Descent into Darkness...Ascent into the unknown...
Victoria, Canada - March 23, 2020 (Monday)
Just got back from the liquor store. Noticed that the shelves were covered in dust due to the lack of bottles hiding it. Most of the boxed wine has gone. There is tape on the floor two metres apart indicating where you should stand in relation to the next customer. You cannot place your potential purchases on the sales counter until the person in front of you has bagged theirs. The cashier is wearing gloves, and the smile that she greeted me with last week has been replaced by a worried expression I'm sure I'm displaying, too. She does not offer to bag my purchases. I pay in cash, and the prevalent thought in my mind is that I do not want to handle the change she drops into my hand as if it were a red hot piece of coal.
This is not a scene thought up in an attempt to portray some dystopian future. This is life as we have come to know it in the twenty-first century.
COVID-19 needs no introduction. To some it's the common flu. To others it's a disease. No-one really knows what to believe at this point, but everybody has an opinion. The President of the United States has labeled it a Chinese Virus. Not surprisingly, China has hit back and called it an American invention. Neither point of view matters. The reality is that it is killing thousands daily with no care in the world as to what your ethnic heritage might be.
Its' origins presumably stem from an animal/seafood market in the Wuhan province of China where the barrier between animal and human infection was crossed. It's not unprecedented. Bird Flu. Swine Flu. Neither of those two had such a monumental impact as COVID-19, though.
Why is that?
Sceptics state that this current outbreak is no different from the average strain of flu. Kills the same amount of people, right? So why have governments enforced restrictions that have no known predecessor? Comparisons are being drawn to the Second World War, but America never experienced daily and nightly raids of bombs being dropped on their communities. Even in the worst of times during The Blitz, restrictions were not as draconian as they are now. Air raid sirens would inform of impending doom. How do you combat the silent invasion, whose presence is hinted at with the irritable cough and high fever?
It's a simple answer. You can't.
You cannot control individual thought. You can shape opinion to a certain degree of success through social channels but with varying outcomes. Every human being has no interest in imminent demise. The young will live forever. The old have seen it all before. Nobody really believes that any of this shit will happen to them until it does, and by then it is too late.
The majority of people that have succumbed to COVID-19 are either elderly or young with underlying medical conditions. It is seeking out the sick and immune compromised. Many of these people will have died because of nonchalance and the impervious attitude of people close to these people. Loved ones. Cherished ones. Who gave no thought to gathering in large groups of people against all advice, then unwittingly went home to serve a death sentence.
Everybody knows somebody who lacks antibodies.
Stay Alert. Be vigilant. More tomorrow.
Victoria, Canada - March 24, 2020 (Tuesday)
America plans to reopen for business by Easter. That's three weeks away. India has locked down 1.3 billion people for 21 days. The cure cannot be worse than the problem. That's the message from the most powerful person on the planet. Today the death toll across the globe exceeded two thousand. Leaders profess that COVID-19 can be beaten if we all tackle this together, yet the underlying message is to keep our distance and stay apart. Never have we been more polarized.
On Vancouver Island the number of cases was reported as 44. Across the BC province there are 617 cases. 13 deaths. 28% have recovered. Over twenty-six thousand tests have been conducted. The island has less than a million population. British Columbia is a tad north of 5 million, give or take a few thousand. These numbers pale in comparison to what is happening elsewhere in the world but are proportionately high nonetheless, and projected to go higher.
We still have the luxury of being able to venture outside without being questioned on our intent. I took a walk into the inner harbour at lunchtime and everybody I passed made a concerted effort to maximize their distance, myself included. I encountered less than 30 people. But for the Mexican Seafood joint on Fisherman's Wharf, all establishments were closed. A couple paused to take pictures of the fact, and but for the employee at the stand and said couple, we four were the only souls present.
They shut down the breakwater at Ogden Point because people were not respecting social distance. In spite of that, The Breakwater Bistro was still open for business for take out, catering for nobody. The usual cacophony of seagull screeching was absent. Road construction had ceased. I saw one crow perched on a telephone wire. A strangely surreal seaside scene.
One positive is that there were less people on the streets. Queues still formed outside of Thrifty's and Red Barn, but in an orderly manner with people appropriately spaced. Daily life continues nonetheless.
Tomorrow is uncertain, for sure.
Yet I'm looking forward to the day when I can line up for Red Fish Blue Fish to sample their excellent Fish and Chips. Half an hour used to feel like a lifetime, but damn it was worth it, wasn't it? To experience the hustle and bustle of Bastion Square with its parade of artisans selling their wares between the beery throng of Irish Times and Garrick's Head pubs. Take in a water taxi trip from the inner harbour to the Delta Hotel, while sea planes dived to land and rowers rowed respectfully. Traverse the inner harbour walk to earn a pint and fries at Spinnakers Pub. But most of all to bask in the freedom of roaming our beautiful city, unfettered and unworried.
Such luxuries we can but hope to return.
Stay safe. Be hopeful. More tomorrow.
Victoria, Canada - March 26, 2020 (Thursday)
'BETTER OFF SIX FEET APART THAN SIX FEET UNDER'. This message is pasted to the windows of a ground floor apartment on Dallas Road. Gallows humour, to be sure, but its sobering statement echoes a chilling chime of truth. There is no clear evidence to support that social distancing is working, but bereft of inoculation, it's the minimum one can do to prevent the spread of the virus. Across the planet, the daily death toll rises. America surpassed Italy and China today with confirmed cases. It has taken Italy 33 days to reach its current total. America has far outstripped that total in 19 days.
There was a dead seal washed up on the beach on Dallas Road yesterday. During my lunchtime walk, I noticed there were less seagulls but more Canadian Geese. One can only wonder what the wildlife must be making of all of this. Geese will prosper as there is an abundance of grass. The seals and the seagulls I'm not so sure about.
Over at Oak Bay Marina you could purchase small packs of fish to feed to the seals, very popular for tourists, but the Marina is closed and the seagulls outnumber the tourists. Where once there was an abundance of tourists and no shortage of discarded or offered food for these indigenous creatures, that nourishment has vanished. I'll be honest, like many people, I have been the victim on a number of occasions of Seagull shit from the skies, irritated with facades of buildings decorated with chalky white excrement, but I can't help feeling for them.
They are opportunists in a world where opportunity has quickly been replaced by insecurity, a commonality I'm sure we can all begin to empathize with.
Life has changed irrevocably for each and everyone of us. A multitude of things taken for granted, that need not be listed, but cannot be ignored, have been removed from daily life. Not by some indiscriminate act of violence or the despotic machinations of a megalomaniac, but by an organism borne of the same planet, a product of evolution, just like humanity, but which poses a threat we have yet to fully understand.
Every ecology has a threshold. Perhaps we have breached ours.
Amidst all of this anxiety hope springs eternal. Millions of people have taken to their balconies or gardens and applauded the frontline of individuals thrust into this unexpected maelstrom: Nurses. Doctors. Cashiers. Bus Drivers. Train Drivers. Taxi Drivers. Couriers. Porters. Cleaners. The list is not exhaustive. This is the people we deploy when threatened. We are not at war. You cannot wage a war or deploy an army against an invisible threat.
What all of this accentuates is that we are all connected. Irrespective of our education or upbringing, what binds us is not our academia or experience but a collective of societal memories, a patchwork of intricate threads, needles pushing and pulling at different velocities that result in a blanket we can all draw comfort from.
Stay Warm. Stay Sure. More coming.
Victoria, Canada - April 1, 2020 (Monday)
My mother passed away last Sunday morning at the age of seventy-five on her 75th birthday. She had been coping with underlying health issues that need not be elucidated further in this journal, but her death is not believed to be related to COVID-19.
At the time of writing the number of COVID-19 cases is just shy of 936,000 people on this planet. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) accounted for 8000 cases worldwide with almost 800 deaths. The global death toll on 1st April 2020 is 47, 241. And rising. Excuse me, but that's fucking scary.
Approximately two months ago, I had a FaceTime call with my Mum and Aunt. One of the topics of conversation centred around upcoming birthdays. My Aunt turns 80 next January. She stated that she did not want a big fan fair. I will be 50 in May. My intention was to visit my sister in Ireland and celebrate with family before heading to Venice for a week. This has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus.
Trump has extended sanctions on the American populace until the 30th April 2020. Easter no longer seems viable for the reopening of the US economy, so there will be no resurrection any time soon, let alone celebrating it. There will be no religious gatherings outside of the virtual variety.
My mum wished for a big party if she reached her 75th birthday. Given my plans for May I could not have been present, but my sister and her family had made plans for a surprise party to fulfill her wish. Innocently, I joked with my Mum and Aunt about how that was not too far away. Whatever was going on within my mother's body, I believed there was plenty of time left in which to indulge. I was quietly hopeful that my Mum and my Aunt would be able to take a flight to Ireland in May and we could all celebrate my fiftieth. I was wrong.
America seems to have woken up to the fact that this crisis will not disappear, like some miracle, which the US president stated less than two weeks ago. The predictions are dire for a country that puts wealth before health.Today alone there were 1041 deaths with the apex predicting north of 2000 within 14 days. The purchase of guns has become essential. The Second Amendment is a comfort to almost 330,000,000 people with no identifiable target to aim at other than themselves. How many own a gun license with minimal health insurance?
I am one of hundreds of thousands of people grieving in a world where normal convention has disappeared, or been put on hold for an indeterminate amount of time, but COVID-19 has inextricably brought all of us closer together. Historically nations have waged wars, usurped, undermined, belittled and derided the different, invoking fear and alienation. What COVID-19 teaches us is that we are all the same, irrespective of religion or politics, colour, creed or sexuality.
Our humanity has always been tested, and we have always risen to the challenge. Each and everyone of us is a conduit carrying change. For better or worse. Look to those you love and make choices you can live with.
Stay humble. Be true. More soon.
Victoria, Canada - April 6, 2020 (Monday)
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom - Boris Johnson - has been admitted to intensive care. After 10 days of isolation his symptoms have worsened. He may well need the use of a ventilator to survive, of which there is a national shortage. This is the first head of state in the world - under COVID-19 conditions - to be in such a vulnerable position.
Love him or hate him, Boris was a major advocate for Brexit from Europe, yet all of that posturing and pandering seems irrelevant in these current circumstances. COVID-19 has no respect for boundaries or borders.
It is an Equalizer.
The Flu, as we have come to know it, is seasonal. There are four types of flu: A, B, C and D. The first three infect humans and the last affects mostly pigs and cattle, with no human cases recorded thus far. It typically occurs during the cold temperatures of a given geographical area. Right now the Northern Hemisphere is on the cusp of the summer months, which typically puts the flu to the sword as temperatures rise.
Is the Coronavirus a variation or mutation of the flu? Or is it something else? Sceptics claim this is no different from any flu season. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), millions of people are affected by the flu every year with a mortality rate in the hundreds of thousands. So why has COVID-19 had such a devastating and unprecedented affect on our modern world?
Every parent has experienced Chickenpox, Measles and Mumps. All are viruses we either contract or vaccinate against but no longer fear. In the case of Chickenpox, it's often been said that the best way to vaccinate is to expose children to it. A few days of camomile lotion and cotton puffs. Done and dusted. Mumps, Measles or Rubella can be tricky, yet a shot to the arm in your teens typically provides a shield, but leaves a permanent perforated rounded scar on your upper arm.
Again. Why has COVID-19 had such a devastating and unprecedented affect on our modern world?
Let's ruminate on this a little.
When the Spanish Flu took the lives of 20 million people and infected an estimated 500 million people (estimated) in 1918, there was no website to check on the daily devastation wrought by such a catastrophe. Newspapers delivered the stark reality. Families cowered in fear they might be next and anticipated tomorrows news with morbid fascination. Nobody had a means of verifying the facts.
Just over a hundred years later, nothing has really changed. The only difference is that the data is apparently instant, but it's veracity cannot be confirmed. In China, where patient zero was identified, the infections have practically stopped. The most populous country on the planet is reporting minimal infections and deaths, while a nation a third of it's size in population has 5 times the documented cases. New York state has more reported cases than anywhere else in the world. The US has tested just over 2 million people in a population of approximately 330 million Americans that are documented.
Just like the Spanish Flu, nobody had a means of verifying the facts.
Our freedoms have disappeared. Everybody accepts what the government and media tells us. Stay at home. If we don't, we are to blame for the consequences. It's a sound strategy, but if we do not venture out then there will be no purchase of food, liquor or cigarettes, the fundamentals most humans crave.
Our governments have no idea how to handle this. They are as clueless as we are. Over two weeks of self isolation has only seen an increase in deaths, not a decrease, and the reality of this situation is that it will kill anybody with an immune system it can compromise.
There are some harsh realities to face.
Do we adhere and comply to the governments stringent measures, or do we accept that until there is a vaccine we can trust or are all children thrust into a Chickenpox scenario?
Victoria, Canada - July 29, 2020 (Wednesday)
Almost four months have elapsed since my last post. It's not as if I lost interest, but the daily bombardment of catastrophe across the planet brought about that all too human trait of accepting a new normality. Constant exposure to something invariably becomes a believable narrative. If you completely disagree with that, that's all well and good, but most people believe what they hear from the channels that provide them with facts they can accept. We call it News, but in this evolved world of multiple media sources that contradict each other with such conflicting alternatives, I think it's safe to call it Propaganda. This is simply defined as the dissemination of information—facts, arguments, rumours, half-truths, or lies—to influence public opinion. It's been happening for decades, but the difference today is that it's instant.
That changes mindsets. And lives.
Let me be clear. There is not enough empirical data to support the fact that COVID-19 is any different from a particularly aggressive Flu season, yet we unquestionably believe that it is. Every country has a systemic approach to heart disease, lung cancer, HIV, all of which kill millions of people across the globe. Yet authorities are convinced and determined to guarantee that something they know absolutely nothing about poses a threat they cannot explain or even quantify. The only way to invoke fear in the masses is to present an enemy of unknown quantity with a disastrous outcome. That's how Hitler justified the launching of the Second World War.
So here we are in the Northern Hemisphere, in the midst of Summer, when the Summer Cold might make an appearance but could easily be written off due to a high pollen count. Hay Fever is the common term, and it's symptoms are not too dissimilar to COVID-19, but generally not lethal. Given the current circumstances, how do you distinguish between the two? Should we treat anyone who has an aversion to pollen as a potential risk to our own existence?
While in the Southern Hemisphere, countries are being ravaged, much in the same vein as their Southern counterparts recently experienced. Unsurprisingly, they have a flu season, too.
In an extremely short time, freedoms have been eroded that took centuries to cement. We eye each other with a distrust that is spilling over to animosity. The wearing of face masks has become mandatory in certain places, but the concept is actually quite ridiculous. One simply cannot prevent infection. If you are going to get sick then you are going to get sick. If you smoke forty cigarettes a day, there is a likelihood you could die from cancer. If you drink alcohol abusively then there is a likelihood your liver will fail. You could refrain form doing any of the above and still expire for no apparent reason.
It's a conundrum, for sure.
Ask questions. Accept nothing. Expect something.