Monday, September 28, 2020

The Fogginess of These Times

I had laser surgery over a decade ago and love not wearing glasses, but I've started wearing my sunglasses regularly, even on my walk to work just as the sun's coming up. It makes no sense to have a barrier to our nose and mouth but leave the most defenceless intake for viruses completely uncovered. Those of us seeing things unaided need tinted lenses to manage these times.

But, despite trying all the tricks touted online, they fog up. So I meander my way towards my workplace with a fraction of my usual vision. I've just been accepting the fog as I gingerly pass the hospital on the way, sometimes holding my breath like we did as kids when we drove past cemeteries, unbuckled in the back of the station wagon, in a curious ritual that would somehow keep us from joining them. The car headlights passing me in the early mornings all have sparkling rainbows around them, and I love the irony in the possibility that I'll trip off the curb and be hit while trying to keep myself safe from a virus. But so far I've made it all the way under the good fortune of Mr. Magoo.

We're at two official cases in our school, but we're not allowed to know who they are. The infected tell Public Health who they may have been in contact with, and those people are called to either get a test (which is all but impossible right now) or to sit at home for 14 days. 

For teachers, 14 days at home is 10 work days, which is one day shy of getting longterm coverage. So, even if you feel fine, you're not allowed to work from home, because... reasons, so you need an occasional teacher to cover your classes, which means creating online coursework as well as explaining it all well enough for the supply teacher to explain it to your students. And the supply teacher has to come into your school to teach all the kids online. If the isolation period were 17 days, guaranteeing 11 consecutive work days, longterm occasional teachers would be responsible for creating content and marking, which is also nuts! But boy would I stay home. As it is currently, it sets up teachers to really really want to come into the building even if they've been exposed.  

They could just let us work from home. But, no. Bad optics? No oversight? Equity? I'm not sure what it's about, but online teachers being made to go into the building each day makes no sense in a stopping the spread kinda way.

Officially, the cases were contained to one room, so there's no way anyone could have contracted the virus in the hallways or the stairwells, amiright?! In my supervisory duties, I have no way of knowing if I happened to engage with either of the people in a forgettable encounter that might not be revealed unless I fall ill. While I understand the importance of privacy around health concerns, and no names should ever be public knowledge, I also think every case should be made known to everyone in the building. I need a picture of the student to know if I gave them directions or happened to walk beside them for a time. 

It's not as if the infected were up to something nefarious in order to contract the airborne virus. They were just existing in a space that fosters exposure. I guess it's like, even though we know lice prefers clean hair, it's still seen as dirty and we keep that private too. But what if we didn't? Maybe if we TELL people who has lice, it would make it more accepted and everyone could get treated immediately instead of waiting for their head to burn from the itching before resigning themselves to acknowledging their new guests. Even STIs shouldn't be shameful in a sex-positive culture. But they all seem to inaccurately indicate an uncleanliness. It's a quick brain shift to help us believe we're safe: they must have done something bad to deserve this fate, so, if I'm good, it can't possibly happen to me. But, of course, it can.

In some cities, data on workplace infection rates are also not permitted to be known under the guise of confidentiality and the concern that businesses will lose money if an outbreak is reported, once again missing the bigger picture: we can save more businesses if we can openly track cases and overtly cycle through a close-disinfect-reopen plan that we all endorse. But nobody really knows where those high-risk cases are in part because current tracking databases don't capture that level of detail. As a health policy researcher said, "In a pandemic, we need to weigh on the side of transparency." So we're stumbling a bit blind through it all, just doing our best to stay masked and washed.

But more than that, I have that uncomfortable feeling that we're being led by politicians with ulterior motives. Sure, that's always been the case, but this feels really different, a sinking, pit of the stomach kind of different. And I think it's because I'm a pleb in this scenario instead of, maybe, middle management. In my brief time in this part of the world, it has always been some other group who is baring the brunt of the neoliberal shenanigans; my privilege has protected me from knowing it in that gnostic, embodied way. I've been on the cursory of it; the ripples have lapped up on the shore, but I barely felt it. Now, I'm in the group experiencing it like cement boots hardening and dragging us down. We're no longer in the protected class. We're just waiting to see which one of us will die first, and quietly, secretly (shamefully) hoping another school is hit hard enough to shut it all down and spare the rest of us. And it will have to be bad before Ford will let it end.

On top of the fear and the challenges of teaching partially online, we've also been made to use a new operating system, which was actually developed for post-secondary teaching, and, rumour has it, the old system we're all used to will be blocked or shut down. It's all because of exclusive contracts and money, but it add another layer to the stress and turmoil. It's unconscionable to make us switch platforms now!!  It's not just about using our material, which we're giving them for free when we add it to their platform, but about surveillance as the new system can track what teachers do all day. 

It's a messy system. The home page is the board page, then kids have to click to get to my class, then click to get to content, then click to get to the current unit, then click YET AGAIN to get to today's lesson!! Meanwhile, the kids soothe the tedium from all the clicking from page to page and waiting for each page to load to get to next page by scrolling through social media, and I've lost them. 

Their bots are on fire "helping" teachers cope with this mess, like this solution to my issue last week:

No, I don't want your craptastic modules!! 

Doug Ford keeps saying the province's plan is working. But working how??  It's not working to keep kids safe, that's for sure. But it may be working to convince parents to shift to private schools where they have faster testing and smaller classes. 

The Toronto Star published a HUGE "article" on the benefits of private schooling. 
h/t @realJ_Mitchell

THIS is an important moment to settle in to read Linda McQuaig's book on the history of Canada getting reeled in to privatization scams, which, over and over, help the rich and decimate the poor and destroy our country. After all these years of reading about the neoliberal agenda being menacing at best and genocidal at its worst, I'm just starting to rear my head high enough to the realization that we're expendable too. Me!

And there's a teacher shortage, somehow, so they're calling back retired teachers. And the retired teachers go,

while so many recently (and not so recently) graduated teachers sit home, unemployed. And Ford is hiring police officers while laying off nurses. The stupid! It burns! And the world is so topsy-turvy right now it might be time to start pouring gin in my Cheerios. (Just kidding; I don't eat Cheerios!)

Ford, like Trump, is letting us die off so he can push the merits of privatized schooling. Now he's outsourcing for bids to run the standardized tests we all hate.

On the inside of my fogged up lenses, I'm in another world, a private and isolating world that dampens the reality of the people walking past as it lets anxiety creep under the doorway. Fog is always menacing. protective only of the predators. Camus's The Fall, where we each come to recognize our own evil nature, is blanketed by thick fog throughout. Nothing good ever comes out of the fog. I'm half expected a man in a trench coat and fedora to appear in a clearing to say, "The gig's up. It's your turn to die."

These are murderous times. News this morning, from New York, show the police rushing a crowd peacefully eating dinner on a sidewalk patio. This video captures the pre-recorded announcement that adds a dystopian flourish to the inexplicable escalation of violence. And then there's the hate groups in our own Red Deer. And Harper's still running the Cons, hoping to precipitate his version of Trump in a cowboy hat.

But I'm probably just being silly. People keep pointing out to me that only a small fraction get the virus, and an even smaller fraction die from it, so why all this worry?? It's the underhandedness of the system, the callousness and willingness to allow unnecessary suffer for the benefit of the bottom line.

Trudeau made a nice speech for UN General Assembly plenary meeting, though, which would all be well and good if it means something and can be translated into action. 

And there's this (h/t Steve Stewart-Williams). It's nice, too.

There's no breaking free from this disaster. No escaping. We have to keep wading through the miasma or drown. Chin up! 

ETA: Now that contact tracing is no longer happening due to the number of cases, it really is up to individuals to publicize their own infection to anyone they may have been in contact with. It should be our public duty.

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