OPINION // March 23, 2020
by Z. S. Roe
I’m not panicking.
The feeling is more akin to slipping.
It’s as if the world has tipped on its axis, but by just a little, just enough that my footing is no longer sure. I have to plant my feet with firm intention, set my roots and bury them deep.
Even still, there is the sense that I might fall.
I feel uprooted.
THE EASY FIX
Is toilet paper . . . apparently. The world may be ending, but dammit all to hell, my ass will be spotless!
In my defence, I only bought one extra package of toilet paper. It was a bulk package of thirty jumbo rolls, but still . . . only one.
But what else are we to do? Every day the numbers rise, and I can’t help but watch them. Which COVID-19 world tracker are you using? I started with the John Hopkins University map; I’ve since moved onto Bing’s.
Today, the world has some 380,000 cases, with more than 16,000 dead. In a few days those numbers will seem quaint.
I’m constantly listening to CBC Radio. Failing that, a handful of my favourite YouTube personalities are always a click away to satiate that COVID craving.
This is unhealthy, yet GI Joe used to tell me that “knowing is half the battle,” so I must be doing something right. Or am I just doing something?
The reality is that I need to be doing something, anything. I have to respond, in whatever way works for me, to this sudden change in my life. Even if it is nonsensical. I must create the illusion of agency, especially in those times when I have none.
And so toilet paper.
BUT THAT’S BECAUSE I’M 10-PLY
I’m old enough to remember 9/11. I was in my late teens then, just starting grade 12 when those airliners made their mark in our history books.
Again and again on the news we saw the twin towers collapse. We heard the numbers of confirmed dead. Then came the wars, then the conspiracies.
Things changed then. It was a cultural shift, the first I’d ever experienced.
And yet this feels bigger. Maybe that’s only because this pandemic has directly impacted my day to day life. That sounds callous, even heartless. Maybe too it’s emblematic of the kind of apathy that forever perpetuates so much of the world’s suffering.
As a Canadian, I had the luxury of viewing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 from a distance. Now there is no buffer between me and calamity. None of us can escape this.
Yet despite this new eerie sense of social upheaval, I can’t deny another thought that sits at the back of my mind and is slowly beginning to make itself known:
Have we all just gone a little soft?
WE’LL GET THROUGH THIS
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. We’re all slipping and if feels like there’s nothing we can do to assuage our unease.
But we’ll get through this. How do I know?
Let me offer some perspective.
The last great flu pandemic was in 1918, the one many know as the Spanish Flu. It infected nearly a quarter of the world’s population and killed some 50 million people.
Don’t forget, though, that this pandemic came on the heels of World War I, which claimed 40 million lives. Then, after surviving the Spanish Flu, humanity suffered through the Great Depression only a few years later. And then, only a few years after that, came World War II, which saw the death of around 75 million more people.
Despite these incredible losses, humanity persevered. And we will again.
Make no mistake, COVID-19 will not be bested without loss and sacrifice. But it can be beat. If we’re able to get through the horrors of the first half of the twentieth century, then we can get through this.
And it’s because we’re more resilient than we assume. Even you, reading this now, are more resilient than you know.
In each of us is a reserve of strength, one we’re not always familiar with but exists nonetheless. That’s why humanity is still here, millennia upon millennia. We adapt and carry on.
Which returns me to my previous question: have we gone a little soft, become a bit 10-ply?
Honestly, yes. But that’s okay.
We’ll toughen up; it just takes practice.
Practice and commitment . . . and not, I hope you notice, more toilet paper, despite however shitty these times might feel.
Opinion is a sometimes column of just that, my opinion. While opinions are like noses and everyone has one, mine are especially snotty. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.