Your convenience, under normal circumstances, should be taken very seriously. In ordinary times in the western world, we have the right to freedom of movement. We can choose with whom we associate, where and under what circumstances. We choose what goes into our bodies without sanctions. Everyone wears what they like.
But during a pandemic or war, extraordinary times, fewer personal freedoms can rightly be expected. The greater good of all forms a basic tenet of ethical decision-making..
The borders of Western Australia will open to the rest of the world on 3 March, 2022. Numbers of people already affected by COVID-19 (the Omicron strain) almost tripled last night to 645 cases. This shocks many of us who have lived so comfortably without COVID-19 for the last two years.
Now seems like a good a time to express publicly on my blog an opinion about which I’ve been relatively quiet.
I’m appalled that we even consider some people’s convenience more important than the death of others. My view seems to be supported by the majority of Western Australians. As it’s turned out, we’re a remarkably compliant lot.
We understand why restrictions exist. On the whole, we recognised that sensible restrictions protect the vulnerable from the virus. We showed willingness to accept the inconveniences imposed by government on our ‘liberty’.
At first Premier Mark McGowan’s popularity soared. Recently, although it has dropped, his approval rating is still 64%. A big majority, one surely to be envied by other politicians.
Vulnerable people die of COVID-19 more often than the healthy. It is not just the frail old and those with ‘underlying conditions’, but also people who live with disability. Pregnant women. Those immunocompromised because of blood disorders or cancer treatment.
People in these categories comprise a big chunk of our society.
Each single life matters. No one should be expendable in a civilised world.
To claim one’s convenience as more important than others’ deaths shrieks of ageism or ableism (discrimination in favour of able-bodied people). It speaks of the discredited theories of eugenics in which only healthy people have the right to live and reproduce.
For the past two years, most people in this State complied with restrictions without complaint. We hoped closed borders and sensible rules would protect us and our loved ones . As a result, we had very few cases of COVID-19. The economy did not suffer as much as in other places. People lived comfortable day-to-day lives. Many travelled within the large area of Western Australia. We went to pubs and clubs. Ate out. Picnicked and played sport.
However, complex issues arose. Separated families and business owners facing possible closure became a vocal minority. Others got on the bandwagon. They used every means available to protest what they saw as injustices inflicted by government. More particularly, they singled out the State Premier for their vitriol.
Unable to recognise that the coronavirus which caused the pandemic was responsible for their woes, they needed someone to blame..
What your convenience looks like to me
I’ll be 85 later this year. My husband and siblings share my ‘old’ status. I have three pregnant granddaughters. Several members of my close family have chronic illnesses. My aged friends and I meet regularly. Three of us started primary school together seventy-nine years ago. You could call that a long friendship. We celebrate once a month when we meet. All of us are vulnerable.
I treasure each of them. I feel loved by them as well as by my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They make my life busy, joyful, rounded.
Balance the death of any of us, or the death of a member of your own family, with your convenience.
Your need to see family and friends
I do get this.
- My son is a seaman. He spent months at sea because the ship he sailed on could not land. Anywhere. We could not communicate. Eventually he quarantined in a hotel in Singapore where he knew no one. Then again in a hotel in Western Australia. Better, but still isolated from everyone.
- One of my granddaughters lives interstate. She’s young. Her study at ANU and now her job mean a lot to her. Her mother and I would have liked to go to Canberra for her graduation or for her admission to the Bar. She would like to come home, but her sisters are pregnant and John and I are vulnerable. She would need to self-isolate. She does not have the time.
- Another of my granddaughters, her husband and three young children were caught in a country where they had gone for what was to have been an amazing work opportunity. Instead, the virus swamped the population. They quarantined in place for five months. The husband worked from home. They home-schooled the children. Shopped at 4.00 am. Longed for home. But would have come back to no house, no job, no income, no car. Trapped.
- My grandson’s wife came from the Netherlands and married here. She yearns to see her family, including her grandparents. One day soon, perhaps, she will.
- My nephew lives in Bangkok. He has a partner, job, apartment and dog. Understandably he doesn’t want to leave for the insecurity he’d face in Perth. My sister would dearly love to see him, hold him, be with him. She is philosophical.
What I also get is that each of these young people made a choice to live away from their mother, father, siblings, grandparents. They had their own good reasons. They made the choice. Choices have consequences, sometimes unwanted and unexpected. COVID came. They no longer had easy choices, if any.
Their parents, siblings, friends miss them and they want to come home. But they must manage their longing and their own mental health. No one else is ‘responsible’ for the convenience of those who go away or those who remain at home.
Major life events
People who leave home sometimes fall in love. Sometimes they partner or marry. During this pandemic, babies have been born. Babies whose grandparents wait to meet and hold them. Oh, the pain of that yearning.
I do understand from several migrations away from Perth by my family members. The mother and grandmother left behind, I thought my heart would break. I wondered if I’d ever get over the pain that felt like bereavement.
Sadly, while people are separated, others die. Not to be at the deathbed of a parent or other loved one can cause incredible pain. But that, too, is a consequence of earlier decisions and COVID, not of rules and regulations. No blame can be attached to a person or government.
The desire to travel
I get this one, too. I didn’t even travel to the eastern states until I was fifty-odd. Raising six kids in a single parent family didn’t leave much spare cash. But I really got a taste for travel once I started and had a lot of ground to make up. My travel articles were published in newspapers. As well, after I married John at 70, we had some fabulous holidays in Europe and Asia.
Starting by eloping, we did exciting things and I wrote more articles.
I really get that people want to travel and have new experiences. I wrote a blog about our brains needing novelty to thrive and grow. Travel satisfies the urge for novelty and piques our curiosity.
But at whose expense? Who might die as a result?
Maybe we will soon learn to live with COVID. But please spare me the platitudes that Dr Andrew Miller (Past President, AMA) quotes.
- ‘Just a flu’.
- ‘Underlying conditions’.
- ‘Old people have to die of something’.
- ‘I would rather you die than I be inconvenienced’.
Masks and your convenience
No one actually likes to wear a mask, except perhaps as part of a fancy-dress costume. They’re hot, especially in Western Australia’s summer. They prickle and they chafe. Just ask an intensive care doctor or nurse who wears a mask for many hours at a time. Masks cause hearing aids to fall out, spectacles to fog up, earrings to pull. Here’s a blog about why masking up makes older women cringe. But we do it.
SARS-Cov-2 floats in the air like cigarette smoke. Being in the open air, wearing KF94, N92, or better, masks inside with a high fresh-air flow and smaller numbers of people will help prevent spread. Who knows whose life you might protect.
Just wear a mask as required. Convenient or not, just do it!
Vaccination 1, 2, booster
We have a choice whether or not to accept vaccination against the virus. Vaccination saves lives and makes the disease less severe for most. It’s up to the individual. But, choosing not to accept vaccination is a choice. Like all choices, it has consequences. In this state, the choice might be that you are unable to work at your chosen job.
That’s up to the individual. But spare me the bleating about mandates and compulsion. Whatever you choose, you need also to accept the consequences.
Families fell into two distinct groups. One one hand, many people saw a distinct need to protect themselves and their loved ones.