilege.
Commissioner Paul Rouleau says the Government of Canada has agreed to release the unredacted documents voluntarily.
The documents include written notes and text message exchanges that belong to the prime minister’s staff.
Today marks the final day of seven weeks of commission fact-finding and policy hearings, and the commissioner and his team have until early February to produce their final report.
That means any new information is unlikely to be put to witnesses, but can be considered by the commissioner and included in written arguments by the various groups that took part in the commission.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2022.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
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