A classic case of Entitlements ………….” In 1974, Frank Sinatra came out of a short retirement to tour Australia for the first time in over fifteen years. The legendary crooner was not prepared, however, for the changed political landscape Down Under. Increasing numbers of women were entering higher education professions and public life” and to refer to Australian female journalists as “hookers” was a big mistake and one that the journalists’ Trade Union could not overlook. Unions hit the Sinatra tour with a black ban that immobilized the tour. Check out the following video………
After the tour Sinatra commented ” I made one mistake in Australia. I got off the plane”.
Nearly half a century later another celebrity tangled with Australian officials. This time it was the number one seed in the Australian Tennis Open, the Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic. To compete in the event the request from the Australians was simple. To enter the country he just had to show proof of vaccination against Covid 19 and abide by the public health rules in place. In reality it was a non-issue. If you want to compete you have to be vaccinated. A very simple equation. Djokovic, an outspoken anti-vaxer tried to evade the rules and as a result he was deported from Australia. The decision to deport the tennis star was generally supported by the Australian public. The country had come through two years of public health lock downs and was in no mood to overlook entitlement behavior. Because Djokovic was removed from Australia using ministerial powers under the Migration Act, he is now barred from returning to Australia for three years. However, since each visa application is reviewed on its merits, the ban can be waived in certain circumstances if he satisfies the conditions of a visa. How ever, His future participation in the Australian Tennis Open Championships is in jeopardy. As a follow up to the Australian brouhaha Djokovic’s participation in the French open is now also in jeopardy. As vaccination rules tighten up in other jurisdictions he might end up in a very lonely place on the tennis circuit.
Across North America and the world there is a misplaced celebrity culture that fosters a sense of entitlement without a counter balancing sense of responsibility. Djokovic was one of a number of athletic celebrities trying to evade or bend the rules. Luckily the general public tends to follow the rules and not support entitlement bad behavior. In British Columbia the public has acted very responsibly. Vaccination rates are over 90% and, by and large, public health orders are followed. In certain sectors this has not been easy. Gyms and hospitality industries have been hit hard and despite some confusion around some orders, compliance has been excellent. We acknowledge that all citizens have a right to earn a living but some people have tried to stand on that principle to allow them to flout public health orders. Certain health care workers, despite their intimate contact with vulnerable populations, have refused to vaccinate. The policy of the public health team has been to tread “softly, softly” and have tried to rely on education to nudge the unwilling in the right direction. Health orders are out there but enforcement has been mostly non confrontational. In the case of the Health care workers refusing vaccination they were given the option to comply with health orders or face unpaid leave with the possibility of eventual dismissal. Apart from the health orders there are certain professional ethics that needed to be observed and if not followed there would be professional consequences. Dr. Bonnie Henry was heard to comment that if “they are not prepared to vaccinate and protect their patients then, perhaps, they are in the wrong professions”. A very tactful criticism of the offender’s behavior. Those refusing to comply are small in number but very vocal. The latest group to buck the vaccination orders are the cross border truckers. Because of the essential nature of their services, they had been exempt from vaccination. That is about to end. Both the Canadian and US governments are now demanding that truckers need to be vaccinated. Just for their own safety the majority of truckers have been vaccinated, but, once again there is a vocal minority who feel they have been hard done by. I suspect when faced with significant quarantine periods after cross border trips, the hold outs will comply. It is the old story of when paychecks are threatened then there is an incentive to buckle under and comply.
From the very beginning of the pandemic there has been a significant level of wishful thinking. The foremost question has been “when can we get back to normal?” It has driven certain politicians to ignore the science and pursue policies that contravene sensible public health policies. The most infamous was Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenny declaring the end of public health precautions and predicting that Alberta was going to have “The best summer ever”. We all know how that turned out. Following the government’s pronouncement there was a very predictable spike in Covid cases .
For most people “getting back to normal” means a return to way things were before the pandemic. That is not going to happen. The pandemic is a catastrophic world changing event and there is no going back to the way things were. Just a brief look back at catastrophic events over the past hundred years underscores that notion. World War I started in 1914 and lasted until 1918 and that was followed immediately by the “Spanish Flu” pandemic that lasted a further four years. When that was over the world was a different place. Life in the early 1920s were vastly different to life in the 1914 pre-WWI era. There was no going back and, if the truth is known, there was nothing to be gained by trying to go back. Similarly the Great Depression of 1929 was followed almost immediately by World War II. Once again life had changed so dramatically and there was no going back. Life in 1945 was vastly different to life in 1930. So here we are only two years into the current pandemic, and optimistically we are at the mid point with at least 12-24 months still to go. and when we come out of the pandemic that there are the implications of Global Warming breathing down our neck. By 2024 the world will be a very, very different place to the one we left in 2020. There are expectation that international travel and tourism will resume at pre-pandemic levels. We have forgotten how the virus was originally spread across the world. We have also forgotten how prime tourist destinations were being overrun by visitors and local populations were already calling a halt to the disruptions of the tourism industry. Despite the warnings of the CDC there are people “dying” to get back on board the “floating petrie dishes” that are cruise ships. The last time I looked, the CDC was advising against taking cruises and 19 cruise ships are being currently monitored. Some maritime destinations have refused to allowed some cruises to land.
Over the next two years there will be many false starts and hiccups on the way back to “normal”. I suggest it is better to continue to hunker down and allow the post-pandemic world unfold in a slow and orderly way. Jason Kenney is probably right. We are going to have to live with the virus but that is going to take time and experience. As the saying goes “everything will turn out in the end and if it hasn’t then we are not at the end” (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
2022-01-24 Postscript: As we speak, cross border truck drivers are rebelling against the government’s mandate for all cross border truckers to be vaccinated. A truck convoy has started traveling across the country to converge on Ottawa. I suggest as a protest it is doomed to failure because……..
- Both the US and the Canadian governments are in lock step with their demand that cross border truckers must be vaccinated.
- Governments cannot afford to have such important supply lines at risk.
- The protest lacks public support.
- The truckers lack industry support.
- The protest is a form of social blackmail.
- Truckers cannot afford to have their rigs off the road for the duration of a protest. Each day off the job is a very significant economic drain on their resources.
- The truckers have had over a year to comply with vaccine mandates.
So guys, give it up and suffer the minor inconvenience of a vaccine jab. Swallow your wounded macho pride and get back to work.