Recently I suggested that social distancing and the world-wide economic shutdown may be driving us collectively crazy. This week I saw some concrete proof of it.

scene of the crime

I was running one morning (okay, mostly jogging) in north Toronto’s Earl Bales valley, on the beautiful path shown in the photo. The air was fresh and cool after overnight rain, and (this park only recently reopened) many people were already out walking on the path.

Ahead of me, at the spot in the photo where you see two people, I saw a group having some kind of discussion. Then a man and woman came up the hill towards me, while three young women continued on in the opposite direction.

As I passed this couple, the woman, slim with silver hair, about 68 in years I would guess, and probably affluent (everyone here was ‘white’ by the way), turned and shouted back at the three young women – “Assholes!”

Wondering if she had been bumped or something, I continued on, not just because I didn’t want to be involved, but as someone who has been running all his life, I know that at my age (73) you can’t let up. As I passed the 3 young women, who I would say were mid to late millennials, one of them said to the other, “Believe me, you were nowhere near her.”

There it was. One of these young women had, apparently, simply passed a bit too close to the older woman.  

Never mind that outside in a park, especially on a fresh breezy morning like that one, germs and viruses are quickly disbursed. If you breathe anything in, it’s in such a small amount that your immune system easily takes care of it. People don’t get sick from being out-of-doors in fine weather. You get sick when you are confined inside with sick people, which includes ‘at home’, the so-called safe haven where all the experts have been telling us to stay.

But that’s where we are now. Never mind the sunshine and the wildflowers along the path, and the birds singing happily – no, my life is all that counts, so keep your distance! Once upon a time, they might have said hello, or good morning to each other, but not now.

So many people are afraid of each other now. For every life we’ve saved with social distancing, we’ve created a hundred, or maybe a thousand new neurotics.

And this neurotic fear may not dissipate when Covid 19 decides to take a holiday. The mental virus may be with us for some time to come.

You might think that, given my own age, I would be on the side of the older woman, but not so. Since the late ‘70s, when my generation began to give up on its ‘60s social conscience, I’ve been sceptical of most of them.

As I ran along, I reflected that if this were the USA the older woman and her husband were likely to be Trump voters, since, sadly, it is my generation who have provided the foundation for the crude right-wing racist politics of inequality that is threatening to bring on a new dark age around the world. The three millennials, on the other hand, would most likely vote democrat in November.

Yes, more and more I’m looking to this younger generation to get their act together and rescue us from that.

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