“Life is a shipwreck, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sing in the lifeboats,” Voltaire once said.
But the problem for people across the world now, because of the Covid 19 pandemic confined to their houses and apartments, sometimes in just shacks and tents – in our ‘lifeboats’- is that there is not much to sing about.
For one thing, the demonstrated incompetence of many of our ship captains has a lot of people worried not only that the ship may be sinking, but that it may take the lifeboats with it.
Anyone with average intelligence and an understanding of logic has been forced to contemplate, over and over, the illogic of the crude form of quarantine being used to protect us from this corona virus. The French term ‘quarantine’ refers to the practice of separating suspected carriers of a disease from the rest of the population for a period of time. It was used in the 14th century to combat the Black Death, it was used by the Romans, and it was probably understood and used long before them in prehistory.
But our leaders have somehow come to the conclusion that if quarantine works, then if we quarantine everyone it should work even better.
Just stay home they said, all of you. When many people didn’t stay home, preferring instead to experience some spring sunshine by walking in parks or bicycling in streets, they quickly brought in more and more restrictions, closing down restaurants, libraries, playgrounds, dog parks, etc.
It’s remarkable how little intelligent debate there is. Without waiting to see whether previous measures are working, they seem to adopt new ones as fast as the ideas pop into their heads.
Meanwhile many people are afraid now to come out of their homes at all. Put it all together, and you have a good example of what I would call public paranoia.
I’m not playing down the devastating way Covid 19 has overwhelmed hospitals in Italy and now in the USA. The healthcare workers there need all the sympathy and help they can get. But did they have to be overwhelmed? We have known for a long long time that pandemics were coming sooner or later. How much would it have cost to stockpile millions of face masks?
Of course, this is what you get when you decide that healthcare should be run as a business. Even in Canada where it is not ‘for profit’, we decided in our wisdom a couple of decades ago that hospitals should not have unoccupied beds waiting in case of an influx of new patients, as had been done for a long time. That was considered too “inefficient”. They got rid of the beds, closed whole sections of hospitals, laid off many nurses.
It’s a lot easier, it seems, for those in charge to blame the public for the distress of healthcare workers than to accept responsibility themselves.
But back to this shutdown of everything.
When you ban people from parks and streets and beaches, you don’t reduce the number of people, you just concentrate them. They are closer together there at home – the opposite of social-distancing. If one person is carrying the virus, staying home more or less guarantees that everyone there will get it.
The affluent people who run our cities and towns seem to forget that many people live in apartments, sometimes with more than one family together. Elderly parents are often included, in more danger instead of less. Yet this shutdown of the world is supposed to be mostly for them.
Viruses and germs like enclosing walls. They proliferate better inside. The open air and sunshine are their enemies.
There has been a lot of talk here in North America about Covid 19 fading away as spring advances, the way colds and flu often do. But spring is the time when people start to go outside again. That increase in time out-of-doors is probably directly connected with the reduction of illness in spring. But this spring we’re trying to keep everyone inside.
There is no significant attempt being made, at least in North America, to identify by means of extensive random testing (sometimes called ‘surveillance’) who it is that needs to be quarantined. A number of doctors have talked about it, including the impressive Dr Fauci of the US ‘task force’ trying to deal with the epidemic, but it still isn’t happening (even though it was done successfully in South Korea).
Depressing isn’t it? The problem seems to be, as Voltaire once said:
Common sense isn’t very common.