a Rant perhaps

Are we going off the rails?

Two weeks ago I was feeling pretty upbeat about the future of the Arts in the South Okanagan / Similkameen. We had just finished the Step Two Workshop and there was considerable energy in the room and in the conversations afterwards. In the days that followed I was on a high. On the Monday evening I attended another TIFF movie at the Landmark (a delightful new option the manager has added) – it was a film about Aboriginals in East Vancouver – deep and reflective. A little later that week, after compiling the summary of the above-mentioned workshop for review by the participants, I was at the Dream Café for a really rousing performance by Jeffery Straker. I had only gone because a long-time friend in Saskatchewan had recommended him. As is so often the case with the Dream Café, the performer and the venue exceeded expectations.

I was really feeling good about life and living. Even though there was a developing pandemic, I was certain I would survive because the Arts were giving me hope and allowing me to laugh. In fact, Jeff had informed us that he was also doing house concerts on this tour and I thought that was an incredible idea – these used to be very popular in my younger days and, while living in PEI I was able to attend a number of kitchen parties. So the Arts were the solution to any overall move to shut down big events. While big sports events were shutting down, at least I could ski. Then it started to happen. Saturday morning I went to the Landmark to experience another edition of Live from the Met only to discover the performance cancelled. Later that day the Dream Café closed, quickly followed by St. Saviour’s cancelling Jazz Vespers. What was happening? Was it because older people tended to show up at these events? Was it that Penticton was awash in Covid-19?

Sunday night a strategic planning workshop I was to conduct the next day for an Arts group in the South Okanagan was postponed. Less than a dozen attendees, it was to be an up-beat, energizing moment in the Arts that would lead to amazing things for the community and well beyond. Yet, having a newly freed up day did allow me to enjoy a five star day of skiing at Apex on Monday – so at least my energy and healthiness were reinforced.

Monday night was TIFF night again at the Landmark, with their spread out seating arrangements. The very intriguing film was about the Inuit: I enjoyed it. However, one bit of information did shake me. Another attendee informed me that Tuesday would be the last day at Apex. On the way out of the theatre I noticed a sign stating that facility was now closed. So now Tuesday’s agenda was altered, and even though there were too many people on the hill (with wait times of eight minutes or more at the Quad lift) it was a gloriously sunny four star day. I left the hill sadder – Landmark was closed, Dream Café was closed, Venables Theatre in Oliver was closed, the ski hill was shuttered.

It was St. Patrick’s Day yet even most of the pubs were told to close or at least restrict patrons to less than fifty. I decided to offer a few friends the opportunity to come over for refreshments and conversation. Six of us had a delightful late afternoon into early evening, which partially made up for the announcement that a special wine dinner the next evening in Kelowna was cancelled. Then I was informed by more than one medical health officer that having friends over was a no-no as well as was getting outside in small groups to play games.

This got me thinking. What are we doing to ourselves? If we can’t entertain ourselves or play with each other, what becomes of the social component of society? Have we become a shut-down generation of humanity? Shut down the oil industry. Shut down investigative reporting. Shut down transportation systems with illegal blockades. Shut down, shut down, shut down. And, do everything on-line, at home, by yourself. But what kind of people will this make us? Governments are now going to spend billions to try to keep our world from completely collapsing. To save us from what? Death? Well sorry that has been tried many times in the past and it keeps on happening. There are obituaries in every paper, every day and no one seems to be rising up to stop them. Can you imagine if the massive government bailouts of this new millennium had been cut in half and the other half invested earlier equally between medical research into cancers and enhancement of the arts? Might we not already be healthier and happier?

It is being suggested by some in the medical community that this semi-quarantine movement may need to last from three to eight months. It certainly is lasting into May for some of us (an ethics class at the UofA this spring has been cancelled). We are told to get outside, but not with anyone else. Keep our distance. Don’t travel so wherever you are, stay there. But if our only connection with our fellow humans is via a computer or telephone, where is the significantly personal part of it all? Who are we without hugs, without getting to observe the whole body when we communicate, without feeling the excitement of the live performance, without having our neighbours be neighbours? Without regular connections with those we know most frequently, who is to tell us when we seem to be slipping in health or in happiness? Who will observe and comment when our mental wellness is sliding into dark places?

Where was the risk assessment we are so famous for? Are we in danger of shutting down humanity?