The Year Past

Camp is taking some time off from the bookstore and our pub has closed the doors until the New Year. We’re in the midst of the coldest week anybody can remember around here. Snow up to mid-calf and double digit minus temps ever since Christmas. Inside weather, that’s what it is. Instead of New Year’s Eve in an exotic locale, we’re staying home, make a camp fire in the snow, play some card games and maybe watch a silly movie. Here is my recap of the tumultuous year 2021.

            While Omicron is lurking around every corner, we will have to pretend that life goes on and drink our beers with joy and be merry despite feeling demoralized and even defeated by the poxy virus. On top of that we’re all fed up with the depressing politics like from the emerging dictatorship in Moscow to the evolving fascist state in Washington, from the stone age Taliban to the collapse of Lebanon. Maybe Chile offers a glimpse of hope. They have elected Gabriel Boric, a 35 year old millennial socialist but we’ve seen this movie before. Wasn’t Mugabe a socialist and Ortega? 

            Not a day goes by without a constant barrage of instant newsfeeds, alerts and announcements about the pandemic, making us all into amateur scientists or worse, conspirators. We have the vaccinated majority and those refusing to listen to their teachers, parents, scientists and even politicians. I don’t get it. I’m a sceptic myself but getting the vaccine was an easy choice. If I have a headache, I take a pill. Do I know what’s in it, who makes money from it or if they have long term effects? The new covid-variant is so contagious that just being anywhere near it can lead to an infection. To take the vaccine is as easy as drinking a cup of coffee, even if you don’t like coffee. Just take it. For yourself and the good of the community.

            This pandemic killed and is killing a lot of old people in the past year – our elders really – but we don’t honour our old folks as elders who have a lot of experience and wisdom to share and impart. Here is an interesting sidebar to this problem: ‘Granny dumping is an international Emergency Room event where one’s inconvenient elder arrives in the ER with a packed suitcase for a brief stay over the holiday season,’ Dr. Alan Drummond from Perth, Ontario, said and then goes on: ‘We don’t seem to have an elder-care strategy. This problem is just a sad comment on where we’re at as a society and how little we value our elders.’

            During this pandemic it has become blatantly and embarrassingly obvious that getting old is not a dignified affair in most cases, being sequestered into warehouses and silos, euphemistically called old-folks or care homes. The expensive care we give consists of food, shelter and meds. Not so much companionship, involvement or respect.

            How do we, as a society, change our attitude towards our old fellow humans? Not as long as we’re too busy chasing money, careers, the best schools for the kids, holidays in exotic places and bigger and better homes. Old-folks-homes should be built on top of kindergartens and care givers should be paid twice what they are right now.  

            Lucky are those who still have their minds and are able to do their own ablutions and make some choices. Lucky those as well who are part of an extended family or household, have young people around and are included in everyday life and lucky those who have no clue what goes on around them. 

            How about the changing environment, the largest looming catastrophe that we want to wish away and delete from our minds and lives? We’ve seen the symptoms of it in our erratic weather last year. Let’s face it, we cannot engineer our way out of the mess we created. Not when 8 billion people want what we have here in the west: electric cars, flat screen TV’s, gadgets and gizmos and homes with two car garages. We can’t even deliver clean drinking water to everybody, never mind shelter, food and health.

            Sequestering carbon into the ground or seeding the atmosphere with reflecting particles isn’t going to fix the melting arctic, the die-off of hundreds of species and the rising temperatures or the resulting wars, famines and desperate migrations of millions. Not as long as we consider the environment as something apart from us; over there in those other places; not in my perfect little back yard. We are part of the environment. We are in it. It is in us. We need to embrace it, live in it, feel it, heal it. With our minds, our bodies and our actions. Every day, everywhere.        

            I have to admit that I’m just a modern-day fossil burner, polluter, and litterer (I have my refuse taken away) and waster of energy. I try and do the right and responsible thing, but only within my comfort zone, not wanting to give up anything important like my 4×4 truck, my beer or my holidays in the sun. Let’s face it, I’m going to be ok – I’ve already had a good, long life – but I’m worried about the kids and their future but then again, parents during the medieval dark ages probably said the same about their kid’s future. Little did they know that a thousand years on those kids would have little gadgets in their pockets with all the knowledge of the world accessible to them at the touch of a button via an Avatar voice, move around in climate-controlled capsules and fly across oceans and continent in a matter of hours in big silvery metal birds.

            It’s been an interesting year starting with an insurrection and a new President in the US and finishing with an aggressive mutation of the same Covid-19 virus. We had a year of freaky weather around here: heat domes with temps up to 40 degrees. It cooked millions of shellfish exposed at low tides. Then came the atmospheric rivers, flooding much of the farmland in the Fraser valley. Bridges and roads were swept away, livestock drowned, houses flooded and lives ruined. All the physical damage can be repaired and replaced but the human cost is not so easily fixed. 

            We live in the best of times but it’s a tenuous existence and we’ll do well to cherish what we have, take care of each other and work towards a better future, for all it’s worth. Nothing else will do and doing the ostrich thing is not an option. 

            It’s good to dream and have uplifting fantasies. It makes reality easier to live with. There is a German proverb: Hope dies last. Let’s hope for a better year and a new beginning, the end of the pandemic, a democratic sweep of Congress, better weather, no new wars and health and happiness all around. 

            Next week I look forward to catching up with Camp, who I’m sure will have something to say about the past, the present and the future.

            Auld Lang Syne, out with the old, in with the New. 


            Since Camp is keeping the bookstore open late for the Christmas season we decided to miss a couple of Thirsty Thursdays and instead meet for Christmas dinner with our partners, Clare and Muriel at their house. We’re all triple vaccinated and Omicron aware. I’m taking this opportunity to post a personal opinion on this snowy morning, which Camp would surely support.

            What binds us together as a people is communication and since Descartes pointed it out, we have known that reason is the basis of communication. Without reason, we veer off into insults, unfounded claims and exclusion. This is exactly what is happening today – and it is very dangerous. Because without dialogue, ideologies cannot be overcome. Every trend passes at some point. But what is happening now is frightening and is more than a trend, it’s the division of reason, common sense and science against nonsense, rhetoric and dogmas. 

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        It’s hard to start any conversation without the latest new buzz-word, another Greek letter, Omicron. Two weeks ago, we had never heard of this latest mutation or variant of the dreaded Covid virus and today it’s Back to the Future and Groundhog Day all rolled into one. Luckily, we can still meet at the pub and my partner in beer is already comfortably ensconced in one of the new comfy patio chairs in our lair by the sea.

            ‘Don’t even ask me about the latest travel advisory by the feds,’ Camp said, holding up a hand to stop me. 

            ‘You’re a good mind reader,’ I said, ‘but I would like to hear your opinion on it.’

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Moral Dilemma

            ‘The unvaccinated have a great moral dilemma,’ I said to Camp, as our first pints arrived and we were comfortably seated in our favorite chairs.

            ‘We cannot disregard the simple fact that the unvaccinated are now drawing heavily on the good will of their fellow human beings. At the same time, they themselves do not show the solidarity to get vaccinated and thus avoid hospitalization. In many intensive care units, 90 percent of Covid patients are unvaccinated. They consume enormous resources there. Not just beds, medicines or machines – the real problem is their ‘consumption’ of human attention and care.

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            ‘Last week I found myself in a monster shopping mall and I literally panicked. ‘Get me out of here,’ is all I could hear in my head and I furtively looked for exit signs like a trapped rabbit. I even forgot why we were in this consumer hell – or is it heaven? – We were looking for some new sheets, I think. Clare had to take me by the arm and steer me out of this climate-controlled environment and into the pouring rain like a wayward dog. I felt so relieved. ‘There is a restaurant over there. Wait for me there,’ she said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ Two pints or an hour later she showed up with a couple of glitzy bags. ‘Look what I found,’ she gushed, ‘a sweater, a rain jacket and matching shoes. All on sale.’ ‘What about the sheets?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I forgot but those we can get in Gibsons.’ Which left the question why we were here in this shopper’s paradise-hell in the first place.’

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