America, the one most of us knew, is dead.
In politics, there are two buttons, really.
Hope and fear.
When you distill everything down their base elements, that’s really all you’ve got. If you’re the government, you offer more hope for the future, and sometimes fear of the unknown — usually the opposition political party.
If you’re the opposition, you energetically push the fear button about the government — scandal, mistakes, lack of a plan. And, when you are starting to win, you switch over to the hope button.
It’s simplistic, and — if you are one of the dozen people in Canada who still cares about nuanced debates about public policy — it’s probably a bit depressing. But that’s how it is. If you cast your mind back over the political campaigns that have taken place in your lifetime, you’ll agree that hope or fear are always the two competing dynamics.
So, in the coronavirus pandemic, vaccines represent hope. The new coronavirus variant — now tearing through Britain and South Africa, inter alia, like a Grim Reaper on a rocket — represents fear.
Fear is winning.
The most-recent edition of the magazine The Atlantic tells why. Released quietly when few were noticing, on New Year’s Eve, the magazine dispassionately looks at what little we know about the new coronavirus variant, antiseptically referred to as B.1.1.7. Its conclusion: “There is a tsunami heading our way.” And, mangling metaphors: “The mutated virus is a ticking time bomb.”
B.1.1.7 has seeped into countries all around the world by now. But it arguably slithered into many more people’s bodies in Britain and South Africa first. It isn’t more lethal than the version of the coronavirus we have been battling, to be sure. But it is far, far more transmissible.
Which ends up meaning it is far, far more deadly, simply because it is much more efficient at infecting us.
The ubiquitous graphs tell the grim story: Elsewhere, coronavirus rates are seen moving up relatively modestly, depending on how competent the relevant governments are. In Britain and South Africa, the graphs look like the sides of cliffs: Vertical. Essentially straight up.
“It is a bigger threat to society because it can dramatically change the number of infected people,” writes University of North Carolina Prof. Zeynep Tufecki in The Atlantic. “Estimates from the data suggest that this variant could be about 50 to 70% more transmissible than regular COVID-19.”
In other words, a catastrophe is headed our way. And it is a catastrophe made worse by two other factors: Lousy government communications, and a pathetic roll-out of vaccines.
The failure of government communications efforts is seen most vividly here in Canada. Over the holidays, scads of Canadian politicians — from every political flavour, at every level, in every region — broke the rules and travelled abroad. Rod Phillips wasn’t the only one. Federal Liberals and New Democrats, provincial Conservatives, political chiefs of staff and more: They, the ones demanding that we serfs stay at home, didn’t do so themselves. They’re liars and hypocrites.
In a deadly pandemic, it’s a big problem when government isn’t practising what it preaches. Governments therefore need to weed out other rule breakers, and do much better at communications.
Vaccinations, too. As of this writing, only 0.317% of Canadians have been vaccinated. At that rate, we will be lining up for vaccines for more than a decade.
Faster vaccinations, better communications: Those are just two things governments can and should be doing. Those things will give us hope.
Because God knows, right now, we need it. Right now, fear — in the form of surging infection rates, and a diabolical new coronavirus variant — is dominating. Fear is winning.
We need to turn that around. Because hope always beats fear, in the end.
— Warren Kinsella was Chief of Staff to the federal Minister of Health
It is that time of year when we admit to our failings.
It’s a timely time, too. For example, all over the Caribbean and various sun spots, nervous politicians are sitting on unmade beds in resort rooms, listening to their spouses on the phone as they try and get them a flight back to Canada that lands in the middle of the night. Mistakes, they’ve had a few.
This writer has had enough to meet his 600 words allotment, and then some. To err is human; to confess to them in a nationally-syndicated opinion column is superhuman.
So, herewith and heretofore, here’s some of the whoppers Yours Screwly typed out at the start of the pandemic. There’s some beauts, here.
Ten pessimistic pandemic predictions were done up, and ten optimistic ones.
Two pessimistic ones that were wildly, hilariously wrong were these: “Far-Right leader(s) will attract popular support with anti-capitalist, xenophobic, conspiratorial/evangelical fundamentalist movement(s). Far-Left leader(s) will ascend with anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, possibly anti-Semitic — but secular — movements favouring state control and ownership.”
Neither happened. There’s jerks and fanatics on both sides of the ideological spectrum, to be sure. But they were there before the pandemic, weren’t they?
These two prognostications are so false, so faulty, so flubbed, they aren’t even funny. They’re so big in their stupidity, they have their own weather system: “The economy will largely collapse, but a few will profit from it. People will develop community-based support networks, barter, etc. Certain essential services will simply cease, localized corruption and underground economies will grow, and many will cease paying taxes.”
Yes, Warren went all Mad Max/Planet of the Apes there. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. In my defence, I plead that I had not had my morning tea yet.
More Kinsell-apocalypse: “Wide swaths of urban centres will become unliveable due to collapsing infrastructure/services, homes will be abandoned due to inability to pay mortgages/rent, and many will be obliged to squat or relocate to rural areas.”
To be sure, some folks stopped paying rent and mortgages. But governments largely stepped up to help out. And those who moved to rural areas like mine? They mainly did that because (a) it’s way cheaper and (b) they have a way better internet connection, and can work anywhere.
Not all of my Pithy Prognostications were dramatically, egregiously, hilariously mistaken. Some were almost, sort-of, accurate.
Fer instance: “People will reconsider past views about politicians and institutions, and re-assess.”
And: “People will accept that there is a right and proper role for government, and reject the Trumpian anti-government populist bullshit.”
Full disclosure, as we say: this scribe volunteered for Joe Biden for months, so he was disinclined to cheer on Donald Trump, like, ever. But that prediction came true. Wherever a mid-pandemic election took place — B.C., Saskatchewan, New Brunswick — the incumbents were re-elected. Those governments won because they were activist during the pandemic. They used government as a force for good.
Not so Trump, the Mango Mussolini. He called the coronavirus a hoax, and he asked us to consider getting injected with bleach. He, with the world’s tiniest hands, even mocked the size of Joe Biden’s mask.
He lost, bigly. Being anti-government during a global health crisis is no path to re-election.
Another bit of fortune-telling that didn’t go awry: “People will come together and find a cure for this beast, because so much depends on it.”
And they did, they did. Thousands of folks, all over, volunteered to participate in drug trials that set land-speed records. Incredibly, some Big Pharma companies briefly waived profiteering to find a vaccine. And the aforementioned governments helped pay a lot of the cost.
The result: vaccinations are happening. In Canada — as this writer also predicted, further into the pandemic — the feds dropped the ball on acquiring vaccines. As of this writing, 0.193% of the Canadian population have been vaccinated.
But at least we have vaccines, now. Which recalls another prediction, and one worthy of a columnar conclusion: “People will love each other more deeply, because they are seeing for the first time how quickly life can slip away.”
And it can, and it does. We have lost too many, and we will lose many more.
Be safe, be careful, and have a 2021 that is full of joy, life and good health.