In good part because the rhetorical trick is quickly becoming hackneyed, I will not herein aver the existence of a “real pandemic” behind the apparent one, as if the crisis wrought by COVID-19 and the political reactions to it could be reduced to one single problem that is ostensibly unrelated yet surprisingly linked to a disease and its management. There are, no doubt, many problems in the world today that are more worrisome than a virus with a relatively high survival rate; some of them are even related to it. Though picking just one to write about is justifiable, presuming that it is the “real” one is not.
I wish to address a single spiritually – and possibly physically – destructive condition that has been worsened and widened, not to say caused, by the social and political context we happen to live in. It may not be our only problem, but it is a big one. This condition is of enough significance, both perennially and in our unique present situation, that I much prefer to avoid, as much as I am able, any degree of clever rhetoric. I wish to discuss despair. Ours is a despairing age – ever more so by the day, it seems.
Here in Alberta, we are in the midst of our third major lockdown, though we never fully emerged from the first one imposed over one year ago. Church attendance must now be restricted to fifteen people. Funerals may be attended by no more than ten people, which mandate seems to imply that funerals are – mysteriously and magically – more conducive to the spread of viruses than are regular religious services. Outdoor gatherings are restricted to five people, which means many families might be able to invite one friend over for a backyard get-together, so long as that friend vows to not use the bathroom – assuming, of course, that most families are composed of normal people and do not have outhouses in their backyards. Restaurants and bars are closed to dining, including on patios, many of which have been built or renovated at significant cost to owners over the past year to accommodate emergent rules about indoor dining. These current measures will be in place and enforced – with steeper fines than previously – for at least three weeks. “At least three weeks” sounds too much like “fifteen days to stop the spread” for my liking. Since fifteen days became fifteen months, or thereabout, I fear what “at least three weeks” might end up meaning.