When Conservatives Speak, The World Shakes Its Head
Every so often I like to turn the attention away from my game-changing opinions about important world events, written by me, and posted by me, on this blog; give everyone some time off
from the exhausting and self-esteem-shattering grind of admitting how much better our society, our movies, our fashions, our young people and our politicians would be if only those in charge would listen! just once in their lives! to me; and get us all back to essentials by posting something about, you know.
What can I say? It can only be the debilitating shyness and social anxiety that have tormented me since birth—I wonder sometimes, do you think Mom was on smack, maybe? and no one told me?—which prevent me from doing this more often.
While we’re on the subject—I tried to book a vaccination appointment today. But Toronto is taking a laid-back, leisurely, don’t sweat the small stuff approach to this whole pandemic boondoggle. It’s a big sigh of “whatever, mañana, dude, we’ll get to ya when we get to ya!”
Thanks! I guess.
I wonder if the city has taken its cue from Canada’s much-vaunted healthcare system—where you can have open-heart surgery for free even as your black teeth drop out because you can’t afford to get them checked more than once a decade. Dentistry isn’t covered unless, as I did, you ignore your impacted wisdom teeth until you have an infection in the jawbone, in which case you need an actual operation in a hospital, so, covered. What luck!
Our healthcare generally more and more resembles one of those ladies who, starting in Marlo Thomas mode with one adorable kitten keeping her company in her bachelorette pad, gradually lets things slide. Several decades later and still unmarried, she’s living in Carrie White’s childhood home, where the atmosphere of pure ammonia more closely resembles that of Mars, spending her days sitting on the toilet in a tattered silk bathrobe, calling dead relatives on a rotary-dial phone, and surrounded by sixty-five feral cats who are all just waiting for her to croak so they can finally have a decent meal.
You know, like that.
Shall I book through a pharmacy? Shall I go to a city-run clinic? Shall I just wander through a park and see if it’s one of those tents? Or will the army graciously air-lift me to Nunavut?
The website is clear: Don’t just turn up, book an appointment. Actually, get on the waiting list for one. A friend tells me he went to the pharmacy around the corner, literally steps away. Off I trot. “Come back on Friday,” the pharmacist tells me. “We have no appointments today.” I come back Friday. “Sorry, we have no vaccine left.”
Back on the website, there are many choices and a chart helping me to sort out if I’m priority or not (I should be, at 66, and living in a “hot-spot”, ie., an inner-city, poverty-ridden neighbourhood where twee, million-dollar cottages built by Irish immigrants in the 1840’s rub their linen-clad shoulders against the crumbling, crack-addled high-rises built by Fritz Lang-inspired city planners a century later.)
But as we’re playing a game of catch-up in order to disguise our provincial government’s incompetence, I discover that, not being on the “front-lines”, i.e. one of the low-wage serfs forced to turn up because they have no paid sick leave, or truly essential nursing and medical staff, I am the lowest of the low of the priority segment.
The website forces me to search for vaccine information. Once on the correct page, I’m confused when I find there are basically two paths: city-run clinics and pharmacy clinics, the latter being duplicates of the appointment options on the pharmacies’ websites. Then there are hospital-city-run and great-big-ad-hoc mass-vaccination-in-a-corn-field city run, all with separate booking funnels.
I’m not sure which path to take; it feels like London, England, in the seventies, where they hadn’t yet updated to the “form one queue then go to the next available window” system. You were stuck in the line up you’d chosen, and it was a crap shoot. Your line-up might barrel along so you’d get your turn quickly, or you might spend fifteen minutes waiting for the pensioner in front of you to finish reviewing her bank statements since 1942.
I’m not confident, in other words, that I will make the right choice of path, because I don’t know which will be faster, or that all options are working together generally to give me the most efficient result.
Today, my friend tells me that “you can just walk in and get the shot.” How would I know that, minus the friend, assuming he’s not just making this up? I also learn that vaccine supplies are depleted and that we’re waiting for more. Now, that’s information that I didn’t see on the City’s website I just visited, and why not?
On Facebook recently I joined a discussion prompted by another friend who saw a couple walking maskless down the street and chided them, only to be told to “fuck off”. The discussion reveals that some people think “the virus can’t be transmitted outdoors,” or that “there have been no cases of outdoor transmission,” both of which assertions are clearly nonsensical. Some people say, “I wear my mask at home, but take it off when I go out.” Many people say my friend was out of line to comment.
I can’t help remembering that, about a year ago, I received a notice at home, as in, shoved through my mail slot, that explained what the virus was, what the symptoms were, and how I should protect myself.
I’ve received no notices since, either about vaccinations, or about what I should do or where I should go. Or about anything, really. Give me two decades more, when I’m just into the dribbling-Geritol-onto-my-Blackberry phase, and I might not have realized I needed to book for a vaccination.
The Facebook discussion makes it clear that people have no clue about the science, and don’t even have a basic agreement on what constitutes relatively safe and relatively risky behavior. (It also makes it clear that they’re idiots, but these days I just assume that for everyone as my baseline of zero and give points until IQ levels indicate I can safely talk to you without my hands ending up around your throat.)
This general ignorance of what we should do and how the virus spreads supported by an information-less information hub that seems cobbled together with no thought for logic or the user, represent a catastrophic failure of communication and organization by our provincial and municipal leaders, even those representing the medical community.
And what, may I ask, happened to that computer revolution someone once mentioned to me?
Throughout my younger days, when station wagons were the size of railway cars, color TV was only a rumor, and a trillion-dollar space program had just invented “Tang”, we were told that computers would eventually transform our dull lives and that we would soon be sitting by our pools, like so many Gina Lollabrigidas vacationing in Monaco, as these wondrous machines relieved us of the drudgery of work.
I suppose part of this has come true, if you stop at “relieved us of work” and mentally substitute the Don River for the swimming pools.
But what on fucktard planet earth are Doug Ford and his minions thinking?
How can it be that corporations, with no duty except to their bottom line, recognize the power of our personal data harnessed to the Internet, relentlessly tracking our every move so they can haunt us 24/7 with that Hermès scarf we once idly glanced at online; yet our elected leaders, with a sworn duty to act for the public good, can’t be bothered to figure out how to disseminate life-saving information and coordinate the delivery of desperately needed vaccines while their constituents wait at home, counting on them, sickening, dying?
Don’t we have Social Insurance Numbers, all but tattooed on our foreheads, I assume intended for identity validation? Health care records?
Aren’t there government databases, with our personal information already harvested? Vials of vaccines with barcodes so each vial could be tracked as to location and use?
Isn’t there a civil servant who could program a drudgery-relieving computer or two to crunch our much-coveted when there’s a buck to be made personal info, prioritize us, match it to the location of the nearest vial of vaccine, automatically send us a text, email, phone call or hard-copy notification of our essential attendance at the appointment that’s been set up for us, then track our response? Follow-up?
Doug Ford is of that conservative mindset that “government should be run like a business.” Well, when the Tories bring to their duty of saving human lives the same fervor that Amazon brings to delivering a vacuum cleaner, I will concede the point.
Of course, the same people will shriek about “personal freedom” who are perfectly happy on Facebook to give out their very location like two-dollar whores every minute of the day, yet balk at the idea that they’d have to get a vaccination—they won’t even voluntarily wear a mask, for that matter, the simplest act to save lives.
That’s how this failure of political will has made us cynical about both technology and politics. Technology could have saved us, as they promised. But apparently technology is only good for dressing our beautiful corpses in the Gucci suit that our three technology-necessitated part-time jobs couldn’t help us buy.
Two days ago, a thirteen-year-old Brampton girl, Emily Viegas, died. She died because her father, a factory worker, has no paid sick leave (because our provincial leader is somehow reluctant to use his power—which he must have wanted, he ran for office to get power, didn’t he?—to mandate that businesses give this benefit), and was forced to attend work. He picked up the virus there and brought it home.
Can you even imagine how that family is feeling right now? Can you pick apart that knot of anger, self-blame, confusion and grief?
Our health minister, Christine Elliott, responded to the tragedy using the same playbook Donald Trump consulted when he rhapsodized that George Floyd’s funeral marked “a great day.” She insisted that Brampton, a largely racialized and low-income community northwest of Toronto, had received “all the resources it was entitled to.”
Not content with just one Spectator pump in her mouth, she continued:
“I’m sure all of us send our sincere condolences to her family. She was just starting out in her life. And, it is a tragic situation that she passed away. However—”
I don’t include what followed because, traditionally, whatever comes after “however” matters exactly as little as what came before.
Christine Elliott, you’re all heart. Too bad about the dank, airless cave where your brain ought to be.
I long for Pierre Trudeau these days, not so much his floppy-haired, flip-flop shod, flip-flopping son Justin, who has done so well, sometimes, seriously let us down, sometimes, and given so much ammo to the opposition I wonder if he plays Russian Roulette in his spare time. He’s become someone I vote for because the alternative is unthinkable; also he’s so damn cute.
No, it’s Pierre I miss and Pierre I want. Someone with decisiveness and bite. A pragmatic idealist, an intellectual with compassion, an authoritarian progressive.
The statesman who invoked the War Measures Act to suspend civil rights during a murderous rampage by Québec separatists, and contemptuously called those who clutched their pearls “bleeding hearts.”
“How far are you willing to go with this?” asked an incredulous reporter, and Pierre Trudeau replied:
“Just watch me.”
The FLQ crisis involved the kidnappings of two politicians, one of whom, Pierre Laporte, was murdered in cold blood. In response to that one murder we had troops on the streets and suspension of habeus corpus, searches and detentions at will. How would Pierre Trudeau have handled this pandemic, with nearly 25,000 dead and more to come?
When the anti-maskers and anti-lockdowners protested, including the contemptible People’s Party of Canada leader, Maxime Bernier, who by his presence at protests encourages outlaw behavior that guarantees more deaths, would Pierre Trudeau have called them “bleeding hearts”?
Maybe he could have prevented the death of Emily Viegas, whose parents are grieving over a completely preventable loss, one that should never have happened, not in a country this rich and privileged. None of these deaths should have happened, at least not without the wretched victims having had every possible chance.
It’s too shockingly, criminally tragic, what Doug Ford has wrought. May the weight of every death caused by his policies—opening too soon, no paid leave for workers—be on his shoulders.
May he lie awake every night of his life as Emily Viegas visits him, gazing at him in silence, innocently, with trust and hope in her eyes.