How Could You?

I will be the first to admit that there is much about this world that I simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

For example, in what I consider to be the First World, meaning in those countries leading the world in economic growth, educational opportunities and scientific advancement, populations are generally well educated, and middle class prosperous. We may, and do, have differences of opinion on political matters so we often disagree on ideology. We also often differ on matters relating to religious belief, but we manage to live peacefully (mostly) with our neighbours.

We have available to us the best of medical care and a social welfare safety net system that is unmatched in less developed countries. And yes, as Canadians we can tell our American friends that they do in fact live in a social democracy. American governments provide roads, free education for their children, a certain amount of health care under programs designed for seniors and others, and many, many other government services. Americans are already socialists; they just don’t know it yet.

It’s fair game to have political discourse on how best we deliver medical care, educational opportunities and financial gain, but I think we can all agree on the generalities here. Western governments are not perfect, but they provide opportunities and protections in equal measure. Those of us born in western democracies have won the lottery.

I am not arguing that we are without poverty in North America. I am not suggesting that all segments of our populations have equal access to the best health/medical care known to man. And I am certainly not arguing that we are without real Third World problems right here in the middle of our First World comfort zones. All we have to do to understand that we have real Third World conditions here in Canada and the United States is to look at the number of First Nations Communities in our countries that do not have access to safe drinking water. Safe drinking water is a topic for another day, as is social democracy, but to go full circle in terms of what I’m trying to say…… Generally speaking, that is.

In both Canada and the United States, we are educated, meaning we should be critical thinkers who can research and digest credible information with the intention of coming to informed opinions and conclusions.

We are prosperous. We are informed. We have access to unlimited amounts and sources of credible information. And yet, somehow, somewhere, and someway, some people still come out of the exercise forming the most ill-advised opinions and making the most imprudent decisions. And these decisions will affect not only themselves, but their families, the communities in which they live, and the countries they claim they would die for.

A prime example of which I speak……..

I once worked for a company that employed as many medical doctors, scientific PhDs, nurses and other medical professionals as they did “civilians”. During my very early tenure with this company, I was naive enough to promote the idea that we (meaning the office building in which I worked) were big enough to host a flu clinic. To make a long story short, on the full day of the clinic, in a building which housed more than 350 people, less than a dozen people showed up to receive a flu shot.

Now, you might want to defend such people, and suggest to me that such educated and informed individuals must have taken advantage of other medical services and availed themselves of the flu shot. And, no doubt, some of them did. The reality for me, however, was shocking.

For there I sat among the educated and informed masses, an old political hack with a comparatively humble academic background in Political Science and Economics, and a resume that showed a work history of having served in a host of different government positions, only one of which could even remotely be considered “health” related.

At the time I remember feeling like I was “the cock of the walk”. I was doing “good” for my community because I was at least partly responsible for organizing the flu shot clinic But when I asked my co-workers – these medical and scientifically trained professionals – why they didn’t take advantage of the flu clinic, a goodly number of them answered “my gosh, no, don’t you know the dangers associated with immunization?” “Don’t you ever read anything on the internet?” Or, my favourite dumb response “Don’t you know its much better for you if you let your body fight all diseases naturally?  Yes, yes, a few poor sous may die, but the rest of us will be stronger for our suffering.”

I mean, come on people, these were medical doctors and scientists I was dealing with!

I was, and still am to this day, speechless as to the response I received after that flu clinic. The whole exercise made me feel like I was in an uneducated, underfunded and somewhat backward Third World environment, and the year was really 1920 or thereabouts.

I was watching CNN this morning, and suddenly, I was listening to a report about a woman who lived somewhere in the mid-West United States, and whose son had just died from the flu. This woman had apparently joined some Facebook group that had been set up to support parents who had suffered the loss of a child. This Facebook Group was pro-immunization, and its members went busily about their business of welcoming the grieving mother and trying to help her understand that she was not responsible for the death of her son, because all of her kids had been vaccinated, and immunization saves lives.

But immediately upon starting the Facebook banter, this woman came under immediate attack from anti-vaxxer trolls who called the woman a lying schemer because everyone knew that the woman in question really didn’t have children, and therefore, it was impossible………… If you want to discredit someone, use the big lie, because there is no lie as good or as believable as THE BIG LIE. Donald Trump has taught us how to believe the big lie. So, in terms of the immunization story, you no doubt could write the rest yourself.

You already know this story, my friends. Measles was effectively eliminated in Canada by 2002, and that was a good thing because measles has a mortality rate of 1 to 2 per thousand in developed countries like Canada and the United States, and 3 to 5 per thousand in developing Third World countries. Measles is dangerous stuff and it is a killer. Never the less, the educated masses to whom I referred earlier don’t always get it.
Prior to widespread vaccinations in 1980, the World Health Organization estimates measles caused 2.6 million deaths every year. By 2012, with 84 per cent of the world’s children vaccinated, that global number was reduced to 122,000 — which is still 14 deaths every hour. Measles can also cause pneumonia, deafness, blindness and brain damage. Again, measles is a killer. What’s not to get?
Those are the facts and educated people with access to great medical facilities and services should be able to think rationally about immunization. Given the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement in North America, however, I am left to ponder the nature of human intellect.

In the absence of doubt, when it appears that all is under control or about to come under control, do we as human beings purposefully seek out contrary evidence to that which is scientifically proven and readily available? Is there a need in some of us to create the greatest amount of chaos possible, no matter the cost to our own children?

California has already moved forward with legislation to take on the anti-vaxxers, and other Western States in the US are becoming more pro-active as well. Here in Canada, every province has top-notch immunization programs available to our populations, but the loop holes are many. Its time for Canadian governments, meaning Provincial governments, to follow the lead of California and make immunization mandatory, with the only exemption being a medical exemption.

Our children deserve no less. My grandchildren certainly deserve no less, and I will do whatever I can to see them safe.

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