The Real Pandemic

A commentary on the affects of pandemic fear

I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) was recently sent a song video called ‘Covid 19’ that, in my opinion, speaks of the real pandemic.  There is a line in the song that says “fear is the real pandemic.” A line that jumped out at me is “Let’s kill the fear that the news spreads.”  Here is the song I am talking about.

What I find most interesting is that the mainstream media is focused on Covid and the alleged deaths caused by the virus, when there is a far worse pandemic happening. Covid restrictions and government control is mentally harming people. The truth is, fear is causing suicides, drug overdoses, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, and bullying which all kill more people than the virus. The song refers to a pandemic of fear; that is the real pandemic. Let’s address how this media fear mongering  is affecting the masses.

First, there is a huge increase in bullying (#bullying #antibullying). I’ve written about this in previous posts. Most recently relates to the mask debate where masking is dividing people into two groups: Those who feel safe when they, and those around them, are wearing masks, and those who want the freedom to choose. The differences of views between these groups results in bullying. Check out some of my previous posts for further clarification.

Second, is the increase in drug overdoses. CBC News’ article, B.C. records highest number of fatal overdoses in a single month, with 170 deaths, reports that British Columbia’s (BC) Coroners said May had the highest total ever recorded for a single month in provincial history, and more people have died from drug overdoses than from COVID-19 in B.C. all year. The article has a graph comparing Covid deaths to drug overdose deaths in 2020. It is quite striking to see the comparison. Partnership to End Addictions’ July article, Drug Overdoes Increasing and Accelerating During COVID-19 Pandemic, says this about the US:

…suspected overdoses soared 18% in March compared with last year, 29% in April and 42% in May, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, a federal program that collects data from ambulance teams, police and hospitals.

The US director for the Center for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, says, “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.” (source)

Another CBC article, Pandemic worsens Canada’s deadly opioid overdose epidemic, says Alberta, BC and Ontario have all seen increases in overdoses. It makes sense. When the media spreads fear, people become stressed and anxious, and use more substances to cope.

Third, is the increase in drug and alcohol use during Covid.  Forbes’ article, Covid-19 Is Helping Make 2020 A Record Year for Cannabis Sales; a headline that says it all. The University of Southern California has an article, Pandemic drives alcohol sales — and raises concerns about substance abuse, which again isn’t surprising because fear perpetrated by the media drives people to use drugs to cope with the stress. 70 per cent of Australians report drinking more alcohol than usual since the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia (source). More than 1 in 5 Canadians who drink alcohol and have been staying at home report drinking once a day since the beginning of May (source). Clearly, Covid is causing a substance abuse problem, and substance abuse gradually kills.

Fourth, is the suicide problem. National Review’s article, Lockdown Suicides on the Rise, quotes CDC director Robert Redfield as saying,

“There has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools. We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID.”

Another article, Suicide deaths higher than COVID-19 deaths amid lockdown, CDC chief warns, says the same thing. Mr. Redfields is quoted saying, “We’re seeing far greater suicides’ and ‘deaths from drug overdose’ than deaths from COVID, and prolonged school closures may be more dangerous than coronavirus.”

New York Post’s, California doctor claims he’s seen more deaths by suicide than coronavirus, validates what the CDC director says.

An August research paper titled, Projected increases in suicide in Canada as a consequence of COVID-19, conducted an analysis of suicide and unemployment rates between 2000 and 2018 in Canada. Suicide mortality in 2019 was predicted using the 2019 unemployment rate of 5.7%. Suicide mortality in 2020 and 2021 were projected for three scenarios of change in unemployment rates: no change (i.e., 5.9% in 2020 and 6.0% in 2021 as published in the 2019 Federal Budget), moderate increase (i.e., 7.5% in 2020, 7.2% in 2021), and extreme increase (i.e., 16.6% in 2020, 14.9% in 2021). Clearly, with all the unemployment happening because of Covid lockdowns, Canada’s suicides will increase.

Fifth, is the increase in domestic violence. The Foundation for Economic Educations has an article titled, Domestic Violence More Than Doubled Under Lockdowns, New Study Finds. The National Bureau of Economic Research,  an American private non-profit research organization, released a paper which analyzed government-mandated lockdowns in India. It found evidence of a 131% increase in complaints of domestic violence in May 2020 in “red zone districts, which are those that experienced the strictest lockdown measures, relative to districts that had less strict measures (“green zones”). Canada’s Globe and Mail News outlet reports that at least nine women and girls were killed in domestic homicides in Canada during the pandemic as of May 12 (source). I’m sure that number has increased since.

From Flicker

The Medical Press says the COVID-19 pandemic has led to higher levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and psychological trauma among American adults during the early months of its spread; that’s according to three new studies published by University of Arkansas. The article also says;

“Fear is a pretty consistent predictor…What we found is that fear, coupled with a range of social vulnerabilities, consistently and significantly predict a range of mental health outcomes.”

The Star’s article, COVID-19 having ‘profound effect’ on Canadian lives, especially psychologically: survey, says Canadians have anxiety about their loved ones’ health, fears of Canada’s hospital system becoming overwhelmed, and an alarming number of women (one in 10) are afraid of violence erupting in their home.

A RedState article says the head of CDC admits lockdown is killing way more Americans than COVID. This is the real pandemic. If this is indeed true, which seems to be the case according to my research, then why is the mainstream media solely focused on Covid numbers as opposed to the psychological trauma that Covid restrictions are causing. Do they have an agenda? Is there intent to spread fear, and if so, why?  Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Is that what is happening? One has to wonder if the virus is as deadly as the media wants us to believe. It seems to me that the real pandemic is one of fear; a pandemic that is killing and harming more people than the Covid virus.

As the song says, “Let’s kill the fear that the news spreads.”  It is very simple; STOP WATCHING THE NEWS,  because as long as the mainstream news spreads its fear–the biggest bully of all–society will continue to become more mentally unwell. That leads to more people experiencing bullying because people are pitted against one another, and some people die because of it. Suicides, drug overdoses, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence are all on the increase, and even the CDC is admitting more people die from the fear spread by the news than the virus itself. Why aren’t we hearing more about this in the news? This is the real pandemic!

The Great Debate of 2020 Continues

A commentary on masking

The Washington Post recently had an article titled, Unlike the United States, more and more countries are making masks mandatory. The article says that France has made face coverings mandatory in all public enclosed spaces, and England is set to begin enforcing new rules that make masks compulsory inside supermarkets and other shops. Many cities across Canada are implementing mandatory mask bylaws. Many US states require mandatory masks in public spaces.

Along with those mandatory masking laws, I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) am reading more and more reports of “covid mask bullying” (#bullying #antibullying).  In a Washington Post article,  a lady wearing a black mask is described who ambushed a California couple with a can of mace, scolding them for not wearing face masks and eating at the Dog Park. Another article by the Sun Sentinel describes a Walmart shopper who was charged with pulling a gun during mask dispute.  Newsweek reports on a Florida man, who wasn’t wearing a face mask,  who assaults a Walmart staff because he was denied entry into the store. Every day there seems to be a new article describing “covid mask bullying.”

The problem is the push for masking is dividing people into two groups: Those who feel safe when they, and those around them, are wearing masks, and those who want the freedom to choose. In my last post, I questioned the studies supporting masking. The data is pretty clear when it comes to physical distancing and frequent hand washing. They do reduce transmission. For masking, the data is not so clear. I wondered if I was wrong, so I set out to find definitive proof that masking is effective. I looked only at the most recent studies (June 2020 or later) and I only looked at the research papers themselves as opposed to the news article discussing them. News Media can misinform and mislead because of biases.

One study I looked at was updated June 15, 2020. It said in its conclusions:

Societal norms and government policies supporting the wearing of masks by the public, as well as international travel controls, are independently associated with lower per-capita mortality from COVID-19.

That sounds convincing, but then in its background it says:

There is wide variation between countries in per-capita mortality from COVID-19…Determinants of this variation are not fully understood.

I discussed in my last post the problems with comparing countries as every country uses different criteria for determining a covid death. This study’s background information seems to agree with me. For that reason, this study is not convincing.

In another study, dated August 2020, it says

The study suggests that community mask use by well people could be beneficial, particularly for COVID-19, where transmission may be pre-symptomatic.

There is one of those words again: ‘Could.’  That means possibly or might. That is not convincing. Moreover, at the bottom of the paper is a heading: Conflict of Interest. It says the researcher has received funding from 3M, an American multinational conglomerate corporation, more than 10 years prior for face mask research. For me, that makes the research bias and unreliable.

In yet another study published in June, it says:

In summary, our modelling analyses provide support for the immediate, universal adoption of face masks by the public.

It may provide support, but it hasn’t provided proof. Furthermore, this study uses mathematical modeling, a process of developing a mathematical model. A mathematical model is a description of a system using mathematical concepts and language.  According to Wikipedia, the complexity of a mathematical model involves “a trade-off between simplicity and accuracy of the model… While added complexity usually improves the realism of a model, it can make the model difficult to understand and analyze, and can also pose computational problems, including numerical instability.”  For me, that makes this study unconvincing.

In an article by Brigham Young University updated July 25, 2020 and titled, Making sense of the research on COVID-19 and masks, it says:

Researchers from hospitals, universities, the private sector, and government agencies have concluded that masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery. There is universal agreement, however, that masking alone will not be enough to stop the pandemic. Masking is most effective when combined with physical distancing, frequent hand washing, rapid testing, and coordinated contact tracing.

There is that word again: ‘Could.’  That means possibly or might. That is not convincing.

Furthermore, in a Health Cloud article titled, Are Statistics Reliable? it says most people think that statistics are truth. When you see a study that quotes a percentage in its findings, which many masking studies do, it is natural to believe it to be accurate. The truth is, statistics can be very misleading and are easily manipulated. Here is a simple example. Being bald increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 70%! The risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age, and so does baldness.  However; this does not mean that baldness and cardiovascular disease are linked. That’s misleading!

I set out to find proof that masking works, yet, I am still no more convinced as I was before starting this post.  Studies saying masking may or could save lives simply are not convincing, and have no definitive proof. Mandating something without the proof that it is effective, especially when causing ‘covid mask bullying’  is wrong, plus it gives people a false sense of security. Enforcing physical distancing and insisting on hands washing makes sense because it has been shown to be effective. Any policy that pits people against one another, that is, those who feel safe when they and those around them are wearing masks, and those who want the freedom to choose should not be mandated.  It only escalates tensions between the two groups and causes ‘covid mask bullying.’

Before accusing me of being a conspiracy theorist, understand that I’m not saying masks fail to protect us. Of course they provide some protection since they are barrier to droplets released from someone. There is not enough convincing evidence that face mask decrease transmission to force people to wear them. Wearing a mask should be an individual’s choice.

The Great Debate of 2020

A commentary on mandatory masking

I (#blogger #blog #YA #authors) have been away camping for the past two weeks, and so I wasn’t able to check the news. I have to say, it was nice to be away from the sensationalized news stories, especially about covid, and the stories of civil unrest on our planet. Upon my return to civilization, I’ve learned that a debate is raging over mandatory mask wearing.  I was struck by the CBC News headline, OPP shoot man dead hours after mask dispute leads to alleged assault. The story says a man refused to wear a mask,  allegedly assaulted a grocery store employee, and then drove away. A police officer saw the car, followed it to the man’s home, and outside the home the two police officers fired their guns after some sort of “interaction.”  Another news article reports that an Ohio county launched a hotline to report people spotted without masks (see hotline). There were numerous stories about wearing masks. These are really stories about bullying (#bullying #antibullying) in my opinion; stories about masks verses no masks.

All across Canada there have been protests against mandatory mask wearing (see CTV News). Protests are occurring in the US as well. “Experts,” whoever they are, are telling us masks  protect us and those around us. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that healthy people wear masks over their mouths and noses when leaving their homes and entering places where physical distancing is difficult. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of recommendations, in early June, suggesting the most appropriate types of masks to wear in a variety of settings, including the use of non-medical masks in crowded places and on public transport. Now I’m hearing of city councils debating whether mask wearing should be mandatory in enclosed spaces.

I’ve seen social media posts arguing that making the public wear masks is no different than making wearing seat belts mandatory. I disagree, as this debate is not that simple. Statistics clearly show that seat belts save lives (see Seat Belt Statistics). Regarding mask protection, the experts don’t all agree. In other words, the research on mask usage doesn’t provide definitive proof that they work.

The news media sites many studies claiming to show that masks are effective. One such study in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, says in its findings that “transmission of viruses was lower with physical distancing of 1 metre or more, compared with a distance of less than 1 metre.” Now I can accept that as the data shows definitive evidence. Then it says “face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection, with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar.” The problem I have with this statement is its use of the word could. The word ‘could’ means ‘possibly’. That is not definitive proof.

In Science Focus’ article, Coronavirus: Will face masks reduce transmission? it says in a “study which looked at coronavirus deaths across 198 countries found that nations which had policies favouring mask-wearing had lower death rates.”  Now that sounds convincing, but when I did research for my post titled, An Opportunity, Or Back to the Same?  I learned that what counts as a covid death varies, depending on the country. In my opinion, that makes this study misleading and unreliable. 

In Wired’s article, The Face Mask Debate Reveals a Scientific Double Standard, it says, “There are no large-scale clinical trials proving that personal use of masks can prevent pandemic spread.”  It sites a study on influenza where it states in its findings,

These findings suggest that face masks and hand hygiene may reduce respiratory illnesses in shared living settings and mitigate the impact of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

There is another one of those words: ‘may’. The word ‘may’ means ‘possibly’. Again, this is not definitive proof.  In another study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it says:

We concluded that household use of masks is associated with low adherence and is ineffective in controlling seasonal ILI (influenza-like illness).

The data fails to show that masks are effective. Furthermore, one needs to look at how the study was done. How big was the test group? Was there a control group? Did the study follow strict scientific protocols? Who funded the study? As a retired science teacher, I taught the importance of doing science properly.

I’ve seen posts on my social media claiming masks may dangerously reduce oxygen levels. In USA Today Fact check, it quotes the Center for Disease Control (CDC) saying:

The CO2 will slowly build up in the mask over time. However, the level of CO2 likely to build up in the mask is mostly tolerable to people exposed to it … It is unlikely that wearing a mask will cause hypercapnia (Carbon dioxide toxicity).

There is one of those words again: ‘unlikely.” That means possibility. This doesn’t convince me.

The CDC told the international news organization, Reuters:

“The CO2 will slowly build up in the mask over time. However, the level of CO2 likely to build up in the mask is mostly tolerable to people exposed to it. You might get a headache but you most likely [would] not suffer the symptoms observed at much higher levels of CO2. The mask can become uncomfortable for a variety of reasons including a sensitivity to CO2 and the person will be motivated to remove the mask. It is unlikely that wearing a mask will cause hypercapnia.”​

There is that word again: ‘unlikely.” That means possibility. This doesn’t convince me either.

There are many arguments against mandating masks, such as, face masks can be uncomfortable. I haven’t worn them a lot, but when I have, I have found them to be uncomfortable. In fact, I tended to touch my face more with a mask on, which apparently is a “no no.” Another is face masks restrict airflow, or make breathing more difficult. That is true for me. Masks cause glasses to fog up, and I have personally experienced that. Masks force people to unintentionally draw closer to others during conversations. I would have to agree with this one as well, as I have a difficult time hearing what people wearing masks are saying as their words are muffled. Masks could foster a false sense of security. I have to agree, as I have yet to see a study saying masks are 100% effective against viruses and bacteria, but mask wearers may think they are 100% protected. Plus, people may think they are safe and take risks. Another argument is cloth masks could spread disease if unwashed. Let’s face it, walking around with a dirty face mask isn’t doing anyone any favours. Masks can cause skin irritation. I recall seeing lots of news articles showing health care workers with skin irritations back in March when covid numbers were raising, so that is true.

In light of what I have learned, do I think masks should be mandatory? No. I’ve not been convinced with what I’ve learned. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying masks fail to protect us. Of course, they would provide some protection since they are barrier to droplets released from someone. Will they slow the spread of a virus? Possibly. Many anti-maskers oppose it since it infringes on their freedoms, and it does. In fact, The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is closely watching the development of orders and regulations in some jurisdictions which mandate the use of masks in all indoor public places, saying “mandatory masking requirements represent an interference with personal autonomy” and may even violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms depending on the situation.

The truth is, making masking mandatory is not the same as making seat belts mandatory. Wearing seat belts have been proven to save lives. Wearing masks may or could save lives. That is not definitive proof! When mandating something without definitive proof causes bullying and divisiveness, it should not be done. Any policy that pits people against one another, especially when it is without definitive proof, and promotes bullying, is unethical and therefore shouldn’t be directed.

Has the World Gone Mad?

A Commentary on the worlds rage over George Floyd’s murder

Jerry Holt/Star Tribune

Just when I think 2020 can’t get any worse, I (#blogger, #blog, #YA, #authors, #somseason) witness the United States fall into Chaos as rage spread across the country over police brutality of African Americans. The rage is expressed in the form of protests and riots resulting in destroyed businesses and damaged landmarks. Protests also occurred around the world, with people gathering in solidarity with protestors in Montreal, Vancouver, Jerusalem, London, Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro, and in 140 American cities. (See ‘We Are All George Floyd’: Global Anger Grows Over a Death in Minneapolis). World leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Beijing criticized the U.S’s rapidly eroding moral authority on the world stage.

This Chaos was sparked by racial bullying, (#antibullying, #bullying) with a police officer murdering George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis.  Racial bullying is a type of racism where someone’s bullying focuses on race, ethnicity or culture. George Floyd’s friends and family referred to him as a “gentle giant,” and say he never made an enemy. Mr. Floyd is just the latest of a growing list of African Americans whose deaths have sparked outrage and protests across the nation.  Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in February in Brunswick, Georgia, by two white guys while he was out jogging. (See Ahmaud Arbery) Other victims of racial bullying are Breonna TaylorSandra BlandPhilando CastileEric Garner. Trayvon Martin.

People across the world are enraged with racism on the planet. We Canadians like to see ourselves as non-racist, but truth be known, it is a problem here as well. CBC News’ article, Thousands rally in Toronto to protest racism in wake of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, reports that thousands of people attended a peaceful rally to protest racism around the world and to demand answers in the death of 29-year-old African Canadian Toronto resident Regis Korchinski-Paquet. In the case of Korchinski-Paquet, her mother had called for police assistance after a domestic conflict, requesting that her daughter be taken to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Regis’ family has accused Toronto Police of pushing her off  of the balcony, while the police claim that she was on the balcony when their officers arrived, and that she jumped from the building.

In the article by The Guardian, Black Toronto residents 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police, study says, it reports that black people made up 61% of cases where police used force that resulted in death according to the Ontario human rights commission. In another CBC News article, Canadian police must acknowledge racial bias to fix it, Indigenous advocates say, it states there are numerous cases involving police use of force against Indigenous people. The pattern is police physically abuse Indigenous people, but rarely cause deaths unlike the U.S. Racial bullying is an issue in Canada, just as in the U.S.

Bullying of any kind, including racial bullying, is a learned behaviour. If it is learned, then it can be unlearned. Penn State University has an article, Racism is Learned at an Early Age, where it states:

Learned racism is the outcome of how often an individual is personally exposed to how dissimilar cultures and races of people interact with one another…improved relations and withheld judgments may occur if a child observes positive interactions and attitudes among diverse groups.

A huge part of racial bullying has to do with White Privilege. Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, (ACLRC) at the University of Calgary, defines White Privilege, or White-Skinned Privilege, this way:

“The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. Examples of privilege might be: ‘I can walk around a department store without being followed’; ‘I can come to a meeting late and not have my lateness attributed to my race’; ‘I can turn on the television or look to the front page and see people of my ethnic and racial background represented”

I can say, as a Caucasian, that I have never been followed around in a department store. Any time I’ve been late to a  meeting, my lateness was never attributed to being white. That cannot be said for Indigenous people or those of African heritage.  The vast majority of shows I watch on television are actors of my ethnic and racial background. That is not true for Indigenous people. Having white skin bestows benefit and privileges that white people often do not grasp. On the other hand, many people of colour, and Indigenous people, are likely highly aware of these privileges because they are denied them on a daily basis. Check out McIntosh’s “White Privileges” checklist in the ACLRC article and see if you answer yes to them as a Caucasian. I answered yes to them all.

I recently saw this quote in a meme: “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t personally affected.” That about sums it up. Those of us with White Privilege must understand that the outrage happening in the U.S, and around the world, is because African Americans, African Canadians, and Indigenous people have less privilege (less access to education, jobs, etc.), are labelled (lazy, unethical, etc.), are regularly bullied, and can’t even go for an evening walk in their neighbourhoods without fearing racial bullying. Caucasians must recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting because of white supremacy.

So long as White Privilege exists, and racism or intolerance is modelled to our children, this problem will exist. What is happening in the U.S. is very disturbing, but understandable. It’s a wakeup call for the human family to stop, reflect, and decide what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world where compassion is the norm, and true equality exits? Our political documents say we are all equal, but the reality is, this world lacks equality. As George Orwell’s Animal Farms says, “Some are more equal than others.” Like the pandemic, this is just another wakeup call for the human family. These protests are call for a better world, and we the people must demand it.

I’ve said many times in previous posts, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is following the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and it’s true. If only it were that simple.

Is Nature Fighting Back?

A commentary about the environmental abuse

National Geographic’s recent article, To prevent pandemics, stop disrespecting nature, states:

Some people are viewing the pandemic as nature fighting back against all that has been and continues to be done to it. But it is human behavior and disrespect for nature that have been the cause. Furthermore, as we cope with the pandemic, climate change is marching ahead. It’s causing strong ripples of change in all ecosystems and probably tipping the balance in favor of pathogens currently unknown to us. The wise way forward is to invest in conservation and science, and to embrace nature and the glorious variety of life with which we share this planet. A healthy future for humanity and a healthy biodiverse planet go hand in hand.

Perhaps, science is catching up with Indigenous spiritual teachings since Indigenous people have been telling us since first contact to respect the earth. For example, Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki, Algonquin is credited with the quote: “The Great Spirit is in all things. He is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us. That which we put into the ground she returns to us.” There is an ancient Indian (Indigenous) proverb that says, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” There is a Cree prophecy which says, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” On the Assembly of First Nations website it says,

Indigenous peoples are caretakers of Mother Earth and realize and respect her gifts of water, air and fire. First Nations peoples’ have a special relationship with the earth and all living things in it. This relationship is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth that guided indigenous peoples to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity. It is also based on the subsistence needs and values extending back thousands of years.

Indigenous people have always believed the earth to be a living organism. Now even some scientists are saying the earth is alive. It is called the Gaia hypothesis, first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, and argues that Earth’s physical and biological processes are inextricably connected to form a self-regulating, essentially sentient system. Check it out in the Astrobiology Magazine.

In another National Geographic article titled, Traditional indigenous beliefs are a powerful tool for understanding the pandemic, it states:

While this pandemic is presenting an opportunity to find meaningful ways to connect, it’s also a wake-up call with important lessons for the future. “If we don’t learn from now,” warns Mindahi Bastida Muñoz, general coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, “then another thing, more powerful, is going to come.

I’ve  (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) always argued that this pandemic is a wakeup call for humanity. To borrow a phrase from singer Jidenna’s song, ‘Bully of the Earth,’ we humans cannot continue to bully the earth. Let’s call it earth bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), and by that, I mean, exploiting and abusing the planet by polluting the air, ignoring climate change, pouring plastics into the ocean, deforestation, and pouring tons of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, etc.) into our environment. If the Gaia hypothesis is true, and the planet is a living organism, then we humans are killing Mother Earth.

Yet, we humans continue with the earth bullying. The New York Times has an article, The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules, listing all the environmental protection rules that have been or are in the process of being eliminated. CBC News’ article, Alberta regulator’s move to suspend oilpatch monitoring sets dangerous precedent, reports that oil companies say the environmental suspensions are necessary to maintain COVID-19 guidelines. In essence, the oil companies are claiming it is too dangerous to monitor the environment, yet it is not too dangerous for hair dressers to cut hair. The argument is weak to say the least, yet our provincial government fell for it. CBC News reports in their article, Alberta rescinds decades-old policy that banned open-pit coal mines in Rockies and Foothills, says the provincial government is cancelling environmental protections that have been in place since the 1970s,  making it easier for open-pit coal mining in some of the province’s most ecologically sensitive areas. This move has nothing to do with Covid. This is about corporate greed, and governments enabling companies to do so at the expense of the planet. It is shameful!

Back in 2018, the Guardian had an article, The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us, claiming “climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse.” There is no doubt for me that continued abuse of the earth will have dire consequences for humanity. National Geographic’s article, Ocean Threats, has a long list of threats to our oceans because of human activities. The Guardian has an article, Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study, essentially arguing that humans are the cause of a mass extinction. I’ve seen articles about bird populations declining, and bee populations being endangered. It is all alarming!

Having said that, CBS News’ article, Before-and-after photos show dramatic decline in air pollution around the world during coronavirus lockdown, is eye opening. The earth, whether a living organism or not, has shown an amazing ability to heal itself when allowed to.

A NASA photo

I’ve always argued in my posts that this COVID pandemic is a tool of some higher power—God, Allah, Yahweh, Universe, Source, or whatever you want to call it—bringing about transformation on our planet, creating a simpler, kinder, and more caring world, and that includes the earth. Maybe it is a reminder to humanity to respect and honour the earth instead of being a bully of the earth. The Indigenous people have always said that. If only we of European decent had listened to the Indigenous people instead of bullying them into submission, before bullying the earth.

An Opportunity, Or Back to the Same?

A commentary about Covid

Sonya Renee Taylor is an author, poet, spoken word artist, speaker, educator, humanitarian and social justice activist. I  (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) recently saw a quote by her which said:

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-Corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”

Ms. Taylor reflects my sentiments exactly! From the very start of this pandemic, I’ve always believed that this was some sort of awakening that the Universe, God, Yahweh, Allah, Creator, or some greater power is causing; awakening and nudging us to work together instead of against each other; awakening us to  the “greed, inequity, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” that is widespread on our planet, and making us aware of human abuse of the planet. Also, awakening us to racism, bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), misogyny, and tribalism in the form of toxic partisanism. Partisanism is extreme loyalty to members of one’s own party, faction, sect, or cause; typically, a political ideology. I continue to believe this pandemic is a wakeup call for the human family. I have always thought that this pandemic is an opportunity to create a better world. However, if I am honest, sometimes I get discouraged and confused; questioning if that is true.

I read a Global News report titled, ‘It’s up to all of us’: B.C. woman speaks out after intervening in racist incident, which reported on a woman who was in the line at a Home Hardware store and witnessed a person yelling at another man in the line who happened to be Chinese, telling him to move away from her, to move back to Wuhan, and that he was going to get her sick.  Time has an article titled, As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Xenophobia and Anti-Asian Racism, explaining the problem of racial bullying during this pandemic. Many articles, besides the two I’ve sited, make this claim.

When I hear reports of racial bullying towards Asian people because the pandemic happened to start in China, I have doubts if what the world is experiencing really is teaching us; if it really will create a better world. Why you ask? Because people don’t seem to be changing, but then I remind myself that the world didn’t get this way overnight. Change will take time.

Something that caused turmoil and confusion for me was a video I watched showing an Italian leader slamming ‘False COVID-19 Numbers,’ claiming 25000 did not die, and what is really happening was an attempt for some to impose a dictatorship. This made me question what is really going on. You watch it and you be the judge. Here is the video:

This Italian leader says 96.3% of deaths listed as COVID deaths were deaths caused by something other than coronavirus.

Now, I don’t wish to be a perpetrator of conspiracy theories, and that is not my intent with this post, but the video did make me question if what we’re being told by the media and by our governments is accurate. Are we being misled? Are we being told the truth? Is something sinister going on? I don’t know the answer, but when I research about COVID deaths, and how the statistics are reported, my Spidey senses go off. If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, it’s from the fictional character Spider-Man, nicknamed Spidey, who has an ability to sense danger before it can be perceived by other senses. Are conspiracy theories true? Certainly most are not, but Readers Digest lists theories that turned out to be true in their article, 12 Conspiracy Theories that Actually Turned Out to be True.

I have read a lot of articles, and watched videos of health professionals, questioning what is really going on. Some of these have been health care workers questioning the statistics of COVID-19. Many have argued that statistics of COVID deaths are skewed or misleading, and the numbers are designed to instil fear.

Fox News, a news outlet which I consider very bias, has an article, Birx says government is classifying all deaths of patients with coronavirus as ‘COVID-19’ deaths, regardless of cause. It says:

The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life.

The Illinois Herald News article, What counts as a COVID-19 death? says,

During Gov. JB Pritzker’s health briefing, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Illinois Department of Public Health director, said anyone who had COVID-19 at the time of death, even if the person died of other causes, is counted among the COVID deaths. In fact, even if a person is in hospice for other reasons but has COVID, too, that death is still counted among the COVID deaths, Ezike said.

BBC’s article, Coronavirus: Why death and mortality rates differ, says in the UK the Department of Health and Social Care releases daily updates on how many people who tested positive for Covid-19 died that day. This includes any patient who tested positive for Covid-19, but who might have died from another condition (for example, terminal cancer). But the UK’s Office for National Statistics counts all deaths as Covid-19 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, regardless of whether they were tested or if it was merely a suspected case of Covid-19. Italy counts any death of a patient who has Covid-19 as a death caused by Covid-19, as does Germany and Hong Kong. In the US, any death of a Covid-19 patient, no matter what the physician believes to be the direct cause, is counted for public reporting as a Covid-19 death. The picture is cloudier when patients have not had a Covid-19 test, but are a suspected case. Given that many deaths from Covid-19 are in people who have underlying health issues, doctors still have to make the call on the cause of death.

What counts as a Covid death varies, depending on the country. I couldn’t find how Canada reports a Covid death. It’s all very confusing and in my opinion somewhat misleading. Who knows what is really the truth. Still I ask, are these stats provided to spread fear throughout the masses? Is this to keep us afraid, compliant with rules, and safe, or is this a way to control the multitudes? Even more sinister, is this a way to remove our rights? There have been arguments saying all these things. If it is true, and this is all designed to control the masses, as some suggest, then we are being bullied on a massive scale. In my last post, Bullying Takes Many Forms, I suggested the definition: “If someone feels unsafe, threatened, rejected, or inferior because of another, then they are being bullied.” Are my rights threatened? All this media talk about COVID deaths certainly makes me feel unsafe. Are we being bullied by fear mongering? I don’t know the answer. I am merely asking questions. I am becoming more and more confused, wondering what is really going on, and what I should believe.

I still choose to believe something bigger is happening. I believe humans are being forced in one way or another to stop, think, and decide what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world where compassion is the norm? Do we want to treat the planet with respect? Sun Tsu, an ancient Chinese general, writer and philosopher once said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” We, as a human family, have an opportunity to create a better world. Whether there is something sinister happening, like an attempt to remove our human rights so we can be controlled, or something spiritual happening, or both, it doesn’t matter.  Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, says, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” Perhaps the human consciousness is being awakened to something, however, the question still remains the same, What type of society do we want to live in? Do we want a society where “greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” are the norm, or do we want “to stitch a new garment…that fits all of humanity and nature?” I want the latter!

Names Should Never Hurt

A commentary on how one’s name can make you a target

Most of us like our names and believe others do as well, but that is not always the case. CNN’s article, Tom Hanks writes to bullied 8-year-old named Corona, is a story about Corona DeVries, an 8 year old from Queensland, Australia, who told reporters that he had recently been called “coronavirus” at school. He told them, “Coronavirus — they kept on saying that, and I get really mad.” The 8-year-old wrote to Tom Hanks, a well-known American actor, and his wife Rita Wilson, wishing them well and saying, “I heard on the news you and your wife have caught the coronavirus. Are you ok?”

What is special about this news story is Mr. Hanks wrote the young boy back, addressing his letter, “Friend Corona.” The actor expressed gratitude for the 8-year-old’s concern about his and his wife’s health. In the letter, Mr. Hanks says, “Thank you for being such a good friend — friends make their friends feel good when they are down.” The Oscar winner, who collects typewriters, sent the 8-year-old a typewriter saying, “use it to write me back.” At the bottom of his letter, Hanks added the handwritten postscript “You got a friend in me!” — the name of the “Toy Story” theme song.

The likelihood of this young man being bullied because of the name Corona would be close to zero under normal circumstances, but because the world is presently experiencing a viral pandemic with a virus called Coronavirus, he was targeted. I was touched by this story because of the kindness shown by Tom Hanks. Even more, just when I (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) think I’ve heard it all, I hear about another ridiculous reason for bullying. It is not this 8-year old’s fault that this virus is called coronavirus. It shows how insensitive bullies are.

Bullying  (#antibullying, #bullying) a boy, because his name is Corona, is outlandish, just as outlandish as people relating Corona beer with the virus.  CBS News put out a story in early March titled, Survey finds 38% of beer-drinking Americans say they won’t order a Corona. It says 38% of American beer drinkers surveyed said they wouldn’t buy Corona “under any circumstances” at the moment. Among regular Corona drinkers, only 4% said they would now refrain. Refraining from drinking a beer that has been around for years because its name is the same name as a virus is ridiculous.

Getting bullied because of your name is nothing new. It has been happening forever. I too, was harassed because of my name. All throughout elementary and junior high school, I was made fun of because my last name was Sommer. I was called summer sausage, which is a sausage that has been dry-cured, smoked, and hardened. I grew up eating summer sausage as it was one of my dad’s favourites. I hated being called summer sausage, and at the time, I didn’t think of it as bullying. The kids that called me that thought it was funny, and they laughed a lot calling us summer sausage. The reality is,  my siblings, cousins, and I  didn’t like being called that, and that makes it bullying.

ABC News did a story, Boy who changed his name from Trump, about Joshua, who lives in Clayton, Delaware, who began using his father’s last name, rather than his mother’s, due to the relentless bullying he experienced after Donald Trump began campaigning in the 2016 presidential election. Joshua’s mother, Megan Trump, no relation to the president, said that other kids would curse at her son, calling him stupid and an idiot. He hated his last name and felt sad all the time. Since the bullying got so bad, the school district agreed to change Joshua’s name in the school system when he began Middle School. I feel for this 11-year-old. It is not his fault he had the same last name as the current resident of the U.S. White House; a man who makes it easy for others to ridicule him when the U.S. leader makes statements such as, covid-19 patients might be cured by treating them with injections of disinfectant and applications of ultraviolet light.

A 2011 Daily News’ story, Lea Michele: I had to change my last name because I was bullied in school,  is a story about “Glee” actress, Lea Michele, who ditched her surname after being bullied in school. Sarfati, is her real surname, but the actress said. “I don’t use it a lot because I got ‘Lea So-fatty,’ ‘Lea So-farty’ at school.” She said, “When I was little and I went on my first audition they were like, ‘And may we have your name,’ and I was like Lea Michele. And I’ve been Lea Michele ever since.’ ”

Bullying of any kind is serious, even bullying because of a person’s name. When it is relentless and malicious, it can lead to suicide. Wikipedia lists 16-year-old, Sladjana Vidovic (1992–2008) from Mentor, Ohio, as someone who hung herself in October 2008 by jumping from a window with a sheet around her neck. She and her family were from Croatia. Because of her accent and her name, other students called her names like “Slutty Jana” and “Slut-Jana-Vagina.”

As I’ve said in my post, Really? Bullied for Loving Books, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is following the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  However, it is not that simple as hurting people feel better when they take their pain out on others, so the bully’s pain needs to be healed first. As the adage says, “Healed People Heal People.” A bully is a hurting person, so the first step is to acknowledge that. The next step to help them heal. That might be as simple as listening to their story of pain, since many bullies feel unheard. Some may require professional help, so recommending a healer might be a way to help.  Most importantly, show kindness, compassion and love, all which heal. So, instead of condemning those who bully—even though that is our first instinct—try having compassion for them, but make it clear that their bullying is unacceptable.

One World Working Together

A commentary on the creating a better world

This week, a CBS News story titled, March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, caught my attention. This article says, March 2020 was the first March in nearly two decades without a school shooting in U.S. Since early March, schools have been closed as a prevention measure to slow the spread of coronavirus. The article uses data from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services to confirm their claim. My immediate reaction to this story was amazement. However, one always has to be careful when it comes news, especially when they involve statistics, so I checked the claim out.

Snopes describes itself as the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource. Addressing the claim that March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, it says what’s true is according to one government database, the U.S. has had at least one shooting on K-12 school properties every March from 2003 through 2009, and every March since (but not including) 2010. What’s False is that the way the various U.S. government agencies and organizations define a “school shooting” as definitions vary greatly, making any statistical claims challenging. Also, by the standards of one key government database, the U.S. had eight — not zero — school shootings in March 2020.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Criminology explains the problem this way.

The threshold of 4 or more deaths is arbitrary, but there are exclusions. For example, if 10 people are shot but only 2 die, the incident is not a mass shooting. Homicides by other means also are not counted. If 5 people are purposely run down and killed by an individual driving motor vehicle, the deaths do not count because a firearm is not involved.

The data used by the CBS article from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services used the definition; school-associated violent deaths are homicides, suicides, or other violent, non-accidental deaths in the United States in which a fatal injury occurs. So, if the definition used is one or more deaths resulting from shootings, then it is possible March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002. However, Snopes says by the standards of one key government database, the U.S. had eight school shootings in March 2020 which would mean this claim is false.

To me people quibbling about what defines a school shooting, and how many people must die to qualify, is ridiculous. One person dying is one too many. For me, what is more important is why school shootings happen. Obviously, one reason is guns are readily available in the U.S, but there are also emotional and psychological reasons. In other words, mental health is a big factor.

During my school author talks about my book, A Shattered New Start, I talked about a Colorado Sun article titled, Secret Service study: Most school shooters were badly bullied, showed warning signs. This article said that according to a U.S. Secret Service study, most students who committed deadly school assaults over the past decade were badly bullied, and had a history of disciplinary trouble.

PsychCentral’s article, Bullies More Likely to Have Mental Disorder, says bullying could be a component of a mental disorder, according to a study. After analyzing responses from a parent survey, the researchers found that those considered bullies were more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD).

The article, How does bullying affect health and well-being? by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says,

Bullying can affect physical and emotional health, both in the short term and later in life. It can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death. Those who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. Bullying also can cause long-term damage to self-esteem.

The biggest issues, in my view, are emotional and mental health problems. These issues create bullies and emotionally damaged victims. Why are there school shootings? Namely bullying. Why is there bullying? Emotional and mentally unhealthy people. Would it be helpful to have one agreed upon definition of a school shooting? Yes. Would school shootings decrease if weapons were unavailable, or at least difficult to get? Yes. What would likely make the biggest impact on school shooting statistics is creating a mentally and emotionally healthy society.

Self-help writer, Edmond Mbiaka, says;

“Let integrity, humility, kindness, compassion, peace, and unity follow you wherever you go. We still have a chance at making this world a better place for us and our future generations. Stop Complaining about all the negativity in this world and start contributing more positive words, decisions, and actions to it.”

When we start caring for others, and being kind, compassionate, generous, and treating everyone as an equal, then we’ll start seeing less mental illness, less bullying, and less school shootings. Or to make it simple! Follow the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As I’ve said in many of my previous posts, maybe this pandemic is the Universe’s way of transforming the world into one that is simpler, kinder, more compassionate, and more caring. On April 18th , my wife and I watched One World: Together at Home, where more than 70 artists and celebrities gathered around the world for a virtual concert, to honour and celebrate healthcare workers who are fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. I truly felt part of a global village. The entire world  is in this together. The world will only conquer this disease by us working together as a human family. We are one!