Posted 1.12.21

SHAWVILLE, QC | One of the lesser-noted effects of Covid-19 and its lockdown is the sudden and widespread proliferation of scientific expertise. There's a touch of sarcasm here.

Today's past-time is to comment (or pontificate) on Covid-related rules, restrictions, programs and measures. Should schools be open? With masks, or without? Masks in classrooms, in hallways? Ban arrivals from abroad -- or quarantined? Vaccines: one shot … or two? Or none? And, by far the winning category, opinions on which services are "essential", or not? Why can we buy ice cream but not a hairbrush, a new battery but not a new car ... all of a sudden every person who can open their mouth has an opinion to share, a judgement to express, and a decision to criticize -- all this will be one of the pandemic's lasting memories.

Not only have we all become experts, we're now scientific experts. "I'm only expressing my opinion," said one neighbour about the efficacy of only one of a two-shot vaccine. Does she also express her "opinion" about the speed of light? About the existence, or not, of exo-planets? About the need to reduce green-house gas emissions?

Second-guessing researchers and experts has become an adult past-time. Second-guessing is a form of anti-science. "Experts?" So many see themselves as experts about lockdowns, feeling they have a "right" to utter their judgement -- as if it carried the weight of verification and testing that goes into scientific decision-making. We see so few cases of the infection here, we assume that our "here" should not be subject to the same precautions as inner cities. We fail to notice that if we throw open the Pontiac's doors, we'll be sharing our facilities with Ontario and Gatineau party-goers.

Younger people know they'll live forever, and are certain there's a "Right to Party" written into Canada's Charter. Younger experts will assure us the flu's effects have been exaggerated ... anyone who isn't able to throw off the flu are obviously in ill health and struggling to live. Why should we all suffer just to protect the already ill -- they're already on their way out! Turn up the music! How did this become a Canadian attitude? Wasn't Canada built by taking care of each other, under our northern conditions?

Refusals to respect lockdowns are our ways to say, "too bad, seniors, your time is up anyway!" (but using more polite language) ... while we're trying to build a society on the opposite premise?

We do recognize that this pandemic is special and that no one knows everything about it -- especially with the virus now evolving. Shouldn't we switch from "every person is an expert" to "no one is an expert (but some are more scientific in their attempts than others)". No one knows what is coming, in detail, and very few have enough of the details of past epidemics (SARS, Ebola, swine flu, AIDS) to predict where Covid is taking us.

Therefore shouldn't we err on the side of caution? Shouldn't we consider that the more jurisdictions trying different measures, the more information we will have with which to make future decisions on vaccination, distancing, and even managing old-age homes. Multiple experiments yield quantifiable information about which counter-measures are most effective in fighting this virus.

And if we did have one single national operating plan (local experts' opinion), wouldn't we have only one data set with which to evaluate future decisions and Covid-restricting measures? Multiple trials yield various results which can then be compared.

Really, if we are to squeeze every government move, every health service decision, every leader's proposal -- social media's distrust and doubt -- where will that attitude get us? Don't we build our nation by starting with trust and agreement?

Let's try Rene Levesque's prescription, "Everybody, take a Valium" The valium in this case means a pause, plus our careful judgement and our recognition that only science generates testable results; the valium of careful consideration and a closed mouth. And, yes, I'll now be the first to follow this advice, thank you.


Copyright © 2020 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles 1.12.21