Category Archives: The Sleep of Reason

Pee Brains of southern Manitoba rise again: When Distrust turns to animosity

 

I have tried to be more moderate in my condemnation of my fellow citizens of southern Manitoba. But sometimes that is very hard.

 I have been writing about how distrust in government and its institutions can lead to serious harms, but what happens when distrust curdles into animosity?

When it comes to Covid-19 there really should not be any more surprises in the Southern Health District of Manitoba (where I live). If someone had written a novel with these facts it would have been dismissed as too ludicrous to be believable. The Winnipeg Free Press has reported that Dr. Donna Neufeld of Winker (no relation) said in her region of the district people gathered to set fire to boxes of KN95 masks the province was freely giving out to anyone who wanted them. These masks were in such high demand because we had been told they were the best and with the Omicron variant  we should use the best.  Even though others (like me) were anxious to get such masks, these people gathered like a cult and had a mask burning party.

The  masks  were in such high demand that the province quickly ran out of them. as a result, some of the citizens there decided to burn them so no one could use them. This was an act of much more than vandalism. It puts lives of others deliberately at risk. Dr. Neufeld also told the reporter about a person who smuggled Ivermectin (horse and cow de-wormer) into the hospital so it could be given secretly to a Covid-19 patient by someone who thought they knew a lot more about medicine than the medical team, presumably by virtue of conducting extensive “research” on line. Why bother going to medical school for 7 years training when a couple of hours on the internet will give you all the knowledge you need?  This of course was doubly dangerous, because doctors prescribing medications of course need to know what other drugs their patients take.  Little wonder that the medical community in Winkler has felt a “collective angst,” according to Dr. Neufeld. Wouldn’t you feel that if you lived here?

Of course, Southern Manitoba does not have exclusive rights to crazies. I heard recently that in the US people who are vaccine hesitant have been willing to replace Vaccines with urine. I kid you not. I am sure the Internet researchers will soon be advising the Pee brains of Winkler to drink that instead of injecting vaccines.

I have been preaching that the sleep of reason brings forth monsters, as Goya said. Does anyone disagree? Sometimes I think that someone raised the northern seaboard and all the nuts and bolts rolled down to southern Manitoba. What a place to live.

 

Trust, Mistrust and a Monstrous God

 

One of the things that is so interesting about this pandemic is the astonishing fact that so many people mistrust so many so deeply. The distrust is virtually unshakeable. I am trying to understand why that happens. And it happens a lot where I live, in Southern Manitoba.

This has caught me by surprise. Or at least it once did. After nearly 2 years of this pandemic, it no longer surprises me. I expect it. I am surprised when someone demonstrates trust.  I think it has something to do with the deeply felt religious beliefs in our community, but that still does not explain it.

Here is what Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dylan Robertson said about exactly this issue:

“Manitoba children could qualify for COVID-19 vaccines within weeks, but evangelical parents might not let their kids roll up their sleeves.

In a recent Probe Research survey shared with the Free Press, two-thirds of evangelical Manitobans said they “worry about the long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccinations in children,” compared with 41 per cent of overall respondents.

In addition, 49 per cent of those identifying as evangelical said COVID-19 as an issue was “overblown,” compared with 28 per cent of the overall population.”

 

What would lead Manitoba parents to distrust government or the authorities so much that they would put the lives of their children in danger when the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence, and by now, real life experiences, make it so clear that not taking vaccines is a dangerous choice?

The Free Press  interviewed Rick Hiemstra, research director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and this is what he said, “A lack of trust and polarization have come home to roost.” So many of these evangelicals now identify with their group—Christians who don’t trust vaccines. They don’t trust  scientists. No matter how many of them. They don’t trust the government. Instead, they trust what other members of their tribe has told them or trust what they have “learned” from their own “research” on the Internet. And they do while they put the lives of their children in danger.

Here is what a local theologian said as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press,

“Evangelical scholar Nicholas Greco said numerous factors cause that gap, from a desire to rely on God for healing, to science clashing with creationism, to general skepticism of media and government.

Evangelicals often are reflective of a social and political conservatism, which calls for smaller governments (and) personal autonomy, but also tends to lead to a mistrust of government,” said Greco, who is provost of Providence University College in Otterburne.

Greco, a long-time communications professor, said there’s a perception the government wants to control everyone, and that the media is overhyping the virus as part of some sort of conspiracy.

“The rhetoric I hear from many of my colleagues… is that we don’t want the government to have further control, because if they do, we will lose our freedoms,” he said.

The evangelicals believe conspiracy theories rather than scientists and they believe it so strongly they put the lives of their children in danger. It is like an article of their faith that vaccines are untrustworthy, and no reasoning, no data, or no actual experiences will shake them from their convictions.

Here is what the Free Press reported, “At a recent panel, one congregant said everyone who got the vaccine is going to die within a few years, and that they’ll all go to hell.”

As an aside, think for a moment about what a monstrous God this person believed in—a god who would punish someone for eternity for doing what our scientists have strongly recommended.

It is as if denial of vaccine efficacy has become part of their religious faith.

The Final Dark Truth

 

In his novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad tried to show us what he thought was a dark truth. It is not just a truth about European society, he showed it was a truth about all of us. You and I too.

Bu how can a person face this horrifying darkness?  Marlow has some advice. Clearly pious phrases are not the answer. Nor noble truths.

“Let the fool gape and shudder—the man knows, and can look without a wink. But he must at least be as much of man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true self—with his own inborn strength. Principles won’t do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags,–rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.”

 

You need deep inner strength to face such horror. It takes strength of character and courage. It reminds me of the person Leslie Fiedler, an American literary critic described in his bookLove and Death in the American Novel—the person who had the courage to go the end of the dark cave with a torch to see the tragic.  Fiedler like Conrad, realized that “The final horrors, as the modern society has come to realize, are neither gods nor demons, but intimate aspects of our own minds,” Fiedler said in his book.  We are the final horror! What an awful truth to face.

Fiedler saw this as the final consequence of the age of reason. I disagree. I think it is the final consequence of the abandonment of reason. Racism, white privilege and exploitation on an insane scale,  were the result of reason being forsaken in favour monstrous desires. The age of reason Fielder said, dissolved in sentimentalism, “in a debauch of tearfulness; sensibility, seduction, and suicide.”  Fiedler noted how the French philosopher Diderot wrote about Richardson the author of that classic novel, Clarissa: “It is he who carries the torch to the back of the cave… He blows upon the glorious phantom who presents himself at the entrance to the cave; and the hideous Moor whom he was masking reveals himself.”  Surely, “the hideous Moor” is a striking symbol of the demonic in ourselves, which the Enlightenment inadvertently discovered in its quest for light.”  Not that dissimilar from Kurtz who found that demon in his pursuit of noble ideals in the deepest jungle of Africa. We have created that image of the hideous Moor.  He is not real except in our own minds.

 The racial component here is not accidental either. The hideous Moor is, of course, black. He is at the heart of darkness. It is the black Moor that we fear the most and will do anything to stamp out. But that Moor is Us! He is the product of our original sin!

Kurtz found that demon when he looked at those shrunken shriveled heads on poles.  Heads that showed shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of teeth grinning horribly and “continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.”  Those heads “only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts.”

From that came the understanding only at the last that “the wilderness had found him out early and had taken him on a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it whispered to him things which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude—and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.”

As I said earlier, the horrors perpetrated by Kurtz in the jungle were never described by Marlow. That was because he did not know what they were. He just knew that they would be even worse than the heads on spikes. Marlow had the feeling that

“such details would be more intolerable than those heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz’s window.  After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief.”

 

The heart of darkness within the human mind was much, much worse. That was what Marlow could not bear.  He could not carry the torch into the back of the cave and confront that horror, as Kurtz had done. He did not want to know. He did not want to know the truth about himself. Do we want to know truth either?

 

Guess who is Manitoba’s Bad Boy of Covid?

 

This will surprise no one, but it is clear that Manitoba’s Southern Health district that includes Steinbach, Winkler and the Rural Municipalities of Stanley and Hanover that surround those two small cities, are the hot bed of Covid-19 in our province. It should be obvious because they are also the places in the province that have the lowest uptake of Covid-19 vaccines. The people here, where I live, have decided that a perverted sense of freedom is more important than public safety.

 

Yesterday, for the first time, the province released information about the test positivity rates in various districts and this exposed our region’s malfeasance. As Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Free Press said, after looking at the stats of Covid-19 prevalence,

Not surprisingly, the rate is highest in Southern Health where vaccination uptake is the lowest in the province. The five-day test positivity rate has climbed to 14.5 per cent in Southern Health, up from 9.7 per cent two weeks ago. It’s by far the highest in the province.”

The test positivity rate is 3 times as high as Winnipeg! None of this should surprise anyone. After all the southern Health district is the land of the credulous.

The consequences are also clear. As Brodbeck said,

“More than half of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (14 out of 24) are from Southern Health and 50 of the 118 hospitalizations come from that region, which makes up about 15 per cent of the Manitoba population. By contrast, only four ICU patients are from Winnipeg.”

Those of us from the Southern Health District should think about that (after getting over our shame) Even though Southern Health has less than 15% of the entire population of Manitoba we account for more than 50% of Covid patients in our ICUs and nearly half of all hospitalizations. As Brodbeck concluded: “The connection between high infection rates and low vaccination uptake in Southern Health is indisputable.”

Frankly, any thinking person must realize by now that it is smart to get vaccinated. In fact not doing so is getting to look more and more like superstition.  As Brodbeck noted: “95 per cent of active cases in ICU have not been immunized.

 This figure is even more astounding when you take into consideration that only about 15% of Manitoba’s population are not vaccinated. And from that small population come 95% of all CUU patients!

The conclusion is obvious: If you are not getting vaccinated you are taking bad advice.

Health Care workers say they love Jesus, vote Conservative, and abandon their patients

 

The number of Manitoba’s front line health care workers has been rising since Monday when they were required to show they had been vaccinated or agree to undergo test before working in the health care system. Here is the latest according to the Winnipeg Free Press:

“The number of front-line health-care workers who are on unpaid leave because they refuse to provide proof of vaccination or take a COVID-19 test has grown to 158 — more than half of whom work in the Southern Health region.

Management has had to redeploy staff from other programs in the region to Eastview Place in Altona and Salem Home in Winkler “to ensure ongoing quality care and services,” a Shared Health spokesman said Wednesday.”

 

In other words, even though the Southern Health region includes only about 1/5th  of the population in Manitoba, it still has more than half of the health care workers who refuse to get vaccinated and also refuse to take the Covid-19 tests to prove they are not carrying the disease. In fact, only 17 of the 158 of the workers who declined to get vaccinated and declined to get tested,  were employed by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and 83 in Southern Health. That means per capita the Southern Health region has 10 times as many health care workers refusing to come to work than Winnipeg had.  We should also remember that the Southern Health Region has a lot of Christians and Conservative voters.

So, they abandoned their patients instead, letting already badly over run fellow employees do their work for them so they could protest what they felt were unreasonable requirements. What is the reason for opposing tests? Many jurisdictions, unlike Manitoba, don’t give them an option. Manitoba is trying to accommodate them by giving them a reasonable option. I really am not sure what their objections to taking tests are.

As the Free Press reported,

“Last week, Salem Home and Tabor Home in Morden sent letters to residents’ families advising them of possible staffing shortages Monday when vaccination or COVID-19 testing became a requirement for direct-support workers, and they could be asked to help care for their loved ones.”

 

Once more this establishes that where there are Conservatives and Christians there are more likely to be people who don’t trust the science and are more likely to abandon their patients. In Winnipeg they just go about their jobs of helping vulnerable people. If Jesus were around here today he might ask, ‘which of these loved their neighbours?’ I think the answer is obvious.

 

Statistics are not always Lies

Mark Twain famously disparaged statistics. He said, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Maybe (OK probably) I am not sophisticated enough to understand them but sometimes those stats tell a powerful story. Sometimes stats are important.

I read some stunning stats yesterday. Of all the provinces in Canada Saskatchewan has the lowest rate of vaccination uptake in the country. At the same time, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of new Covid-19 cases in the past 14 days as it gears up to send Covid-19 patients out of the province for help because its health care system is on the brink. Yesterday, Saskatchewan had 510 new Covid-19 cases  per 100,000 people in the past 14 days. Prince Edward Island on the other hand had the highest rate of vaccine uptake among all the provinces and the lowest rate of new Covid-19 cases in the past 14 days per 1000,000 people  at 6.  Remember this is per 100,000! 510 to 9! Does that not tell us a lot about the effectiveness of the vaccines? Frankly that is a stunning statistic.

The people who are not taking up the vaccines in my opinion are significantly responsible for this. The Vaccines are free and widely available.  The reasons for not taking them have been largely discredited. Yet many people are not taking them, to the point where health care systems are on the brink of disaster.

Yet we are expected not to openly criticize the people who resist vaccines because criticism will not be effective. I disagree with that. We should criticize. We should do it with kindness (as I was reminded recently), but we should do it. A friend has a duty to advise a friend when we see them going on a dangerous path.

 

 

 

Co-parenting with the Government

 

Jordan Klepper was sent by the The Daily Show with Trevor Noah show to Johnston County North Carolina to visit with people protesting masks and vaccines. Kleeper has a knack for getting people to say strange things on camera.

Parents there were desperate to get their children back into schools. Nothing wrong with that agenda, but it was interesting how they went about accomplishing that. North Carolina, of course, is part of the American bible belt. Sort of like North Carolina’s version of Manitoba’sSouthern Health district .

Just like Manitoba hospitals there have Intensive Care Units that are filled and they faced mandates to wear masks. The parents that protested did not like those restrictions. And some of their arguments in favor of their positions were deeply fascinating. The protest rally reminded me a lot of the one I saw in Steinbach at about the same time. As Jordan Klepper said, “putting on a piece of cloth was just too much,” for the protesters. It was a terrible encroachment on their freedom.

The most common T-shirt or sign the protesters displayed was telling: “I don’t co-parent with the government.” Others included: “Stop muzzling our children.”   “My rights don’t end where your feelings begin!!!” “Say No to critical race theory.” “Educate not indoctrinate.”  Or “Unmasked, unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid.” One  sign painted on an image of the American flag said, “that mask is as useless as our governor.”

The protesters, like those in Steinbach, were against it all. They didn’t like compulsory vaccines or masks or social distancing rules.  All the things the scientists said were needed to keep schools open were opposed by the protesters. One protester said, “Masks will never protect Americans.” Another said masks don’t work. Her child was suffering after wearing a mask for so long. She told Kleeper the problems he had as a result were acne on his face. But he didn’t have covid.  She admitted that. But he had acne. Klepper asked her if she had to choose between acne or Covid-19 fro her son what would she choose? She made it clear she would consider Acne as being worse.

Another mother protester said the problem with wearing masks was that children were forced to breath in air that the body was trying to get rid of. Klepper asked her how surgeons did it? They had been wearing masks for years. Her answer was this: “That’s a good question.” Yeah that is a good question.

Klepper pointed out that a recent study from the CDC and Duke University, one of North Carolina’s world class colleges, said  that wearing masks would be helpful for school children. She challenged people to smell the toxins going into the body as a result of masks. According to Klepper “There’s science and there’s the smell test so you’re going with the smell test?”  She nodded assent.

Klepper asked another woman what were the problems with masks.  She answered, “I think breathing. I’ve done a little bit of research about carbon dioxide that people are saying is an issue now with the masks.” When Klepper pointed out that scientific research had established that wearing masks in settings like schools was an advisable thing she just said, “Nah. Oh no. I mean I don’t think so.” She just threw up her hands and said  “oh I just don’t know.”  She had not even a hint of an answer to a very simple question from Klepper. She preferred “a little bit of research” and “what some people are saying” to the world’s best scientific and health evidence.

A male protester when asked where was the harm in having kids wear masks replied that “For kids the harm is they can’t gauge emotional awareness. They don’t see the facial expressions.” Klepper asked, “You think not being able to see the lower half of a facial expression outweighs the dangers of Covid might pose to kids in the community?” The man replied, “Well the dangers are what you think they are.”  In other words, (I think) something is dangerous only if I think they are dangerous. The man also suggested that most of the people in the hospitals were not really sick. Even those in ICUs.

Another man asked if the diagnoses were true. He had walked through the hospitals and he said they are not filled with covid patients. I know from personal experience that this is a common claim. I have heard it too. This man said he had walked through a hospital taking videos and guess what, “they’re not covid patients.” He did not explain how he could tell by looking at them whether or not they were covid patients. He did not explain how hospital security had let him in ( a frightening possibility).

 

Klepper asked one of the women wearing a sign that said she did not co-parent with the government, if her kids went to private or public school. She said public school and Klepper asked, “isn’t that sort of co-parenting with the government?” She said no because “we get to vote our school board so we have a voice.”  Klepper, “So you work with the government?” Mother, “Yeah.” She detected no incongruity.

 

Klepper asked another parent similar questions because he too sent his child to public schools. “So you are kind of co-parenting with the government?” “Well in that regard if you say my taxes pay for that then yeah.”  Klepper asked him if he gave back his child tax credit?” The man looked dumbfounded and said, “No.”

Klepper said “ they saw this as a fight against something much more disturbing than face coverings.” One replied, “Terrible. Wearing a mask is slavery. Also, I discovered in my research that Satanists wear a mask during the rituals.  6 feet apart and wear a mask during their rituals.” She also said “we are in a war with Satan…I have no fears.”  Klepper replied, “You have no fears just a healthy belief in Satan and his affect on Covid?” Her reply:” Absolutely.”

Hooray–We’re No. 1

 

Esquire Magazine used to have the annual dubious achievements awards celebrating outstanding failures. If such awards would happen in Manitoba today, Southern Manitoba would no doubt walk away with some prizes.

We finally made it. We had to work hard but we did it. Steinbach beat out Winkler and reached No.1  status in the Covid-19 wars.

Winkler and Steinbach are highly competitive communities. Each thinks it is the fastest growing community in Manitoba. Each brags about its religiosity. Each thinks it is more successful financially than the other. Each likes nothing better than to beat the other. Now Steinbach has come out on top.  And it was a most dubious distinction.

As the Winnipeg Free Press recently reported,

People in the Southern Health region are being infected with Covid-19 at a rate five-fold Manitoba’s capital city, as small communities continue to grapple with low vaccine uptake and ongoing  spread of the novel coronavirus. The latest numbers show from the province show Southern Health–home to more than 207,000 residents across the 27,000 square kilometres–notched 10 cases per 100,000 people a day in the last seven days, compared to 2 per 100,000 reported in Winnipeg.

Perhaps even more disturbing were the remarks by a University of Manitoba assistant professor of Community Health, Souradet Shaw who said things could get worse for Southern Health! This is because people tend to cluster by vaccine status. In other words, people tend hang around people with the same vaccine status. Like seeks like. That could mean that in our area the vaccine might spread even more vigorously.  As Shaw said, “Once the virus gets into vulnerable pockets, we will see very rapid spread within these pockets.”

For quite some time now we have seen the daily reports of cases with Southern Health having more cases than Winnipeg, even though Winnipeg has a population of about 5 times that of Southern Health. That is having a profound effect.

The figures don’t lie.  As Danielle Da Silva reported,

“As of Thursday, Steinbach had the second-highest per capita infection rate in Southern Health after the surrounding health district of Hanover. [which means they have the highest and second highest rates in the province!] The two communities also have the highest number of active cases in the region , with nearly two dozen cases reported at area schools  in the past two weeks.”

 

In other words, Steinbach and its surrounding area have the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in Manitoba while having a very low rate of vaccine uptake. Who is surprised?

The Southern Health Region has many Mennonites, Conservative political leaders that keep getting re-elected no matter how dismal their performance, low vaccine uptake rates, and the highest rates of infection with Covid-19. That is a bounty of achievements. Too bad they are so dubious.

 

What Freedom looks like

 

Things could look a lot worse in Manitoba than they do. As Tom Brodbeck said in the Winnipeg Free Press:

“Almost 80 percent of Manitobans over the age of 12 are now full vaccinated, most people are wearing masks in indoor public places and proof-of-vaccination is required to access many public places.

Without those measures, we would still be huddled in our homes, cut off from friends and family and wondering how this pandemic would ever end. Potentially, case numbers would be soaring and intensive care units would be overflowing–as they are in provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan where vaccine mandates and public health measures were rejected for political reasons until recently.”

 

These two provinces have been decimated by the 4th wave. Manitoba, which imposed stricter health restrictions has been faring much better (so far!), though in the 3rd wave Manitoba  needed help from those same 2 provinces (and Ontario) for its intensive care patients. In contrast to these two provinces, since July 2, 2021 Manitoba’s test positivity rate has fallen by more than half to 2.3% from 5.4%. The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has dropped to 71 from 163. As well according to Brodbeck, Manitoba has the lowest per capita  case of new infections in the country west of Nova Scotia at 58 per 100,000. Yet things are much worse in both Saskatchewan and Alberta. As Brodbeck reported, “By contrast, new infections in Saskatchewan and Alberta (the two provinces with the lowest vaccine uptake in the country) are more than 8 times higher.”

 

People who deny the effectiveness of the vaccines have to get more and more creative every day to justify their intransigence.

 Brodbeck put it this way: “The evidence is indisputable: vaccines not only save lives and reduce severe illness, they are allowing the return to normal living.”

That does not mean the battle is over and we can return to ignoring the pandemic as so many are urging. But it sure does demonstrate that the vaccines can lead  us out of the wilderness if only enough of us agreed to take them. Vaccines are even allowing hospitals to permit some of the surgeries and other medical procedures that have been held up.  This is is why Chris still has her surgery set for September 29, 2121 (tomorrow) and we are hoping things continue this way. Her life has been on precarious hold since January.

Brodbeck summed up the situation in Manitoba this way:

“…the measures have allowed the vast majority of Manitobans to resume living in safe, largely virus-free environments with friends, family and other members of the public.  If that isn’t freedom, I don’t know what is.’

 

I want even more freedom, but I am very grateful for what we have got now. The way to get more freedom is not by protests in front of hospitals, or elsewhere, but by having more people get vaccinated.

Working for Unbelievers

 

Sometimes we have to feel sorry for doctors. Think about the southern bible belt of Manitoba with compassion for doctors. According to the Winnipeg Free Press,

“Just over 40% of Winkler residents and less than 25% of Stanley residents (which is the rural municipality surrounding Winkler) have received at least one dose of the vaccine. as the region is experiencing the highest per capita infection rate in the province.”

 

Steinbach and its surrounding rural municipality, Hanover, is doing slightly better with vaccine uptake, but well below provincial averages. The rates of infection in Steinbach are also very high.

The paper interviewed a physician, Dr. Eric Lane, living in Winkler who was considering moving out of the community, because he feels under appreciated since so many of his patients are ignoring his sound advice to get vaccinated. Can you blame him? Dr. Lane said, “After attending births, deaths, cancers, and other health needs, most of my colleagues and I feel that our advice is no longer valued.” He’s right it isn’t valued. He said a number of his colleagues are considering moving away. It is easy for physicians do that, because they are needed everywhere. Unlike lawyers. It could be a big loss for the community. Communities need doctors or they can’t thrive. Or even survive.

That’s what happens when people get their medical advice from Dr. Google.