What 2020 has helped us see
Lessons learned in a dark year
“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
Those are the opening lines of a well-known poem by the late Theodore Roethke about how hard times can make you see things you didn’t know were there.
Thanks to COVID-19, the year 2020 brought the darkest times that many of us have ever experienced. Willing or not, we’ve all been conscripted into a global war against a global enemy.
That war has pushed us into lengthy periods of enforced house arrest and enforced isolation, hard sacrifices we agree to make for the greater good.
For many low-wage, non-unionized workers and small business people, the pandemic has created an economic calamity. It has inflicted incalculable damage on the education of children and youth.
And there’s the fear: Will the virus enter my community? Will I be next?
But it’s also opened our eyes to things that were always there but we often never noticed. Here’s just some of them:
• We saw that when a grave crisis hits us, we need the protection of strong central governments willing to spend generously and take quick decisions, no matter how unpopular.
• We saw what the perilous state of Nunavut’s housing stock actually costs. Last February and March, many warned the territory’s grossly overcrowded social housing system puts the population at enormous risk. Some said if the coronavirus ever took hold in a community, it could spread like a wildfire. What we’ve seen in Arviat this year proves the accuracy of that prediction.
• We saw what the fragile state of Nunavut’s health-care system and its unstable workforce actually cost. There’s a price to be paid for the many thousands of Nunavut patients who must travel to the south and back every year.
• In the south, we saw a humanitarian disaster unfold inside long-term care homes for the elderly. When the Nunavut government designs and builds its own advanced long-term care homes, we hope the Health Department applies the lessons learned.
• We saw the nearly unusable state of the territory’s telecom networks and transportation supply chains. At year-end, students and workers in many communities are still unable to study or do their jobs. Airlines that deliver food and medicine to Nunavut also required regular infusions of cash to remain aloft.
• We saw that the people of Nunavut are kind, generous and well aware of community interconnectedness. Just look at all the fundraisers and the online prayer sessions and all the messages of goodwill.
• Despite the territory’s well-documented incapacities, we saw that the people of Nunavut are strong enough to endure the kind of full-blown lockdown that southern jurisdictions like Ontario could not find the stomach to impose.
This will not be an easy winter. Vaccines are only now starting to roll out and it will take months before we can benefit from their protection.
So over the holidays we’ll have to find the will to do what we want to do least: isolate ourselves from friends and family for the sake of our mutual protection. But we now know we can get through it. And we also know that what we’ve all learned will help us do better next time.