“Keep calm and carry on.”

It was the slogan, and mindset, that helped get the British people through the hardships, setbacks and tragedies of the Second World War. But the reaction in some circles to the Omicron variant shows that this shared sense of resolve and determination appears to have been replaced with a bottomless appetite for whining and victimhood among many Canadians.

The stiff upper lip that characterized the conservative mindset in Great Britain has been replaced in contemporary Canada by a perpetually quivering bottom one.

In response to the reality that booster shots are going to be required, perhaps for years to come, National Post reporter Tyler Dawson captured this new mood when he tweeted: “We were given a lot of certainty, and the football has been yanked away. The upset might not be *right* but it’s entirely understandable.”

Dawson had it wrong. We were never promised two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would bestow us with immunity for the rest of our lives. And the very fact they work as well as they do, or did, is practically a miracle unto itself.

The response from some Conservative MPs to guidance from the federal government urging people to reduce unnecessary travel during the holiday season was even more overwrought. Melissa Lantsman, the MP for Thornhill and a rising star in her caucus, wrote, “Asking Canadians, who have done everything governments told them to for almost two years, to keep disrupting their lives and livelihoods because the government failed to plan is ludicrous.”

What’s actually ludicrous here is the notion the government could have anticipated the development of a new variant that has caught the scientists and researchers studying COVID-19 off-guard, much less prevented its arrival in Canada. It’s especially ludicrous coming from a party that can’t even convince all of its own elected members to get vaccinated, much less its most ardent supporters.

This conservative pushback against common sense is no laughing matter, though, and in some parts of their universe, it's taken a much uglier form. This week, far-right provocateur Ezra Levant put a $5,000 bounty — his words — on the head of Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and front-line health-care worker in Toronto.

Why? Because Dosani, one of the more outspoken critics of the Doug Ford government’s handling of COVID-19, had the temerity to suggest people should cancel their holiday plans in order to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. That makes him a target for the likes of Levant, who tweeted that he would provide a “$5,000 bounty to anyone who sends video of this fear-mongering TV doctor breaking COVID rules.”

Opinion: The stiff upper lip that characterized the conservative mindset in Great Britain has been replaced in contemporary Canada by a perpetually quivering bottom one, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #COVID19 #Omicron #CDNpoli

Said “fear-mongering TV doctor” is actually the founder and lead physician with Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless (PEACH) and a past recipient of the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross for Humanitarianism.

But Levant was hardly the only person outraged by the idea that doctors would encourage people to stay home, avoid large gatherings and generally err on the side of caution in the face of a massive surge of COVID cases and hospitalizations. Jenni Byrne, a former senior adviser to Stephen Harper and Ford and a regular on the popular Curse of Politics podcast, joined the Dr. Dosani pile-on by tweeting “the online shaming, esp from health care professionals is disgusting.”

Then there’s the Toronto Sun’s Brian Lilley, who wrote in his recent column that “instead of listening to the Science Table and the never-ending contradictory positions of the TV and Twitter doctors, the government should find people with a better track record.” His target of choice was Dr. Amit Arya, whom he accused of having a “whiplash-inducing change of heart on booster doses.”

Lilley’s beef here revolves around a pair of tweets — one from Dec. 2, in which Arya pointed out the lack of global vaccine equity, and one on Dec. 13, in which he pointed out the curious lack of urgency on the part of the Ford government (one with which Lilley has a complicated relationship) in distributing booster doses. It’s fair to assume that Lilley is also trying to punish him for another tweet earlier this year in which Dr. Arya called out Lilley for, you guessed it, “attacking doctors and science.”

This isn’t so much a “change of heart” as it is an attempt to create the impression of one. But here’s the thing: if Dr. Arya had changed his mind, it would be because of new data about the Omicron variant and the risk it posed, not some sort of desire to confuse the public and attract attention. And if there’s one thing you want from your experts, it’s a willingness to update their priors based on new information, not double down on their pre-existing beliefs in the name of consistency.

People like Lilley and Byrne don’t actually want experts, though, much less those who are willing to criticize the government’s policies or challenge their decisions. They want people who will toe their line, which has already put far more people in the line of COVID-19’s fire than was necessary. But the way out of this pandemic isn’t by threatening doctors or attacking experts who dare speak the truth. It’s in finally, seriously, listening to them — and then doing what’s required, as hard and unpleasant as it might be.

That’s what those who endured hardships like the Blitz would have done.

In many important ways, whether it’s our embrace of diversity or our attitude towards gender and sexual equality, we act and think in ways that are an obvious improvement on previous generations. But when it comes to meeting society-wide challenges, and making the necessary sacrifices, we fall well short of the example they set.

If we can’t find a way to stiffen our collective upper lip soon, we risk losing the gains we’ve made against COVID-19 — and maybe even the war itself.

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well said

"What’s actually ludicrous here is the notion the government could have anticipated the development of a new variant that has caught the scientists and researchers studying COVID-19 off-guard, "

Well, no, that's not ludicrous at all. This particular variant couldn't have been predicted, but lots and lots of scientists have been warning that for as long as we don't beat the disease in the whole world, for instance as long as the third world remains unvaccinated, new variants will keep on arising in the places where Covid is rampant, and those new variants could be more infectious, different enough to make current vaccines ineffective, more deadly, or all three. The Omicron variant is far from the worst that could have happened, and is likely to be far from the last dangerous variant we see, if the rich countries don't get our heads out of our collective rears and help out the poor ones for our own sake.

Not that the Conservatives have any idea about any of this. They don't know, they don't wanna know, they're far worse than irrelevant. But the Liberals, US Democrats and so forth have been to a certain extent going through the motions, doing the minimum, not rocking any boats, taking care not to annoy their big pharma donors by, say, suspending intellectual property on Covid vaccines (most of them developed with government money based on government research). It has been estimated that a program of mass vaccination to vaccinate everyone in the world would cost $20-50 billion. Which sounds like a lot, but expropriate it from Jeff Bezos alone and he'd still be rich beyond the dreams of 20-years-ago avarice. Or, the US could take a 5% cut to one year of the military budget . . . which, if the military is supposed to be making them secure, you'd think some pocket change in return for eliminating by far the biggest source of insecurity in the world today would be a massive bargain. That there is no way this will happen is a massive indictment of the politics we call "centrist".


As already noted, the emergence of variants was not hard to predict, and was a concern among experts early on. What was less obvious, except possibly to very astute political analysts or to people who have followed climate change denial closely, was that a wide range of anti-vaxxer sentiments (from Covid denial or dismissal, rejection of public health measures, and ludicrous vaccine conspiracies) would be politicized throughout developed countries and would become the next bit of right-wing rejection of science and rationality.

Another sad bit of news was just how many provincial/state, national, and international bodies would reveal themselves to be appalling poor at communicating with the public. And by appalling poor, I don't mean "you have to do better in future" bad, I mean "you're fired" or "from this point on you are *not* authorized to speak to the public or to journalists on or off the record in any capacity" bad.

Speaking of trying to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, again. Brace yourselves. It seems like the old canard of herd immunity is making the rounds once again in some circles. The cowards excuse for doing nothing, aka living with it, goes some like this - everyone’s going to get it, it will be mild, and so let ‘er rip. We’ll achieve herd immunity.

So wrong in so many ways.

The numbers of Covid cases which are published daily are meaningless, because who counts the people who had Covid , but so mild, they did not bother getting tested? I wish we would treat Covid like we used to treat the flue: The flue was beginning, or high, or waining, and we protected ourselves accordingly. No ethics were ever broken.

Yours is a common take on this, but is also just more "not listening to experts" who are very emphatic that this is NOT the flu. Because it's a new virus, we are experiencing science in real time, so it's a test for how much respect you have for their expertise and the scientific method itself.
I've gathered that it is actually a vascular disease with multiple organic implications for example; "long-haul covid" is already identified but because this virus is relatively new, you have to follow the developing information to know what's happening.
Anti-vaxxer attitudes seem to derive from a built-in aversion to taking in "new" information and assimilating it, many resisting the vaccine simply because it's perceived as being "new." This attitude is inherently disrespectful of science and medical expertise. It's also a "conservative" trait incidentally, to be overly fearful of and hostile to change. Google "conservative brain."
And assuming the fact that there are many who carry it with no symptoms makes it basically benign is not reasonable because that ignores how many have died from it, as well as the fact that no one knows quite how their immune system will react.

Another good article reminding us how the political right wing threatens us all since it has become a magnet for and an aggregate of the absolute worst among us.
"Childish" is an understatement, and and insult to children actually. This behaviour is calculated cynicism at best, pure malevolence at worst. In the current context of how obviously fragile our democracy is, I would choose the latter. Not enough is said about how this is a bona fide political strategy deliberately devised to alienate decent people from politics, period, by making it a straight-up bullshit GAME played by perennial bad boys. Don't forget how many people VOTE for guys like that, perceiving it as a cocky sign of confidence that "winners" often have, and who doesn't prefer a winner representing them? Remaining ignorant of actual issues around governance is the fallout, and a big part of conservatives continuing to win leadership, so this aforementioned strategy fills the bill nicely.
There's a book title that describes this phenomenon, "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" by Neil Postman.