May 28th, 2024

Be wary of potential loss of civil liberties

By Letter to the Editor on April 16, 2020.

It may be akin to passing gas at a funeral right now, but it is nonetheless worth remarking on the astonishing facility with which many of our presumed civil liberties have been swept aside in the face of the current threat from a faceless microbe rather cryptically named the novo-coronavirus – a.k.a. COVID-19. All of sudden, a bunch of guys you wouldn’t otherwise want to lend your car to for the afternoon – Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Viktor Orban, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump – are telling us to get off the streets and out of public places and stay there until told otherwise.

My gawd! They’re using cop cars with loudspeakers in some places! Now this is, of course, in pursuit of foiling an insidious and pernicious contagion, and therefore laudable on the face of it. However, it does otherwise beg a certain degree of reflection as to the durability of what we might otherwise assume to be our “freedoms” – the two great pillars of which are freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

It’s already an increasingly creepy world in which society is morphing rapidly into a mish-mash of virtual streaming images and bits of text on digital devices of one form or another. This has suddenly accelerated to the nth degree as we rebound off the ubiquitous threat from the virus and scurry into safe spaces from which we peer out at one another and the broader world. Hey, remember this old McLuhan saw? – “The medium is the message.”

Laughably dated, of course. But waitÉ Yes, just what is the message in this medium? Well, for a 70-year-old like me, and a creature of a communitarian socio-political tradition, the message is quite clear – when danger strikes at the heart of things, do not band together in solidarity to face the threat, as has been done for a thousand years or more, but rather flee apart into burrows and succumb to Order.

OK, OK, it is clinically necessary and simply pragmatic under circumstance. Yet it is also profoundly Orwellian in nature, and the abiding concern will be when and to what extent this extraordinary suspension of freedoms will be reversed and placed back in its dangerous box. For it is the nature of power to enjoy power. Everything we are as free people seeks to be wary of that volatile and malignant rot.

Phil Burpee

Pincher Creek

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John P Nightingale

“Orwellian” maybe but a necessary evil at least for now.
Certainly the “man next door” is behaving more and more like a despot as is Viktor Orban and both are increasingly dangerous in their own country and elsewhere.
Be thankful we live in a reasonably well ordered and civil democracy.The genie will be back in its box, perhaps not as soon as the writer would like but thus far , the virus is calling the shots – and the time-line.

Bill McDonald

Wow, running out of stuff to whine about you guys? Or can’t you read this with your tinfoil hats on! Looks like Lethbridge has an entire group of self-appointed scholars that sit in their basement and giggle while they write barbs back and forth to each other, while they impress themselves with their multi-syllable vocabulary! I’m just bored enough right now to read these. It’s actually pretty sad.


at risk of coming under the radar of our secret police (already a long history of subversion of freedom and the transparency that is required so as to actually have a free society), i must agree with the writer. our freedoms have been whittled away at consistently since some hard won battles going back to the 50s-70s. and, despite having fundamental rights and freedoms laid out in 1982 in this country, our supreme court has chosen to often very narrowly interpret the intent of the document (too much with the “reasonable” or “acceptable” “limits” – which actually amount to controls or infringements – upon our rights and freedoms….). surveillance continues to surmount and invade our privacy with impunity and regularity, that it, like the secret police performing these acts, has somehow become an acceptable new normal-abnormal. you cannot have freedom if you cannot have your privacy.
the writer is correct to point out that we have become a bunch of scurriers. we are constantly under siege by a corporate controlled media determined to foment our insecurities and fears – our salvation comes via consumer products and increasing govt control, and preemptive acts of war (which are in fact war crimes). the writer stops short of wondering whether the brunt of us have increasingly become fear-soaked cowards.
meanwhile, consider the effect on us of the covid 24/7 tv news coverage – new cases; new deaths; new laws/restrictions. a world with little other news all of a sudden. if this hyper-frenzied approach was taken with the flu, would we not also be equally whipped into our scared “safe” spaces?
here are some curious stats for covid and the flu. “The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, annual influenza epidemics result in about 3-5 million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths.” the math says 8-10% who contract flu die.
“Since 31 December 2019 and as of 16 April 2020, 2 029 930 cases of COVID-19 (in accordance with the applied case definitions and testing strategies in the affected countries) have been reported, including 136 320 deaths.” the math says about a 6-7% of those that have contracted covid have died.
why is covid causing humans and our systems so much more distress than flu? my guess is that covid is perhaps more contagious as first time around illness, and perhaps it brings about higher incidences of complications than does whatever flu is in season. but i feel the effect of the covid pandemic is greatly exacerbated because our health system already has long been at capacity/overload; not only due to flu, but to cancers, to heart disease and other predominant health issues that have already long been established.
we are under resourced due to at least 2 concerns: 1) we have been shorting our health systems, and not ensuring they are efficient; 2) despite knowing that health related pandemics are inevitable, no govts have prepared their society for the reality. just as no govts have really prepared for the massive earthquakes that have been predicted for the west coast of north america. in fact, people are increasingly moving there and paying a premium, no less.
should we be cautious, sensible, sensitive, mindful, caring, courteous, considerate? absolutely. it is the right and duty of each of us to uphold the rights of others and to expect that our rights be upheld by others. but does that mean we should be giving away our rights and freedoms to third parties?
in the case of covid, what is going to hurt us more: the 6-7% of those that die from contracting the illness, or the many more who are losing their livelihoods, suffering from lack of income, outlets and socialisation? meanwhile, there is a silver lining, in that the health of the planet seems to be improving during this slowdown in production and consumption. we should hope only this will remain as the new normal.