Hey, Hi, Hello!
As people have been self isolating and trying to manage all the effects of this pandemic, one of the things we’ve all been hoping for is that some lessons will come out of this that will make life better for people after this is over. There’ve been a lot of people saying “If this has taught us anything” and “What we’ve learned from this” and I have to wonder, are people really learning anything? Or are progressives, like myself, just telling ourselves sweet lies to help make things more bearable?
You would think that people would be able to recognize that it’s not stock brokers or CEOs keeping the world as we know it afloat through this, it’s doctors, nurses, teachers, postal workers and employees in grocery stores, on farms and in and food service establishments. It’s garbage collectors and utility workers. Customer service reps and take out delivery people. Unfortunately, if you look at the divide on social media, it appears that some have missed the memo.
Healthcare workers are still being attacked, either by conservative commentators for blowing off steam with some harmless fun, or by people embittered by recent layoffs while trying to keep their heads above water and dealing with the trauma of a pandemic and healthcare cuts and cuts to their compensation at the same time. Teachers are being told they’re not doing anything, while they work to navigate online learning and retooling lesson plans for their pupils, now without the support of their EAs (thanks UCP), and grocery store employees are sharing stories of being abused and put in harm’s way while the UCP made temporary changes removing the requirement for employers to give notice of shift changes and allowing employers to do mass layoffs without reasonable notice to employees among other things.We call these people “essential workers” but I wonder if the title “sacrificial employees” might be more apt, since there appears to be such a vocal percentage of the population denying their importance in this strange world we’re now inhabiting.
Some of us are hoping for a more just model of economic stewardship, maybe something loosely resembling the Nordic model with a UBI and stronger social support for the vulnerable, you might expect there to be more support and less opposition to these ideas, given how this situation has highlighted the failures of capitalism. Yes and no, while it appears that support has grown, opposition has also become more fervent and aggressive. Wild conspiracy theories are picking up momentum, with some notable right wingers claiming that the government is using this crisis to force “communism” and “socialism” onto the population. I have yet to see a coherent explanation of why these people think the government would do such a thing, or why “socialism” is so bad, but that isn’t entirely surprising.
There are some who are actively putting others at risk by “protesting” the quarantine, or advocating to loosen the recommendations from Health Canada early (thus putting others at risk) just because they’re bored and want to engage in their hobbies again. I know everyone is tired of the golf thing, but I believe that it highlights the extent of the problem we’re facing here. There are huge swaths of the population that are deeply selfish, and they’ve been allowed, or even encouraged to be that way.
Canadians may judge people in the US for their capitalist ways, but we have our own elitism festering under our very own feet that we’ve never really had to look too closely at. It’s been easy to tsk tsk at the wealthy and politicians, because they’re the most obvious culprits, but now we can see that it’s Dave next door too. It’s not just oil and gas workers being entitled because oil is king in Alberta, it’s the accountant down the block who thinks his hobby is more important than the safety of his neighbors. It’s the lady who packs her family of 6 into the van and takes a holiday to their cabin in BC because they’re just so BORED.
I don’t begrudge anyone a delivery meal from their favourite local restaurant, or a walk around the block, but when we have people advocating to loosen Health Canada restrictions that are in place to keep people from dying because they’re BORED, we have a problem.
When we have people taking pot shots at our front line workers because they’re bitter and brainwashed by capitalist talking points, we have a problem.
When we have a government that is comfortable undermining the institutions that protect us, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
I hope that speaking up is helping, I hope that the collectives of progressive people working to enact change will be enough. I hope that we come through this wiser, kinder and more prepared to face challenges. I hope that people are learning from this, and that they teach those lessons to their children and grandchildren and that we can offer a better future to them.