The province of Manitoba in the Dominion of Canada, one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Commonwealth Realms, is my home. We have seen two types of protests directed against the provincial government in recent months, both objecting to the province’s response to the spread of the Wuhan bat flu. One type of protest, such as that which took place in Steinbach on the 14th of November, expresses opposition to the public health orders as trampling all over our basic freedoms of association, assembly and religion and our prescriptive and constitutional civil rights. The other type of protest expressed the views of the socialist opposition party, its leader Wab Kinew and his health critic, and their far left echo chamber in the media which features such automatons as the CBC’s Bartley Kives and the Winnipeg Free Press’s Dan Lett and Ryan Thorpe. Those involved in this type of protest take the position that the government’s public health orders have been too few, too light, and too slowly enacted, and that the government by not imposing a harsh lockdown the moment the case numbers started to rise in the fall, is responsible for all the deaths we have seen since September.
My sympathies are entirely with the first group of protesters, as anyone who has read a word I have previously written on the subject already knows. I should say that my sympathies are with the protesters' basic position. I don’t much care for the rhetoric of civil disobedience, rebellion, and populism in which that position is often expressed at those protests.
While the second group of protesters are certainly entitled to their opinion and the free expression of the same, a freedom that I note many if not most of them would prefer to deny to me and others who take my side of the issue, their position is easily debunked from an ethical point of view.
When a virus is spreading, government is not required to do everything in its power to slow or stop the spread. Indeed, it has a moral obligation NOT to do everything in its power to slow or stop the spread of the virus. This is because the government has the power to do tremendous evil as well as good.
Let us agree that saving lives that are at risk from the virus is in itself a good and worthy goal. Stopping and slowing the spread of the virus may be a means to that end, but whether it is a good means to a good end or a bad means to a good end is debatable. Slowing the spread of the virus increases the total length of the pandemic, stretching out the time we have to deal with this plague over a much longer period than would otherwise be the case. That can hardly be regarded as desirable in itself. Quite the contrary in fact. Whether this is an acceptable evil, worth tolerating in order to achieve the end of lives saved, depends upon a couple of considerations.
First it depends upon the effectiveness of the method of slowing the spread of the virus in saving lives. If the method is not effective, then the evil of artificially lengthening the period of the pandemic is much less tolerable.
Second it depends upon the means whereby the stopping or slowing of the virus, considered as an end itself, is to be accomplished. If those means are themselves bad, this compounds the evil of stretching out the pandemic.
Neither of these considerations provides much in the way of support for concluding that a longer pandemic is an evil made tolerable by a good end, such as saving lives.
With regards to the first consideration, it is by no means clear that any lives have been saved in this way at all. Indeed, at the beginning of the first lockdown, back when everyone was repeating the phrase “flatten the curve” ad naseum, the experts advising this strategy told us that it would not decrease the total lives lost but merely spread them out so that the hospitals would not be overwhelmed at once. This, in my opinion at least, was not nearly as desirable an end as saving lives and not one sufficient to make the lockdown measures acceptable.
This brings us to our second criteria. The means by which our government health officials have tried to slow or stop the spread of the virus are neither morally neutral nor positively good. On the contrary, they are positively evil. They inflict all sorts of unnecessary misery upon people. Advocates of the lockdown method sometimes maintain that the damage inflicted is merely economic and therefore “worth it” to save lives. This would be a dubious conclusion even if the premise were valid. The premise is not valid, however, and it is highly unlikely that those who state it seriously believe what they are saying.
Telling people to stay home and avoid all contact with other people does not just hurt people financially, although it certainly does that if their business is forced to close or their job is deemed by some bureaucrat to be “non-essential”. It forces people to act against their nature as social beings, deprives them of social contact which is essential to their psychological and spiritual wellbeing, which are in turn essential to their physical wellbeing. Mens sana in corpore sano. The longer people are deprived of social contact, the more loneliness and a sense of isolation will erode away at their mental health. Phone, e-mail, and even video chat, are not adequate substitutes for in-person social contact.
All of this was true of the first lockdown in the spring but it is that much more true with regards to the second lockdowns that are now being imposed. The first lockdown was bad enough, but the second lockdown, imposed for at least a month, coming right before Christmas in the same year as the first, will be certain to pile a sense of hopelessness and despair on top of the inevitable loneliness and isolation. The government has kept liquor stores and marijuana vendors open, even though the combination of alcohol and pot with hopelessness, loneliness, and despair is a recipe for self-destructive behaviour, while ordering all the churches, which offer, among other things, hope, to close. This is evil of truly monstrous proportions. It can only lead to death – whether by suicide, addictive self-destruction, or just plain heart brokenness.
The protesters who accuse Brian Pallister and the government he leads of murder for having re-opened our economy from the first lockdown and not having imposed a second one right away when the cases began to rise are wrong-headed about the matter as they, generally being leftists, are wrong-headed about everything. The government does not become morally culpable for deaths because it refrains from taking actions which are extremely morally wrong in themselves in order to achieve the goal of saving lives. Not imposing a draconian lockdown does not translate into the murder of those for whom the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus becomes one health complication too many.
Where Pallister does bear moral culpability for deaths is with regards to all the people who will kill themselves, or perhaps snap and kill others, drink themselves to death or accomplish the same with drugs, or simply give up on life in hopeless gloom and despair because he has allowed Brent Roussin, once again, to impose these totalitarian public health orders.
Roussin has been going on television as of late, showing pictures of people who have died, and lecturing Manitobans on how these are not just numbers but people. This is a kind of sleight-of-hand, by which he hopes to distract the public from all the harm he is actively causing, and he knows full well that lockdowns are themselves destructive and lethal for he admitted as much a couple of months ago thus compounding his guilt now, by manipulating their emotions.
Does Roussin realize that this street runs both ways?
What about the young man, Roussin, who would otherwise have had decades of life ahead of him, much more than those whose deaths you have been exploiting to justify your bad decisions, but who killed himself because you cancelled his job as "non-essential", took away his social life, and left him with the prospect of long-term isolation? Do you not realize that he is a person as well?
In the end, those who die from the lockdown may very well turn out to outnumber by far those who succumb to the bat flu. In which case all that Roussin will have accomplished will have been to exchange a smaller number of deaths for which he would not have been morally responsible for a larger number of deaths that leave his hands permanently stained with blood.