We are not okay.
‘We’ meaning civilized society broadly, North America and Canada more specifically.
I think Omicron broke us.
Human beings are usually quite responsive in a crisis. That’s why we open our wallets, send food and clothes, volunteer where we can. Earthquakes, forest fires, tornados etc… House fires, robberies, floods etc… Terminal illness, accidents, tragedies etc…
So when COVID first hit us last year, it was relatively easy for us to adopt a crisis mentality. Especially during a time when we were all affected, when so much was unknown and there was plenty to be afraid of.
In short order, COVID-19 hit us hard. People got sick and some people died.
The reasons to follow public health orders seemed obvious then.
Now, there were those early on who struggled making personal sacrifices for the sake of the many. Most notably the entitled and wealthy, celebrities and politicians (who couldn’t seem to stop having parties, travelling for holidays and generally breaking the rules that they set in place for the rest of us).
There were also the chaos agents. People who had meltdowns in grocery stores. People who threw big house parties. People who could not bring themselves to follow any restrictions but instead starting casting about for conspiracy theories and deniability of reality.
But for the most part, it seemed that the majority complied with the effort to reduce sickness, hospitalization and death.
Of course, as time went on, the segment of those who have been resisting and breaking restrictions during the past two years has grown and shifted from group to group. Some loudly protested and unexpected people turned into chaos agents, but we sort of had the masking, social distancing thing figured out.
And then came the vaccines. Salvation. The end. Back to normal.
While the majority couldn’t wait to roll up their sleeves fast enough, the chaos agents started banging the anti-vaxx drums. We all know how that went by the fall of 2021 and the Delta wave.
More people got sick and more people died. Mostly unvaccinated people.
Meanwhile, the vaccinated were getting back to a new normal.
It seemed like the narrative that we had heard all along (though with plenty of caveats from health experts) had come true. The crisis arc, though long, had come to pass. There was a pandemic, the scientists raced against the clock to find the cure (vaccine), and then we rolled it out as fast as we could. The lingering nature of the pandemic was hard, but there seemed to be natural arc that we had figured out and the crisis was ending.
And then Omicron showed up.
And it broke us.
Or more accurately, Omicron turned the pandemic from a temporary crisis into a systematic problem. It felt like March 2020 all over again. The same problems repeating themselves, the cycle was restarted – so it seemed.
Perhaps more accurately, cases exploded, resources for testing and contact tracing couldn’t keep up and the health system began to buckle.
The thing that we had been warned to prepare for since March of 2020 happened.
And again for the zillionth wave of the pandemic, people got sick and some people died.
But in the face of this brutal Omicron wave, government leaders threw their hands in the air and said there was not more to be done. Everyone was going to encounter the virus. They bet on the fact that Omicron was “less severe.”
Meanwhile the chaos agents started collecting followers and the right-wing saw an opportunity.
Making money, living our best lives, looking out of number one…. So many people decided that we just cannot put that off anymore, no matter the cost. No matter how many get sick, how many get long covid or myocarditis, no matter how many die… all of that is okay, as long as won’t have to wear masks in stores, or have smaller birthday parties, or zoom a little more often.
And now vaccinated people were getting sick, it was the justification needed to loudly proclaim that none of the public heath measures of the past to years had done anything to stop the virus but only oppressed the average working person.
Time to go back to normal no matter the cost. Hospitals full, healthcare workers burning out, business and institutions struggling to maintain staffing. Time to abandon the fight – death may come. But at least we can have our
Now the pandemic can stop being a crisis. Conservatives governments and their hard right supporters have decided that we can now treat the pandemic like they do all other social problems and issues.
Whether it is climate change, white supremacy’s systems of power, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, poverty, economic inequality etc… It doesn’t matter if people get sick, if people suffer, if people are oppressed or if people die.
The right has declared that
hedonism freedom should reign.
People should fix their own problems, the weak, the lazy, the less fortunate deserve what they have. Don’t let their issues infringe on my
hedonism rights and freedom.
Now we have Freedom Convoys ejecting conservatives political leaders for not bending the knee to the death cult. We have communities across the country being terrorized by the same kind of tactics that the Black Shirts of Italy and Brown Shirts of Germany used. The kind of tactics that I remember being taught that good democratic people know how to stand up to.
So, given all of this, I am worried about us. Maybe more worried than I have ever been.
We are not okay.
We cannot get our act together on economic inequality, with billionaires more powerful than any feudal king ever was.
We cannot seem to make progress on racism, sexism, and all manners of systematic bigotry.
We cannot seem to make our leaders care enough about climate change to do something meaningful about it (see point about billionaries above).
We keep trying to play political games with a virus, making trade-offs instead of decisive actions.
And now a big chunk of society, the hard and growing right is imposing its death cult on our public health response too.
Poor people can die. Marginalized people can die. The Earth can die. The sick can die. They all can die if they in any way threaten our
hedonism rights and freedom.
I think we are sitting at a crossroads as a civilization.
We can continue down the path of death. The one of political appeasement of a small voting base that is willing to hold the rest of us hostage rules the day… (convoys or billionaires, take your pick)
This path leads to more people getting sick and many more people dying because of economic inequality, climate change, white supremacy and a pandemic.
Until… it all gets to be too much for the majority who will begin a revolution. A geo-polticidal crisis in the same lines as the ones we seem to face every 80 or so years (think WWI/Great Depression/WWII about 80 years ago). This is a repeating cycle of history.
We can make the choice to be better and care for each other, not just in the face of the pandemic. But in all things.
We can adopt policies that redistribute wealth more equitably.
No one needs billions, it is a slap in the face of the inherent dignity of human beings for millions upon millions to suffer so that Jeff Bezos can fly to “space” or dismantle historic bridges for his mega-yacht.
We can actually make meaningful steps towards addressing climate change.
We can decarbonize, actually turn to green energy and attend to the earth’s well being.
We can dismantle white supremacy.
We can root it out in every place, and insist on making space for those suffering under its thumb.
We can empower society to weather the still-to-come waves of COVID that will keep hitting us until we vaccinate the whole world.
This means knowing that we will get small as the waves hit, and expand as they subside. Things like Universal Basic Income, expansion of public universal healthcare and its institutions, direct support for more equitable and affordable housing will be our way through.
There is a pathway out of the problems that we face. The question is, are we willing to take it?
The historian in me says that we are doomed to repeat history.
But the Pastor in me has hope that we will find a different way.