From the Mayor's Desk:
A Sudden End to Entitlement
Doug Lawrance - Sioux Lookout Mayor
You may remember the names of various periods in human development from your school history classes. Names like the Iron Age, the Dark Age, the Renaissance, the Age of Reason, the Modern Age. For about the past fifty years, not all, but many of us in Canada having been living in what might be called the Age of Entitlement. We have considered ourselves entitled to a lifestyle that is, in part, based on freedoms and assurances. Our age of entitlement came to a sudden end in a matter of a few days. We are now denied so much that we took for granted only a few long days ago. Denied not by war or revolution, but by a microscopic virus.
Time has been compressed over the past two weeks. What used to take months or more now takes days or less. Federal and Provincial Governments are making almost overnight decisions and taking actions that would normally be opposed, debated, and publically discussed for lengthy periods, sometimes endlessly. Rancour and derision between political parties has all but disappeared to be replaced with cooperation. Demands related to individual rights are being replaced with demands for collective action. However, individual responsibility remains paramount if our societal responses to this new virus are to be successful.
So while a few weeks ago we thought we were entitled to the right of a warm weather winter vacation, we now understand that it was an unusual privilege. In the sixties the term “jetsetter” was used almost derisively for those with enough money and time to travel internationally. That term disappeared from use as more and more of us soon became both accustomed, and we thought entitled, to what was once a vacation for the elite few. Not so today or for the foreseeable future. We have lost that right, now shackled to our houses by the dual bonds of a virus and social responsibility.
At the time of writing this article (March22), those shackles are self-imposed. In Ontario neither self-quarantine nor self-isolation are being enforced through police action. It should be understood that the enforcement of Provincial orders is the responsibility of police forces, not public health officials. Enforcement could consume far too much of the limited resources of Public Health that are needed for focussing on their main responsibilities, which at this time and in this emergency remain as: surveillance of the disease; follow up of cases and contacts; and communications to the public and to local partners.
One entitlement that we often claim is to our personal space and that remains, in fact must be demanded and doubled. But as for enforcing social distancing, it would be impossible for any agency to do so; beyond impossible - a nightmare. Instead, it has to be treated as a community standard, with all residents both complying and assisting public health in reminding other people of the expectations during this urgent time.
Before coronavirus we thought we were living life in a busied rush. We had certainly become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, unconsciously entitled to personally living fast and with freedoms. A mere two weeks ago we decried the slow pace of government. Now we are individually living more slowly while we watch governments acting at Mach speed. Act they must, and we must continue to follow the direction from government and public health agencies. By doing so we may return to an age of entitlement, perhaps one that is inclusive of us all.