‘This will turn into a carnival’, Campbell or simply Camp to all who know him, prophesized.
‘And how is that,’ I asked, not sure if he meant a celebratory or a destructive kind of event. He was about to let me into his fantasy world.
‘Did you see the signs down at the ferry terminal?’ he asked and when I shook my head he explained: ‘Some vigilante group is threatening to blockade all traffic coming off the ferry on the Victoria Day weekend and only let people and vehicles through who are either humanitarian, medical and essential services. In other words, block all recreational or non-essential traffic. The ominous signs proclaim. ‘Stay home and leave the Coast alone.’
‘You’re joking,’ I said. ‘Somebody is having us all on.’
‘I wish it were so,’ Camp said. ‘There is a minority – and it always is – of fanatics and single-minded activists who believe that keeping out ‘others, closing borders, building fences and hiding behind ramparts, armed with fervent righteousness, is the way to keep the enemy out. The enemy in this case is the dreaded virus that goes by the name of Covid-19. I’m sure in the future some punk band will call themselves The Covids.’
‘And how is this going to turn into a ‘carnival’ as you put it or is this a synonym for chaos?’
‘Groups like that, which can be stopped and ridiculed right now, will gather steam in the coming weeks and months and the longer this shutdown of society lasts, the more militant certain segments of the population will become. If people cannot go back to work, are broke and isolated, without an apparent future and no outlets like sports or concerts or pubs, they will revolt and eventually take to the streets. That’s the carnival I’m talking about,’ Camp said, fully convinced of his theory.
‘I believe people are more civilised and understanding, have more sense and integrity then you give them credit for,’ I said.
‘I’m also talking about a split in generations. The old and retired are hunkering down in their comfy homes with their pensions and savings and not much has changed for that age group unless of course they are in a long-term care home. That is the most defenceless group if they catch the virus and they are also the most isolated. No visitors, no communal meals, no distractions. Just meds and time. Then there are the professionals who can work from home, teachers, accountants and bureaucrats at every level. They usually have a mortgaged home or apartment, a spouse that does the same, with kids under foot. They’re too busy to take to the streets. And then there are the lowest paid but most essential workers: care aids, cleaners, grocery clerks, construction workers and municipal service personnel. They’re working, keeping the wheels turning, exposed but at least not bored.’
‘But definitely underpaid,’ I said.
‘The group I see rising from the swamp of discontent are the underprivileged and sidelined, the ones without a job or money, no house or apartment and apparently without a future and therefore no hope, just anger.’
‘That sounds to me like some sort of dystopia, something Atwood or King would conjure up in one of their novels,’ I said.
‘It’s in the cracks,’ Camp said cryptically, ‘ where the poison seeps out, the crack in the economy which is starting to be a chasm, cracks in the social safety net where the most vulnerable fall through like my friend who worked under the table to supplement his disability pension, like Rosy, our waitress who now has to babysit like a teenager, or the thousands of students who are suddenly without a path or a degree, moving back in with their parents. There are a lot of disenfranchised and unhappy people out there and the carnival will start by the summer if not before.’
‘I think you’re wrong Camp,’ I said, ‘first of all students are ok because they’ll go back and finish whatever they started, friends and relatives will take in their less fortunate peers, people will band together and get through this.’
‘I see signs and barricades being erected by people who do not respect their fellow citizens, do not think the distancing and protocols are going far enough, who want to be the vigilant police and tell the rest of us how to life our lives. They rat out on their neighbours, write irate letters to the editor and some even think it’s the beginning of Armageddon.’
‘Oh, oh, I see, I get where you’re coming from.’
‘They will bring out the police, maybe even the army to keep the peace. There will be appeals and promises, then threats and force and anarchy in the streets.’
‘I hope you’re wrong and common sense, decency and respect will prevail.’
‘I hope you’re right,’ Camp said, finishing his beer, ‘but mark my words.’