January 18th, 2021

COVID the latest crisis in 70 years of crises

By Letter to the Editor on March 26, 2020.

Not only have I been around a long time, I have an interest in history and current events. An easy conclusion: there has been nothing in the last 70 years that can match the COVID-19 crisis for its worldwide reach and damage to the economies of the world.

However, it is not likely the number of fatalities will be nearly as high as other catastrophes because of the drastic preventative measures. Major events I witnessed from afar:

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: a worldwide fear of nuclear war. Decades later when the documents came out of Russia it was clear that as soon as President Kennedy issued his ultimatum the Russians looked for a face-saving way out, and neither side was close to launching missiles. Effect on Canadians: slight.

1960s: Vietnam War. American deaths were at 62,000, Vietnamese deaths were approximately 500,000. The war went on for 15 years and the Americans lost anyway. Effect on Canadians: slight.

1960s: Civil rights movement. A very slow but major change in American consciousness and laws. Effect on Canadians: a similar change in consciousness and slow liberalization of laws and attitudes.

1969: Armstrong walks on the moon. Effect on Canadians: positive and then there was the 30-year development of computer technology that changed the world.

1974: Nixon resigns due to Watergate. Effect on Canadians: slight, if anything at all.

1970s to 2000: African famines, killing millions over 30 years. Effect on Canadians: slight, with some participation of charity work and foreign aid.

Sept. 11, 2001: thousands killed in one day, including some Canadians. Effect on Canadians: considerable for the military, and for families of wounded or killed soldiers. Except for heightened security measures, most Canadians did not change their lives.

COVID-19 crisis: the virus will probably reach into every country and community. Mortality rate is low, but the infection rate will be very high, and the change in our lives and our jobs will be massive (unless a vaccine quickly appears, but that is not likely for a year). The reach of the virus will be equivalent to the Second World War when Canadians joined the military, there was extensive rationing of goods and some services, and the government had to take some emergency measures. It is arguably equal in the sense of how much the virus dominates our consciousness, our families and jobs and the news cycles. But it won’t be equal in terms of fatalities: 50 million died in that war.

Best advice, to use a phrase the British used for WW2: keep calm and carry on.

Allan Wilson


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