Have a Happy Covid Holiday!
Look out Americans! If the Canadian media is a reliable indicator, the days leading up to Halloween and Thanksgiving (and Christmas down the road) will be filled with news stories and public statements urging people to take satisfaction in excluding the unvaccinated from holiday events and telling them they’re bad people.
“Unvaccinated relatives?” a Global News headline read in the days leading up to Canadian Thanksgiving (October 11 this year), “Here are the risks around the Thanksgiving table.” The article demonstrates how far journalists are willing to go to maintain fear and compliance amongst the public.
Don’t feel guilty for shunning relatives on Thanksgiving, writer Rachel Gilmore advises. It’s the unvaccinated who should feel guilty, and it’s your right—perhaps even your duty -- to try to make them so. Health authorities are quoted providing “safety” suggestions, such as setting the table outdoors (bring your parka!) and forcing dinner guests to be tested for Covid before ringing the doorbell. It certainly seems that the much-anticipated vaccines, far from providing our route back to normality, have become the occasion for even greater paranoia.
While pretending to be reasonable and empathetic, the article deliberately stokes division. According to the author, “research shows” that it is best to conduct conversations with the great unvaxxed with “empathy and respect.” One wouldn’t have thought research was necessary for such a facile insight, but it sounds fine in theory.
Yet how can one manifest empathy and respect in the absence of any understanding of the rational concerns that motivate the unvaccinated? How can there be respect when the quoted experts compare the unvaccinated to drunk drivers, stressing their lethal (and perhaps criminal) recklessness? How can there be empathy when there is no mention whatsoever of vaccine risks or the far superior immunity of those who have already had and recovered from the virus?
Moreover, the article provides at best half-truths about vaccination, tying itself in logical knots from the start. “The vaccines are really effective, but they’re most effective when you’re surrounded by vaccinated people,” we’re told by an assistant dean of biomedical sciences at McMaster U. How “well” is a vaccine working when it can’t protect against the virus it was created to protect against?
And how odd that, just as with the masks we’ve had to wear for a year and a half—which allegedly provide protection mainly to those around us (thus justifying moral outrage against the unmasked)—that we now find the vaccines, too, are primarily about doing our part for others.
In celebrating the vaccines and warning against the danger of the unvaccinated, the Thanksgiving article manifests two irreconcilable goals: 1) to stress that the vaccines can’t protect you from the unvaccinated; and 2) to defend the efficacy of the vaccines. These goals cannot be accomplished together without significant logical contortion and repeated mental squinting of the eyes.
“Breakthrough” infections (i.e. infections experienced by the vaccinated) are very rare, the article stresses, but they’re not rare enough to be disregarded. Okay. What about breakthrough infections caused by the vaccinated? Most of us have by now heard about the study showing that even in an environment with a 96.2 percent vaccination rate, and even with the vaccinated persons wearing medical masks, virus transmission can and does occur.
But this fact is not mentioned in the article because it would interfere with the straightforward moral polarity the author is promoting. If even the vaccinated may pose a danger, whom can one safely invite to dinner? And perhaps just as importantly, how can one lecture others on their moral irresponsibility if no one is pure? The sensible solution—to recognize that nothing in life is without risk and to practice ethical humility—is never considered here.
Not content with sowing division amongst family members, the article goes even further. Without any logical transition, it expands its purview to include the imposition by government and other powerful entities of mandates that coerce vaccination.
The article quotes Vardit Ravitsky, bio-ethicist at the Université de Montréal, about the justice of suspending human rights during Covid. “Usually, our human rights and freedoms are the main consideration in our society,” she announces casually (and we know a big BUT is on its way), “but we’re living in a very particular point in time.” It’s quite a leap from eating turkey alone to being forced to surrender basic rights and freedoms, yet Ravitsky links both in the logically strained and simplistic manner we’ve grown accustomed to from our health authorities. “This is all temporary. We will get out of this,” she reassures us vaguely, “But in order to get out of it and get back to respect for human rights and your liberty to choose what to do, we need the vaccine.”
Put another way, human rights and the freedom to choose are so important that they can be—must be—suspended for an indeterminate period of time precisely so that we can return to them at some vague point in the distant future. And until that time, don’t gripe about your rights.
One might respond to Ravitsky that it is precisely when our legal and human rights principles are tested during difficult times that we need to stand by them most staunchly; rights only matter when they are threatened. But it doesn’t seem that Ravitsky is genuinely very interested in individual rights—or ethics, for that matter. Is it ethical to bully a family member, on pain of withdrawal of solidarity, to take a medication with not-insignificant adverse effects and unknown long-term risks? Ravitsky certainly thinks so.
This smarmy article clearly shows that, whatever else it has done, Covid has provided the convenient rationale for an unprecedented degree of self-righteous intrusion by experts into the private lives of allegedly free citizens. It is a testimony to the inordinate fear produced by this virus, out of all proportion to its real threat (as shown by the low infection fatality rate), that so many people have not only been willing to endorse the meddling—and to follow the often-ludicrous guidelines—but even to demand more.