A bitter lesson I hope will not be repeated
I wrote this “Story of a Lost Friend” just a few days before Pax went missing in the Swiss Alps, and in the original version I wrote: “Don’t worry, Pax is fine, healthy, happy and full of beans, having a great summer fishing and running in the mountains.”
After Pax was lost, I wondered if my writing this sentence somehow triggered the “quantum universe” resulting in Pax getting lost. Had I tempted fate?
Perhaps you also blame yourself for things you know aren’t your fault, even though — to a degree — I believe that our thoughts create our reality. Who knows.
In any case, the good news is that Pax is sleeping in a chair beside me as I type, and I will snap a picture of him right now to share with you.
But getting back to the story of a lost friend, when you finish reading this piece, the title will make more sense.
A story from 1968
It was August 21, 1968 and I awoke to the sound of rumbling tanks on our otherwise quiet street. As a four-year-old, I remember looking down the street from our balcony, and watching the strange khaki coloured growling monsters crawling from the East German border towards Prague to alter the course of history.
These Russian troops invaded my country following orders from Moscow to squash any attempts to build a more democratic society.
Russia had latched onto my country like a leech on its victim, determined to suck it dry, destroying the lives of millions.
Those who complied and didn’t protest the occupation could go about their lives almost the same as before, and if someone became an informer for the occupants they gained even more privileges, access to better jobs, money, and the freedom to travel.
People who opposed those in power were demoted, faced persecution, and sometimes went to prison. News were censored, and people (who 20 years later became national heroes and leaders) were labelled as criminals and enemies of the state. Their voices were silenced, and many had escaped to what was then the free-world.
My father was an idealist and spoke up against the Russian occupation. When he was punished and demoted from his job, there was still a window of opportunity to leave the country before the Iron Curtain fell, but my grandparents convinced my parents to stay. It was a grave mistake which made him live the rest of his life in regret, never reaching his potential.
He could still work as a veterinarian, but was demoted to the most difficult farm work while his friend, who collaborated with the Russians, benefited by getting my father’s job as head veterinarian of the region.
My dad lost a job, and a friend.
July, 2021: A different time and place
The pandemic has divided nations. Some people have followed and agreed to the most common narrative, while others have been questioning if the measures introduced are sensible, and then there are some who believe in conspiracies.
In reality, no one really knows what is going on.
Yet, not unlike when the Russians took over my old country, people have now been divided into two groups, those who question and those who comply. Those who are compliant have been promised they can live their lives with certain privileges of access and freedom to travel, the same way as before the pandemic, despite the fact that they are not 100% protected, and appear to be spreading the virus in some cases.
It is hard to see the destruction of livelihood and widespread mental health crisis. Many scientists, doctors, and other reputable people, have tried to speak up, but often have been shamed and censored under the umbrella of spreading misinformation.
But how could we not question some of the measures being taken, such as quarantining the Australian olympians for one month upon their return, when the disease incubation period is no more than a week?
How could we not question the fact that in some countries, governments are proposing a two-tiered society model where a part of the nation would not be able to fly, board a bus, or a train, without a vaccine passport?
People are being ostracized, shamed, and punished just because they decided not to participate in what is still classified as a trial of a vaccine that has not gone through proper safety evaluation.
Are we now going to start dividing people into groups for those who smoke, or those who drink alcohol because they chose to do so? What about people who eat unhealthy processed food, or fish like tuna, which is full of mercury?
These health choices are respected as personal decisions because they fall under the umbrella of civil liberties and the same should apply to the vaccination decision.
Sadly, similar to 1968, some people have decided to remain quiet about the government measures out of fear of being shamed, losing jobs, or their friends. After all, based on our evolutionary history, being shunned and marginalized is the hardest form of punishment for a human.
I am prepared that some of you may object to me writing about this, as it is not about dogs or health. Yet, I feel obligated and compelled to warn you that losing basic civil liberties is a serious threat to democracy.
I recognize this danger, because I have seen it before.
I am not here to tell you what to do. Even in my family, the opinions and decisions vary. But that is okay.
There are still a lot of unknowns and because of this, no one should be forcing others to comply under threat of losing their basic civil liberties, or jobs. No one should be allowed to divide nations into two groups. History has shown us enough examples of how damaging this is.
Debate has always been at the core of a healthy democracy, and an attempt to squash discussion is one of the methods of those who want to take advantage of the situation and gain more power. It may be a government or multinational corporations who are making billions, while our countries drown in debt and are inundated with a mental health crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Similar to communism, many governments have now bypassed the constitution and ignored our right to freedom of choice. To be more accurate, people still have the freedom to choose, but they will be faced with restrictions and effectively labelled as second-class citizens.
This is done under the cover of “protecting the people from danger”. In 1968 the danger in occupied Czechoslovakia was “imperialism,” in 2021 it is the pandemic.
Australians now need a permit to leave the country the same way we did in the Eastern Bloc. They have been locked up in their country for more than a year, and ironically are now dealing with the greatest number of cases since the beginning of this all.
In Canada, the government has been so concerned about the spread that they now decided to call an election two years ahead of schedule, despite the risk of increasing coronavirus spread. Are political ambitions the medicine for COVID-19 spread?
Am I missing something…?
It doesn’t even matter how COVID-19 happened now because it is here. What matters is whether we let the government officials, who were elected to serve and protect us, take away basic civil liberties, threaten democracy, and create regulations that do not make sense.
Scaring and dividing the nation is not the best strategy to end this crisis, and we need to speak up!
Just to be clear, I don’t expect that all of you will agree with me. What I hope is that you question all that is going on in a constructive and healthy way, and do not let history repeat and fall into what I know so well — a totalitarian regime.
Take care and be well, I am looking forward to your reply. Thank you for sharing this piece with your friends.