How We See Things

My brother Rod pointed out to me that over these past few weeks we’ve heard examples of two very different pandemic behaviours involving the loss of a significant amount of money. Vancouver-based Casino CEO Rod Baker had to resign from his $800,000 year job after he and his wife were seen to have violated emergency measures by posing as motel employees in order to get the COVID-19 vaccine from a mobile clinic which was administering doses to a small indigenous Yukon community. That’s a big salary to lose, but it seems Baker is due to receive about 28 million dollars worth of stock options on retirement, so he’ll certainly be OK financially for a while.

A very different story is that of Quebec-born Super Bowl award-winning linesman, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who had completed a medical degree from McGill University but not yet fulfilled his residency requirements. From his Super Bowl achievements, he’d received awards, fanfare, parades, and, of course, a multimillion-dollar salary. He was a hero, and so it must have been a hard choice for him to step back from his prestigious career, yet he chose instead to work at a long-term care facility in Quebec while taking online courses from Harvard University. He does plan to return to his football career, but not just yet. Aware of his exposure to the virus, he didn’t want to put his teammates at risk. He also wanted to continue to work to care for those suffering from the disease.

Duvernay-Tardif greatly admires the frontline workers, and says, “I feel my definition of a hero has changed this year.”

Many people these days have a hard time making distinctions about things, e.g. whether travel or work are essential or non-essential, but Duvernay-Tardif has a larger perspective on the crisis. He’s deeply concerned about the rapid spread of the virus and says, “If we’re not playing in September, knowing all the implications of what sport means for a nation and the money behind this huge industry, there are going to be bigger issues than not playing football.”

In reflecting on these two accounts, I think we see extreme examples of heroic versus deplorable behaviours. Perhaps, as in reports we hear of wartime behaviour, the pandemic causes good people to be better and bad people to become worse. In the stories of the two World Wars, we learn about acts of astonishing bravery and self-sacrifice and also disgraceful behaviours of hoarding or indulging in black market activities. It seems similar to what we’re seeing now.

The Manichean religion appears apt nowadays: the forces of light fighting against the forces of darkness. People I know who may be bending the rules insist that they are being very careful, very safe — but then why are the numbers still rising? We are told not to intervene when we see people bending the rules, because it might increase the potential for violence. But what can we do?

Well, at the very least we can talk about what community means. We can emphasize the need for collective action. And, most of all, we can celebrate the many heroes amongst us — and there are lots of them.  I think of George Eliot’s much quoted observation in Middlemarch proposing that “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

It is our own unseen heroes, doing the right thing, who are perhaps making the progress of the virus not so ill as it might have been.

Let’s acknowledge them, cheer them on, and follow their lead.

4 thoughts on “How We See Things

  1. Another wonderful post, Carol. I was very touched when I heard about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's choices on CBC and glad you shone a light on it. Such a bright contrast to your other example.


  2. Another wonderful post, Carol. I was very touched when I heard about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's choices on CBC and glad you shone a light on it. Such a bright contrast to your other example.


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