Covid revealed a conflict in values: Freedom and risk vs security and control
Can we make a deal?
It’s taken me far too long to understand why, so often throughout my life, I have felt unable to relate to the choices and the behaviours of those around me. I was never one to go along—pleasing the teacher or my parents was never an aim. Following irrational rules angered me. The idea of a boring life was so unappealing I assumed anyone who wanted it was lying or lobotomized.
The ways in which I differed from so many around me became ever more striking as I aged. Even those who were dull had adventures when they were young. It felt like after I hit 35, my peers gave up on life.
Well, we’re middle aged. (We weren’t) We can’t make friends (you can, but you need to leave your house), we’re tired (get more sleep?), the golden years are behind us (the golden years are now and forever, if you make it so), what more is there? (So much…) We may as well sign a mortgage, buy a station wagon, and build a stable relationship with Netflix.
I didn’t feel middle-aged in the least. I still don’t. I love my life and feel sad that people are missing out on their actual golden years by telling themselves passion, excitement, and fun must end after 40. I didn’t understand succumbing to apathy. I wanted to continue learning, meeting people, having adventures, getting out into the world, and experiencing all the joy, sorrow, heartbreak, and uncertainty that comes with that.
It turns out it wasn’t just an age thing.
The idea that the world was a scary and unpleasant place moved through the generations. Trading life for comfort and safety was the new normal. Millennials and Gen Z turned a permanent state of lethargy, anxiety, and depression into a meme. They made staying on the couch instead of going out cool and “bed rot” a self-care strategy.
Lust for life was apparently the only trend the younger generations weren’t bringing back.
One might expect that as we get older we settle into more predictable routines, and prefer comfort over uncertainty, but the Covid response revealed a greater chasm.
Two worlds emerged over the past few years:
1) A group of people willing to trade not only their freedom for “security,” but everyone else’s freedom as well. These people seemed to value a false sense of safety over all else — even our rights as citizens in a democracy.
2) A group of people who valued life, freedom, and autonomy, as well as the risks that came along with that. This group had the foresight to see that once you give up your rights, it’s difficult to win them back. They also wanted to live life while they could, knowing it would indeed end at some point — maybe sooner, maybe later. Life is, like it or not, unpredictable.
Once I woke up and realized the lockdowns were not temporary, made no sense considering what we knew about how Covid spread and who was at risk, and were causing far more harm than good, I became deeply concerned. This was not right, it was not ethical, and it was not rational. Then the mandates came along — a clear violation of our constitutional rights.
Yet so many of my fellow Canadians seemed not to care.
They not only followed the rules with the dedication of soldiers in an army of weak-shouldered, Patagonia-wearing EV drivers, but they targeted anyone who did not with the kind of vitriol, condemnation, and cruelty that should be reserved for child molesters — ostracizing them from their families, friend circles, and public life.
Those who demanded citizens maintain their right to freedom of movement, expression, religion, assembly, and protest were labelled Nazis, racists, anti-vax, MAGA, plague rats, and a myriad of other nonsensical but coded terms — all intended to signal bigotry, stupidity, selfishness, callousness, and subhuman status.
To me, the opposite seemed true.