Rational Realist

It’s finally summer here on the Sunshine Coast. Rich man’s weather with no bugs, I like to describe it. But it’s quiet, no tourists, no festivals, no fireworks. In a way it’s kind of nice but it seems like the calm before the storm. Vicky set down two fresh pints and said: ‘Today you two need to focus on the beauty and goodness all around you. No doom and gloom and no Trump.’ We both looked at her speechless. ‘Just kidding,’ she said with a smile.

We raised our glasses and toasted to the beauty and the goodness and then Camp said, running his hand through his unruly shock of grey curls. ‘We have to admit that we’re not going to get out of this pandemic as we thought just a few months ago. Now it seems that the so called second wave is just a continuation of the first wave, trending upwards in lockstep with uncoordinated re-opening policies.’

‘Disneyland in Orlando is open again. Good time to go. I think there are big discounts,’ I said, ‘and let’s not forget all the schools in the US are ordered to open or lose their funding.’

‘Teeming beaches and busy bars equal overcrowded hospitals. That seems to be the winning formula in Arizona, Texas and Florida,’ Camp said.

‘Who are these people that flaunt the guidelines, protocols and even laws with regards to this pandemic?’ I wanted to know.

‘People who feel helpless and confused, also they don’t perceive enough personal risk and they don’t have a sense of altruism that is acute. Add to that the lack of consistent, messaging from politicians, often contravening health professionals and also polarization of News Sources. Herd behavior has something to do with it as well. You don’t want to be the only one wearing a mask in a crowd,’ Camp said.

‘I don’t want to be in a crowd in the first place,’ I said. ‘I think there is a certain amount of recklessness and disillusioned thinking involved and of course a large void with regards to education and responsible behaviour.’

‘You’re right and since I’m a rational realist – not to be confused with a pessimist – I venture a guess that we’re in for more trouble. A few months from now we might look back and wonder why we didn’t see it coming. So far, money is being dished out by the governments and the food chains seem to be working but with so many people out of work and businesses busting and closing up and everybody staying home, it’s hard to avoid an outright economic depression like the world has never seen.’

‘That’s a pretty pessimistic view,’ I said, ‘but you may be right. That would mean that the chasm between rich and poor will be ever greater and priorities will shift from the common good to personal safety.’

‘That’s why politicians want to open up their economies, but instead they are digging a deeper hole. It’s not a zero-sum game but this time it looks like everybody loses, the casino as well as the gamblers; the ones who follow the rules and protocols and the ones who flaunt them. There is only one way out of this: The elusive vaccine and coming together under a common, global umbrella with everybody pulling on the same rope.’

‘Fantasyland, that’s what you’re talking about. There are pockets of sanity for sure, like here in BC, also some countries in Europe and South East Asia like Taiwan which with 24 million people had only 450 cases and a handful of deaths. So, it can be done but it needs leadership and cohesive action. The worst outbreaks and hospitalizations are in countries with populist autocrats in power. The US, Brazil, Russia, Mexico.’

‘I’m all for opening up if there are fewer cases and we know where they are, but waiting over a week for test results is unacceptable and useless for tracing and follow up.’

‘You and I know that ever since Galileo, and probably even in Greek and Egyptian times, there is a large, popular anti-science movement out there. People who rather believe in a mythical being and fairy tales than the facts of life. Climate change deniers, covid deniers, truth and fact deniers. We are seeing this now in the US where the anti-science lobby starts right at the very top, in the White House.’

‘The fact that we’re ok here in BC doesn’t shield us from the long-term consequences of a breakdown in the US. When the elephant falls down, the mouse gets squashed. We are all going to be impacted by what happens in the US. We are not immune islands and isolated countries like New Zealand. We’re all interconnected.’

‘You two enjoying the summery weather?’ Vicky asked while swapping our empties for full ones. ‘I’ve been sailing with a friend’s dad and it’s paradise out there.’

‘Yes, and we know that, don’t we?’ I said.

‘We enjoy it even better with a pint in hand,’ Camp said, raising his glass.

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