Friday, March 20, 2020

#60 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (men behaving badly, others leading)


Reports of gun and ammunition sales sky-rocketing on both sides of the 49th parallel are not merely shocking; they are straight-out frightening!

Whether the argument is the more pallid and seemingly tranquil, “we have to stock up for hunting and target shooting,” or the more virulent “we have to get ready to protect ourselves from the walking dead”…the rationale will not hold water. And, the perpetrators of this nefarious, if legal, bingeing, are, of course, men! And demonstrating both blatant opportunism and profound insecurity, knowing that anyone who throws their behaviour back into their face will be castigated, impugned and bullied into submission, such men shame the rest of us!

And these men are not the only ones behaving badly. The screens and the microphones are filled with their faces and voices, respectively.

Men behaving badly:

*    strutting Florida beaches on March Break, or
*    hoarding needed supplies from supermarket shelves and then selling them to unsuspecting and frightened people at two and three times the original price,  
*    blaming others while denying responsibility (think trump!) or
*    painting rose-coloured pictures of fantasies in masks, ventilators, vaccines and even numbers of people directly impacted by this extremely penetrating, painful and unpredictable virus
*    refusing to come to grips with legitimate and emergent requests for support
*    pontificating about how wonderful is the job “we” are doing
*    delaying decisions on compliance with reasonable, protective directives/orders from professional health care leaders
*    using the pandemic to underscore an extreme right-wing populist agenda, refusing the sharing of necessary supplies for health care workers
*    selling off sizeable portfolios of stocks about to be negatively impacted (hotels and airlines, for example) immediately prior to the public news of the pandemic and immediately after a private, confidential briefing on the extreme danger of the pandemic in the U.S. Congress
*    condescending to phrases like “we are not a shipping clerk” in reference to the U.S. government when asked about acquiring needed supplies for health care workers (think trump again!)
*    condescending to lower classes when asked if professional athletes can be tested while people suffering from the virus cannot, “that’s how things work sometimes” (think trump again!)
*    deflecting tough and embarrassing questions to known, reputable, trust-worthy public health professionals, and then muzzling them into a chant of trumpeting the “decisions of the president and vice-president”
*    denying they kept real numbers demonstrating the severity of the pandemic from the public, in order to protect their political hide

And then there are the voices (not all of them men) of hope, courage, leadership and authenticity we all need and gravitate to, in spite of the dominating thunder of those malevolent men blowing their own horns:

Anthony Cuomo, Governor of New York, whose state bear the brunt of the highest rate of infection in the American landscape. His clear, resonant, reasonable and even prophetic voice comes out after seeking the most detailed, and the most dangerous probabilities from the best minds and the most insightful and even intuitive professionals he can find. Holding back from a full-out public health “order” to keep all people in the state in their homes, he nevertheless balances the various competing yet needed services in the state to address fundamental needs of emergency and ICU beds, ventilators, protective equipment while calming public fears. It is Cuomo who speaks most clearly and unequivocally about the risks of public fear being potentially more dangerous than the virus itself.

Bill DeBlasio: Mayor of New York: he too speaks clearly and unequivocally about the silence in the responses he seeks from the White House, in his desperate search for needed equipment for health care workers in his city. Seeking compliance with the directive to close all restaurants, the Mayor indicates, this morning on MSNBC, that a mere half dozen operators tried to squeeze out a little more profit after the directive was issued. The fact that he has/had a personal grasp of the details of the first death in his city, an elderly woman suffering from pre-existing emphysema, demonstrates his attention both to the finer details, in order to calm public anxieties, while exercising considerable energy in pursuit of the more broad public requirements.

Gavin Newsome, Governor of California: the first Governor to declare a public health order confining some 40 million people to their homes, while also providing a counter-weight to the incompetence, insouciance, and hubristic attitude, verbiage and decision-making of the White House.

Governor Inslee of Washington State, the first to actually being the process of erecting an emergency hospital on a soccer field in Seattle. Facing one of the early hot-spots of the pandemic, including the deaths of too many elderly in a nursing home, Inslee has taken the kind of perspective and courageous rhetoric he used confidently in his presidential bid to defend and protect the environment before withdrawing, and applied his considerable political skills to this latest threat.

Dr. Bonny Henry, provincial health officer in British Columbia, along with Dr. Tam, the Canadian public health officer, have authored many public statements based on the most tragic and depressing facts, while maintaining an air and attitude of composure, calm and yet deeply serious and concerned. Their respective strengths in both comprehending and in illuminating the darkest recesses of this pandemic births confidence, hope and courage as the figures of infections and deaths mount, and as the campaign to acquire and distribute needed medical supplies across the country mounts.

 Prime Minister Trudeau, himself self-isolated because of his wife, Sophie’s being infected with COVIC-19, has offered information and public calm each day from the front of his residence. Also, the provincial premiers, in their capacity as agents of public calm and comfort, as well as providers of the needed professional care in their jurisdictions, have appeared before television cameras, in a deliberate, non-partisan effort to achieve transparency and accountability, the two most necessary ingredients to maintain and sustain public trust and confidence. While portending economic disaster in his province and in the energy sector, for example, Premier Jason Kenny of Alberta, refrained from his usual virulent attacks on the federal government and especially Prime Minister Trudeau. He knows, as do the rest of us, that Trudeau is no more responsible for this pandemic than is his former political opponent, provincial premier Rachal Notley.

And then there are the thousands, if not millions of parents who previously went off to their offices and workplaces, after dropping their kids off at schools and day-cares, who now remain closeted in their homes, 24-7, finding and lifting their school lessons from their laptops before they replace those teachers who prepared and sent them. Home-schooling has now become democratized, as digital reality finds and adopts an even more prominent place in the lives of these professionals. Even the “in-home” piano teacher is now turning to Facetime to conduct “private” piano lessons with his students. The prominence of fire-fighters, law enforcement, ambulance and paramedic professionals has never been more appreciated, and more needed.

In the state of Indiana, people are being asked, as in wartime, to actually “make” hospital masks for health care professionals, while they remain in their homes. Neighbours are checking in on elderly shut-ins, while families deploy Skype to reconnect and to support and care for those who cannot and do not have a social life.
The military, in both Canada and the U.S. are undoubtedly going to play an increasingly impactful role as the need for “field hospitals” becomes more evident, and the potential for increased anxiety and fear rises.

We are currently, and we will in the near and medium-range future be privy to statements, personages, actions, decisions and forecasts that display a deep and profound connection to and respect for the empirical evidence we all face. And we will also become increasingly aware of those voices, persons, actions and attitudes that defy public confidence, public trust and public integrity.

And our hope lies primarily in the latter, although the former will continue to provide a clarion foil for our discernment of their inadequacy. When Mayor De Blasio declares on national television that the federal administration in AWOL on this pandemic, should not be listened to, and should not be trusted, we all know that North America to some extent, like New York, is fighting this war impeded by one arm tied behind our back.

The White House came late to this exigency; denied its existence first and then its dimensions; and while seeming to come to take it seriously, still cannot be fully trusted or relied upon for those tasks with which it has been charged. Fortunately, in Canada, so far, we have a 180-degree contrast both federally and provincially. Only time will indicate the relative significance of the political divide in the long-term impact of this pandemic.

The phrase, “we are all in this together” has never, at least in our life-time, been more relevant, applicable and urgent. And out of this conundrum, we can only hope that the lessons of collaboration, co-operation, and a new-found equality among all inhabitants of the planet might shine a little light down the other existential threat of global warming and climate change.

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