Friday, May 5, 2023

On Grief and the WHO and Culpability

I wonder to what extent the desire, or even the ability, to kill one another has been affected by being surrounded by leaders who are looking the other way while so many have died or are disabled by a virus that we're told we just have to live with. It makes me think of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, when he tried to connect a school shooting - back when they were rare and shocking - to something, to try to make sense of the senseless, and he seems to conclude it might have something to do with weapons manufacturing being the town's main industry and the fact that the president dropped tons of bombs on Kosovo that day. There's a greater sense now, coming from the top down, that individual lives don't really matter - especially certain types of lives. As soon as the first person said the words, "but they had a preexisting condition" or "it's only hitting the elderly" or anything similar, without a massive and sustained backlash big enough to shut down that rhetoric, we set ourselves down a path of the possibility that some lives don't matter. So clearly it's fine to kill some people. I mean, we've been on this path for a while, but now it's all more overt -- they're saying the quiet part out loud over and over -- like back in the day before all the protests and activism provoked anti-discrimination laws. 

Is this where we want to be? 

Instead of acknowledging the deaths and disabilities and ongoing illnesses around us and providing space to grieve them, we're cajoled into making light of it all and stuffing that grief and discombobulation deep down where it will fester. Tra-la-la. The number dying isn't nearly as high as in the Spanish flu, so stop being so grumpy about it! Stiff upper lip! We're getting more mental health "toolkits" in schools which will help identify regular stress from anxiety and help kids be resilient or have grit or just pull themselves up by the bootstraps (and hush about it already) instead of openly reeling at the state of the world.  

During a war, newscasters would be somber and sincere and profound as they discussed daily losses, and people would hang their heads at least for a moment to recognize the tragedy so many are facing even if they, themselves, weren't touched by it. We're at well past the number of Canadian casualties that we lost in WWII, and getting closer to the number lost in WWI. In wartime, there is public acknowledgement and general awareness that the person next to us on the bus might have recently suffered a serious loss, and people were all in it collectively. One survey found about a quarter of people has lost someone to Covid. We need something like the War Amps for Long Covid sufferers, and it feels like that's happening. People are finding each other and joining together to navigate a system that has left them high and dry. But we're trying to usher in the roaring twenties while deaths and disabilities are accumulating. 

Are you not entertained?

Sure, Covid's going to be here a while, maybe even forever, but so are traffic accidents and house fires. We don't just throw up our hands and say those deaths are inevitable; we bloody well take some precautions or else we're at fault for allowing them to happen! You're made out to be negligent if your house burns down and you didn't have any smoke detectors, and you're definitely the villain if you get hit while on your bike wearing dark-coloured clothes, but we're all pretending there's nothing we can do to avoid getting Covid. CTV reported that the only people wearing masks anymore are criminals, and that's unlikely to help the cause!! They've openly conflated people avoiding infection with criminality. 

A bit of Friedrich Engels seem apropos:

"When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such injury that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of [working-class people] in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet . . . knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains." 

The WHO has acknowledged that a massive number of people will need long term care from Long Covid, yet it is still suggesting that washing hands is the best prevention against transmission, which is a bald-faced lie, and then just now announced that the global health emergency is actually over. Has anyone notified the virus?  I love whomever provided the graphic for the very real WHO announcement below (which is hard to distinguish from the parody account next to it). 

Their announcement from Dr. Tedros today: 

"I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency. That does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat. Last week, Covid-19 claimed a life every three minutes and that's just the deaths we know about. As we speak, thousands of people around the world are fighting for their lives in intensive care units. And millions more continue to live with the debilitating effects of Post-Covid-19 condition. This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it is still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths. The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about."

So how is it now no longer a global public health emergency? Because it's no longer emergent?? Or do we need it to claim a life every two minutes to count?

Some people online are commenting that the message reads as if written from a hostage: I was forced to say it's over, but then snuck in some information to show the reality of the situation. 

Back in 2021, an editorial in The BMJ asked if murder were an apt term to describe a failure to respond appropriately to a pandemic, at a time when hospitals and even schools still had mask mandates! (Notice that masks off in hospitals will save tons of money from people in need avoiding the hospital and from people in need getting Covid in the hospital and dying that much sooner!!)

"When politicians wilfully neglect scientific advice, international and historical experience, and their own alarming statistics and modelling because to act goes against their political strategy or ideology, is that lawful? . . . At the very least, Covid-19 might be classified as 'social murder" . . . the lack of political attention to social determinants and inequities that exacerbate the pandemic. . . . Crimes against humanity, as adjudicated by the International Criminal Court, do not include public health. But David Scheffer, a former US ambassador for war crimes, suggests that we could broaden the application of public health malpractice 'to account for the administration of public health during pandemics.' In that case, public health malpractice might become a crime against humanity. . . . As more than two million people have died, we must not look on impotently as elected representatives around the world remain unaccountable and unrepentant. . . . The media is complicit too, trapped in ideological silos that see the pandemic through a lens of political tribalism, worried about telling pandemic truths to their readers and viewers, owners, and political friends. In fact, truth has become dispensable as politicians and their allies are allowed to lie, mislead, and repaint history with barely a hint of a challenge from journalists."  
 A little later in the year, the notion was furthered by the World Federation of Public Health Associations in an article titled "Facing leadership that kills" that calls for a leap of the imagination to get us past the political machinations at play:

"Given their dependence on government employment, most public health experts chose to remain silent out of fear of committing career or financial suicide or the belief that, even if they took the risk to speak out, nothing would be done or make any difference. . . . It is imperative for the public health community to determine how best to protect people from the effects of harmful political leadership. . . . A radical approach is essential, as timid variations of the status quo or small incremental steps could aggravate the weak state in which the pandemic may leave the field of public health and increase risk of its relegation to the margins of societal life. . . . [The political class, medical profession, and corporate sector] dominated the limelight, pushing public health to the fringes of the decision-making process. . . . An alternative, which might yield even more promise for the future of public health, is to imagine new ways to enhance what is directly beneficial to the populations it intends to serve . . . by going beyond the management of diseases at the population level, embracing digital technologies in unconventional ways, and to view health as an ability that could spread, rather than as the impossible-to-achieve 'state of complete physical, mental and social well-being' embedded in the outdated definition of the WHO."

They outline solutions that include protecting whistleblowers, shaming harmful leaders, advocating for public health malpractice as a crime against humanity, clarifying the concept of effective leadership pursuing precision public health, and crafting a notion of a complete pandemic of health:

"namely that every person on earth could experience positive health, which should be the ultimate goal of public health . . . shift the conceptualization of health to view it as the ability to adapt to the inevitable challenges people face throughout life. . . . The main challenge for the WRPHA, public health associations, and leaders in countries around the world is to give themselves permission to believe that this is possible."
I agree, the big problem is believing it's possible to undo what's been done, to change the entire mindset of thinking that has so many people saying "Not it!" whenever they hear which group is currently at greatest risk, and instead getting us all to lean in to "How can I help?" I believe it might help to be brave enough to open the door a crack to all that buried collective grief from the loss of so many lives and livelihoods. 

Also published today, in Scientific American: "Masks work. Distorting science to dispute the evidence doesn't."


lungta said...

Oh the solutions , if we could just get all the rich to give up on their money, instantly cure all the narcissistic sociopaths, have predatory capitalism not directly benefit by death and disaster and change the nature of humanity on a cellular level making empathy, compassion and recognition of every living thing as full right cohabitants on the planet our default setting.
Or as my less than intellectual friend puts it ... "People are the worst."

Marie Snyder said...

They just stop exploiting workers, which will end up costing them their profits. Like with the writer's strike and the narrative that people just don't pay for content anymore - if that's true than how are the top guys still increasing their wealth? Once someone (even us) is at the top, it's easy to believe it's from their own brilliance and hard work (when so much is luck and connections), and the people really far down appear to be lazy and dumb to still be so far down and then those at the top start thinking those at the bottom are less valuable. And then it's not such a big deal to let them die off or maybe even help them on their way by stomping on them like cockroaches. I once briefly dated a guy who was unsettled that I would often have lengthy chats with a custodian at my school. I became less worthy of his attention through my association with someone deemed inferior. People at all places on the imaginary hierarchy measure the value of others against an imaginary scale. We need to get everyone OFF that hierarchy.