kinnikinnick on Dene Territory in Buffalo Narrows, SK
It’s interesting to look around at what’s going on in the world and notice the similarities and differences that we share. It seems the global climate right now is one of transition, times changing, and indignation (to put it mildly). People all around the world are in the streets fighting, screaming, and in some instances, pleading, for their rights to be recognized.
This week I’m feeling deeply for the women demonstrating in Afghanistan. The Taliban have formed a new government and have literally stamped women’s rights into the ground. They’ve imposed restrictions and strict rules around women’s access to higher education (ie. must wear a full burqa with face covering; must be taught in classrooms separate from men or have a curtain separating the room; can only be taught by a female teacher or an elderly male “with record of good behaviour”) and, just announced, women have no representation in the government. Journalists are being told not to report on the demonstrations, so those who do report from within the country continue to do so with great risk.
A little closer to home, women are demonstrating for reproductive rights as Texas takes ten steps back by banning abortions past six weeks. Reporting on Democracy Now says that this is likely something that will spill over into other states making restrictions on abortions tighter across the country. Ultimately this means bringing more children into a world that is already overpopulated and buckling under the weight of too many people consuming too many things.
These demonstrations remind me of some conversations I had a couple years ago in New Haven when I was rooming with a Kashmiri woman and a woman from China (both who I miss very much btw!). We all shared stories of our countries and some of the political struggles that we’ve been facing. At the time, the Hindu far-right had imposed strict lockdowns in Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region. All wifi and phone networks were shut down for weeks so in order to contact her mother my roommate had to call a neighbour who had access to a phone with an illegal signal who could then reach her mother (the internet continued to be shutdown for months). My friend from China described the unique conditions of a country that is world renowned for its rules and restrictions, unlike anything we really know of in Canada. Her insights were fascinating and helped me see how it’s easy to judge a place from the outside but we really have no idea what people face and how precious it is to experience safety and peace. And perhaps for some people, that is worth the trade for some freedoms.
All of that said, I look now at the demonstrations going on in Canada this week. People out in the streets, protesting the mask mandates and new rules around vaccine passports. Demonstrations organized for today in BC, probably going on right now, composed of businesses, shoppers, and concerned citizens alike who wish to "reject the tyranny of vaccine passports" (as the "Uniting Businesses for Freedom of Choice" poster says). New rules that will take effect on the 13th of this month will require proof of vaccination in order to enter "non-essential" businesses such as restaurants, theatres, sporting events, gyms, to name a few.
Yes, it's been a tough year and this is another set-back piled on top of many set-backs. Its been a year that has brought up so much for each one of us. As is the nature of a global pandemic, no one has been left out. We have all been feeling the impact of changes that we may or may not have been ready for. Many around the world have lost jobs, homes, and said untimely goodbyes to loved ones because of this illness, my family included.
This isn't a post about whether or not one should get the vaccine. The choice to do so is a deeply personal one and neither I nor anyone can say that we know what is best for someone else and their body.
The thing that gets me is that these protests and demonstrations happening in Vancouver and around BC (and across the country) are just a little lame. I have that feeling that I had in New Haven talking to my roommates. I feel a little embarrassed for us here in Canada with our *big problems*. Like dang, we have a government that gives us money when we lose our jobs or need to take care of our loved ones due to the pandemic. And dang, we have access to vaccines before most of the world because we happen to be richer than most of the world. Now the government has decided to impose some restrictions to keep people safe, meaning those without a vaccine won't be able to eat out or go to the movies. Yes that sucks but also, uhh... is it really that bad??
At least we live in a place where we female-bodied can get educated, have abortions if we need them. Practice our religions freely. At least we know that even if we do get sick, maybe even with covid, we live in conditions where the odds are we're going to get better. We have a healthcare system that is decent and good with well-educated nurses and doctors. Our cities are clean, and we have running water to our homes, and the ability to stay isolated if we need it. The exception is of course the First Nations communities who do not have running water and/or indoor plumbing and/or safe drinking water... but my bet is that those aren't the people who are out protesting right now. And if they were, they would have full reason to be.
So yeah, I guess this is a post about *first world problems* even though that whole first world, third world thing is outdated. It's been a tough year and a half and it seems we've still got a ways to go. There is no right or wrong here, it's just about being decent human beings to one another. Respecting one another. Yes it's important to hold our governments accountable, to question their decisions, question what the media is reporting. And at the same time, these demonstrations are tough on the morale of front-line workers. It’s probably also tough on the morale of anyone who hears about it in countries where vaccines are not readily available. It’s a privilege to be in a country where we have not been as heavily impacted as other places and it’s a mark of privilege that we would even think to protest vaccines or safety measures being put into place. Whatever your reason for not getting the vaccine or not believing in the pandemic or not wanting to follow health guidelines, respectfully, why not skip the demonstrations and focus instead on community care.