Going tribal

On Thursday afternoon, Toronto’s condo king, Brad Lamb, sent out a blanket email to his contact list – real estate agents, brokers, developers, clients and investors. “COVID-19 Must Read – World Doctors Alliance,” was Lamb’s subject line.

One day later, as we pushed our way through thick, cacophonous, anxious crowds in Pearson Airport, Ontario announced the GTA was locking down. So tomorrow the department stores, malls, hair salons, gyms, vets and restaurants will be empty. The closures will be for ‘at least’ 28 days. Christmas shopping – which allows most retailers to survive the winter – is kaput.

Lamb is a worried, frustrated person. In August he invited abuse by posting an open letter (and sending out another blanket email) claiming the virus is overstated, the health care system is unburdened and we should all follow the Swedish model of letting the bug rip through society, since most people never get that sick.

Mr. Lamb’s condominium business is hurting. Not alone. The Bay will be wounded as its flagship store shutters. Owen the hair salon guy’s probably down for the count. Air Canada? Dunno. The angst and uncertainty is palpable as the US inches towards 200,000 new daily cases and Ottawa claims our situation could be, per capital, far worse.

The desperation has many grasping for simplicity and non-equivocation. So Lamb – an intelligent, successful, articulate business leader – leaned on the shoulder of a bogus organization disseminating falsehoods. To wit:

It is also abundantly clear that the ‘pandemic’ is basically over and has been since June 2020. We have very highly likely reached herd immunity and therefore have no need for a vaccine. We have safe and very effective treatments and preventative treatments for covid, we therefore call for an immediate end to all lockdown measures, social distancing, mask wearing, testing of healthy individuals, track and trace, immunity passports, the vaccination program and so on.

Last Sunday I asked people coming to this blog to cease posting similar messages. That Trump won. The pandemic’s nothing. Masks and vaccines are tyranny. I debunked the Great Reset foolishness. But by Friday the comment section was a swamp of anti-vax, libertarian, live-free-or-die manifestos from hardened keyboard warriors.

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Dorothy and I sat outside Gate D43 beside Starbucks, watching the masked masses and discussed this at some length. How did we get to closures and bubbles? Why did 73 million Americans vote for a guy playing down a pathogen that killed 250,000 in thirty weeks? What led to the blog filling with those who believe a global cabal’s trying to enslave them? How can an economy survive a pandemic or a lockdown, or both, when half the population rebels? When business leaders and politicians cry foul? Where does truth lie?

Stressed. We’re all stressed. If only there was a clear way out.

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History suggests this is exactly the environment in which conspiracies take flight. Confusion, fear and victimization make us prone to simple explanations, then direct solutions. Hitler blamed Germany’s deep malaise on a conspiracy of bankers and industrialists, all Jewish. It was a threat to the Aryan people and he was the defender. Otherwise reasonable people supported him, hoping for a better outcome. He didn’t even have a Twitter account or Fox News. These days huge numbers have concentrated their hopes and dreams in a red ball cap. The battle is against the globalists, Antifa and the ‘China virus,’ threatening a way of life. Masks, greenies, public health cops, BLM protestors, pollsters, pharma, the UN, mainstream media and big tech are all vilified.

In this context tribalism and nationalism find a large measure of public support. It’s there in tariffs, Brexit, the Mexican border wall, Muslim travel ban, caged kids, MAGA and the withdrawal of US troops. But if Covid’s proved anything, it’s that walls are a fiction. We’re in this together.

“I’ve read your blog daily since it started and have observed the evolution of your frustration with the comments section,” writes Lloyd. “I actually rarely read the comments as I am mindful of my mental/emotional health but decided to do a quick scan of the blog and was “dismayed” by the tenor of the so-called conversations within.  The number of deleted and banned comments were remarkable.  And many of the ones you let through were highly questionable in terms of what I would regard as a standard of respectable behaviour.  If I were you I would not tolerate it. I can’t imagine this is not damaging you in some way (I know you’re tough but seriously….).  My suggestion would be to take a two week break and/or nuke the comments section for a period of time.  I think you should also have a much shorter leash for banning people – no “DELETE”, straight to “BAN”.  I really don’t know how you do it, sir.”

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At Halifax airport we went through the Covid check. Safe Entry documentation. Photo IDs. Sealed transportation home. Fourteen days of quarantine. Each morning a direct communication from the government ensuring we have not set forth. But we are allowed in the back yard.

Before we left Dorothy mentioned the Toronto trip to the lady next door. “That’s scary,” she said. People in Lunenburg are now afraid of Halifax.

Vaccine cannot come soon enough.

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