STANDARDS. I enjoyed and appreciated the contributions everyone made on the topic of ‘standards’. As I may have mentioned before, the comment that has stayed with me the longest has been this: your commitment to excellence will determine your quality of life.
And that circles right back to standards. One of my resolutions for 2021 is to raise mine across the board.
PARIS. Winter has set in, with temperatures dropping to near-freezing levels. Restrictions here are easing at a glacial pace, consistent with the government’s deliberate and circumspect mindset to the pandemic…and all things really. December 15 will see the end of having a mandatory attestation, or ‘hall pass’ as I like to call it, for trips outside the home. We are already allowed to go out for more than 1 hour and farther than 1 kilometer from our residence at present. Not having to write a note about where you’re going and why will be a relief.
A 9pm curfew is expected to continue nationwide, with exceptions being made on December 24 and December 31, but large gatherings will not be permitted. Officials are hoping that the French people exercise some caution through the holidays, as the retreat from all restrictions is completely dependent on infection rates. If the infection rates spike, back to lockdown we go.
Boutiques and department stores are open here with strict social distancing and capacity limits in force. Decorations light up the store windows as well as streets. Still, the masks worn by everyone in public put a cloth damper on all but the youngest of faces this Christmas time.
Not one for the holiday rush, my most frequent retail interaction is at the tabac down the street which acts as our local post office. I’ve been signing and wrapping complimentary copies of the 2nd Edition of The Old Money Book for a few friends and acquaintances. That joyful bit of work was completed last week. Hopefully, those gifts will get to their respective destinations in time for some fireside reading before the new year.
COVID 19 VACCINES. Britain began its vaccination rollout recently, with the elderly and NHS workers being priority groups. While hailed with great anticipation by the media and understandably great hope and relief by the public, I am less than jubilant. My wish is of course that every person in the world is safe and healthy, and vaccines for this virus will no doubt play a part in making that wish a reality.
However, I did have a long, serious conversation recently with a healthcare professional with decades of experience in their field. Not prone to hyperbole or conspiracy theories, this reserved and very evidence-based person was blunt when I asked what they thought of the vaccine. “It’s an experiment,” was the dry reply.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed headlines about initial recipients of the vaccine having dangerous allergic reactions to the dosage. Only then did UK doctors mention that persons with previous allergic reactions to medication avoid getting the vaccine.
I also noted that the Food and Drug Administration in the United States is going through with an emergency authorization of the vaccine. I hope I am wrong, but I sense a shortcut is being taken somewhere along the line. This suspicion is not soothed when I read that many of the drug companies providing these vaccines to the public will be, for the most part, immune from prosecution or civil lawsuits should the vaccine have unintended consequences for patients who took it.
Let me be clear: I am not an ‘anti-vaccer’. I love modern medicine. I applaud our healthcare workers and researchers who have given so much in this fight. I hope the vaccine works wonders without any issue. I am ready as much as anyone to get back to a normal life.
However, in my opinion, the United States has a bigger, predictable problem which leads to a predictable outcome. The problem is that, as a nation, we lack the self-discipline and patience to do difficult tasks that to be done for the duration that they need to be done. We are self-centered and spoiled, and we want what we want now, much like unruly children. At about 250 years old, we are a teenager of a country.
Largely because of our choices, our infection rates top 1 million new cases of COVID-19 infections each week. During a pandemic, people board airplanes in record numbers and travel during the Thanksgiving holiday. Weddings continue to be held in public. Raves continue to be held in secret. Rallies are announced and attended. Masks continue to be optional. Citizens proclaim that they have their ‘rights’ and that no one can tell them what to do.
Au contrare, mon frere. While you do have your rights. You also have your responsibilities. And the very definition of government is force, to quote George Washington. The government does tell you what to do. Most of the time, it is doing this for the public good. And most of the time, you do it or face the music of breaking the law.
And even as one high-profile deny’er and defy’er after another continues to contract the virus and be taken to the hospital, and even as intensive care units reach capacity in city after city, Americans continue to act as they normally would in a very abnormal time. The results are sad, but not surprising. Tragic, but foreseeable.
Our response to this devastation is cliche, too: we want a cure-all we can take that will tackle the job that we couldn’t manage with a little self-discipline, a little restraint, a little discomfort, a little awareness, a little patience, and a little unselfishness. We want to take a diet pill we see on television instead of eating right and exercising regularly. In short, we want to ‘hack’ this pandemic with something quick and easy that doesn’t require effort from us.
The vaccine appears to be the answer. And, God, I hope it is. Because if it isn’t, and people taking it have life-threatening allergic reactions or damaging side effects, we may find ourselves in a worse situation than we’re in right now.
The situation we’re in right now is one so perilous that it requires an ‘experiment’: a well-intentioned but hastily developed solution that will inevitably have results that may be beneficial on the whole in the short term, but which may also include variables and consequences not completely or even mostly known in the long term.
Specifically, in the view of the United States government, this experiment (the distribution of this vaccine) must be conducted on people because we face an epidemic that is out of control.
As I noted, the long-term health effects of this vaccine are unknown, but hopefully it will prove effective overall. It is imperfect, I’m sure, but I suspect it is viewed as the safest, most viable solution to an overwhelming crisis. The prevailing view, I believe, is that it is better to offer an imperfect product now than a more perfect product later. We are certain to protect and help some people, even most people, even if there are acceptable losses in the process. Cold and callous, but that’s the nature of governing.
This crisis in not one we as a nation could have avoided, to be sure. We are citizens of this planet who share oxygen and travel globally. However, much of the suffering could have been minimized with some leadership in the political sphere and some common sense and discipline in the public space. We as Americans have failed on both counts.
I hope all of you understand where I’m coming from. I care about people. And I’m old enough to have watched numerous medications, products, and procedures approved by the FDA in one year turn out to have disastrous results for innocent, trusting men, women, and children the next year. And those fiascos occurred during normal times, absent a global pandemic breathing down our necks.
Of course, I have no opinion about whether or not you should take the vaccine when it is offered. That’s your decision. As always, I do hope you’ll all remain safe and healthy during this difficult time.
All of you have, by and large, been very good at keeping the comments civil and sane. As this is a very delicate subject, I’ll need you to be even more vigilant: think before you comment, and keep it between the lines. I like to hear everyone’s opinion, but cuckoo-for-cocoapuffs responses will not be published. Thanks for understanding and I look forward to reading your best, most considered thoughts.