Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Is there a sense that we’re finally coming out of the dark place we’ve been in for the past year? As Ontario announces that we’re entering Phase 2 of their vaccination program, can we begin to hope that we’re finally making progress, getting somewhere at last? Of course, this is far from the end of the journey. What is it that rascal Churchill once said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” He did have a way with words, didn’t he?
As we look back at the Before Times, it is really hard to remember what it was like to just get on a plane, train, or automobile and head off somewhere for a bit of a break. At times, during the last twelve months, many wondered if those days would ever return; or, if they did, would anyone really want to join a lot of other people in the close proximity of a plane or train. Would we ever feel safe again, as we once took so much for granted?
To be honest, there’s no way of knowing if that Before Time feeling will ever return, only time and circumstances will tell. Will we once again enjoy travel, live music, family celebrations, or social gatherings with the same insouciance we once did, as we brandish our vaccination passports as a kind of licence to live freely. I think we will. We’ve done it before. Well, maybe not us, but our grandparents and ancestors who went through equally traumatic times. Living through the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic was possibly even worse than this past year, not knowing why or how people were infected, without the technology to devise vaccines as fast as we have this time around.
Try to imagine what it was like during the Black Death, the awful plague that lasted from 1346 to 1353. It spread throughout Asia and Europe and killed, at best reckoning, between 75 and 200 million people. It’s hard to get your mind around that number – up to 200 million dead in just seven years. That was about half of the entire population of Europe, which didn’t recover its population of the 1300’s until two hundred years later. It transformed European society.
But the population did recover, life did go on, people did cope and carry on, even through that unimaginable terror. And so will we. What set this pandemic apart from previous ones has been the role played, positively and negatively, by social media platforms. Some have used Facebook. YouTube and other sites to encourage, to keep in touch with family and friends, or to post entertaining pieces to lift the spirits and bring a smile. Others have used them to spread fear, disinformation, even hatred, recklessly endangering people’s lives and health. That, I suppose, is a reflection of humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
As I’ve said many times, usually to myself, this, too, will pass. And it will; we can now see hope for the future, probably even this year. There will never be a time again when we will be free of covid or a variation of it. But perhaps we can control and limit its effects, as we have with other diseases, such as polio, tuberculosis, even influenza. Variant strains of influenza continue to arrive every year, but not with the devastating effects of 1919. People still develop illnesses to which we are largely now immune, thanks to advances to medical knowledge. We live in an imperfect world, where disease and contagions exists, no matter how we advance in knowledge. There are places in the world where diseases that have been conquered here are still virulent, because of poverty and lack of medical facilities. That is sad, and also scandalous.
But here in the world in which we live, life continues. The trains, planes and automobiles will carry us around the country and around the world once again, albeit with a different attitude and, perhaps, a greater appreciation of the freedoms we have.
There is one point that I should make here. Over the weeks, we’ve had a number of Letters to the Editor giving various kinds of advice and information about the pandemic and its effects. Everything from outright denials that there even is a pandemic, claims that there is a cure for covid we’re not being told about, or advice on dealing with any side effects of vaccines for people with preexisting conditions. The Times has a policy not to publish any such letters. The Letters page of a newspaper is no place for people to look for medical advice, especially concerning such a serious matter as covid-19. Good, bad, or indifferent, medical information should be provided by medical people, not by people who have read something somewhere, or heard from dubious sources about possible cures, ills, or side effects of any medical procedure. It is a sad fact of life that some people glory in conspiracies, delight in spreading rumour and misinformation. Equally sad is the fact that they will continue to do so, long after this pandemic is a painful memory. Light for the light ahead. We shall overcome.