Many moons ago, I registered to an Executive MBA program. One of these weekend programs that tries to impart knowledge to mature professionals who needed a stamp of approval for their careers. For me, one of the program<s big problems, was that you had to match up in teams of 5 people during the first introductory session and remain a team for the 2-year duration of the program (!)
One class however, Information Systems, allowed you to submit individual papers. I loved that class. It was a perfect mix of management, technology, and information sharing.
But you still had to meet as a group to discuss cases. At one of these meetings, we were asked to create an information management system for a t-shirt shop.
Three of my teammates worked in middle to senior management at huge companies. They talked endlessly of the systems being used in their organization and came up with ridiculous options for the 2‑employee shop in the scenario we had been given.
I intervened a few times, “but it’s a small shop, we need something adapted to the owners’ needs”. As would be the case my entire 32-year career, they quickly dismissed all my interventions.
Our papers were individually submitted and corrected. The marks of my teammates ran between 35% and 65%.
My grade was 95%. But although super flattering, this story is not about me.
It’s about people who demonstrate rigidity of thinking, by being unable or unwilling to move out of their comfort and knowledge zones and the terrible fall out this creates.
We are still living in dystopian times, with children desperately needing care in hospitals that can no longer cope, lingering heath issues in adults, rampant inflation stopping many from housing and feeding themselves, supply issues stemming from a European war which may be made much worse by China’s abandonment of its draconian Zero Covid policies.
But an overabundance of stubborn “experts” refuse to see these times as extraordinary and adapt their thinking and knowledge accordingly.
For example, the Bank of Canada with its “we’ve always raised rates in inflation times, so we’ll do it again now”stance, blaming high wages (increasing labour costs) and massive employment numbers for inflation and the high prices of food (but never the high prices established by private oligarchies like Telecoms and grocery stores). And the top economists of establishment financial institutions concur with this principle. But no matter how much people want to deny it, we are not living in normal times.
The last global pandemic was more than a century ago and 16 years before the creation of our Canadian central bank. Add to this the country-wide invasion of Ukraine by Russia (much worse than the 2014 Crimean invasion), not to mention the worldwide environmental precariousness and we should see that what worked historically, in a completely different global economic system, could now fail and possibly be highly detrimental to the country and its citizens.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a paper on exactly this from the Centre for the Future of Work.
In another sphere, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held on closely to the “Covid droplet transmission” belief, increasing risk and facilitating the deaths of millions.
The WHO only began promoting ventilation to control spread of the virus (only useful for controlling airborne pathogens) in November 2020, but only changed a mention on its website about this on April 30, 2021 without even communicating the change to the public. The CDC waited until early May to admit the probability of airborne transmission. Even as far as March 2022, the description of the virus as “airborne” was almost completely absent from public WHO communications, outside of one webpage.
The CDC only stated that transmissibility of Covid was similar to chickenpox (an extremely transmissible airborne virus) in August 2021.
Public Health Canada in January 2020, in spite of China moving to airborne protections and the research between the SARS 1 outbreak of 2003 and Covid in 2020, refused to admit Covid was an airborne disease.
Once the Canadian agency admitted to airborne transmission in November 2020, it refused to use the word “airborne” in its communications for another 2 years.
Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) allowed hospitals to continue believing the “droplet dogma” of Covid transmission, introducing the use of plexiglass in hospitals where better air circulation should’ve been introduced, and stopping staff from using better protective equipment.
This meant that in May 2020, I was asked to take off my KN95 mask in a hospital, to put on a large, baggy, blue surgical mask. A year later (May 2021) I was asked to put the surgical mask over my KN95 mask and then had to wait for a prolonged period in a plexiglass filled environment.
Closer to my home, Ottawa Public Health advised individuals taking physical activity classes that they could remove masks during the activity. I only took in person Tai Chi classes and was the only one masking in one class and one of two in the other. A few participants wore masks in getting to the class, but took it off once inside the gym.
The 2022 article What were the historical reasons for the resistance to recognizing airborne transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic? Says it best:
“…the hesitancy to consider or adopt the idea of airborne transmission of pathogens was, in part, due to a conceptual error that was introduced over a century ago and became ingrained in the public health and infection prevention fields: a dogma that transmission of respiratory diseases is caused by large droplets, and thus, droplet mitigation efforts would be good enough. These institutions also displayed a reluctance to adjust even in the face of evidence, in line with sociological and epistemological theories of how people who control institutions can resist change, especially if it seems threatening to their own position; how groupthink can operate, especially when people are defensive in the face of outsider challenge; and how scientific evolution can happen through paradigm shifts, even as the defenders of the old paradigm resist accepting that an alternative theory has better support from the available evidence.”
But now there are no mask mandates at all and whichever organization refused to spend money on proper ventilation will continue to refuse to do so.
The message I’m hearing is “you can wear a mask if you want, but I will not”. Do you remember a time when people told you: “why don’t you come and sit in the smoking section with us, you don’t have to smoke yourself”? I know better now and would never agree to this, but a big chunk of the reason is because of the banning of indoor smoking. As they say, once you know better, you do better.
But knowing better about Covid got highjacked.
I never thought I would live in a country that allowed kids to get very sick, while at the same time refuse to give nurses well deserved raises, increasing staff shortages. Yes, healthcare here is a provincial responsibility, but all provinces seem to follow with these dogmatic neo-liberalism beliefs that public services are bad, increased privatization is great and we need to maximize private profits at all costs, to the detriment of decent wages, citizens’ health be damned.
Government politicians, hospital CEOs, and senior public health officials don’t face the same risk in getting long-term side effects of Covid or dying from the virus. They have better access to health and medical resources, and inflation has not diminished their wealth. They know who to go to for medical help if needed, and most importantly, who to avoid. They will not be waiting in line anywhere. They have money to spend on any type of prescribed medication.
Their risk, is not our risk.
Ensconced in their health and wealth cocoon, they will not see the desperation and horror around them. They are safe. Anyone getting quite sick is old, or a victim of their own failings and mistakes.
Because they feel superior in their health and only care about themselves and their own, there’s only one way they will change their behaviour and introduce needed change, may it be the funding of better air quality mechanisms, walking back wage cuts (any increase below the inflation rate is a cut, the smaller the increase, the bigger the cut) and/or targeted mask mandates.
They need to get very, very sick. So very sick that they will be stripped of their professional armour and dignity to realize that health is a gift, not a badge of honour. It can be taken away in a week, a day, a minute.
I want them to be so sick, that they finally realize that major illness is not a choice but often the result of unforeseen circumstances and that they owe others support to better health, whenever possible.
Contrary to the dogmatic, I am a pragmatic and want the horrors to stop by any means necessary.
You may see me as heartless, but I reserve my empathy and compassion for the people going through hell right now, victims of the rigidity of thought of too many.
Plexiglass can be ‘counterproductive’ to proper COVID-19 ventilation, experts say | CBC News
Did Global Health Bodies Fail to Stop COVID-19? | The Agenda – YouTube (March 2022)
What were the historical reasons for the resistance to recognizing airborne transmission during the COVID‐19 pandemic? – Jimenez – 2022 – Indoor Air – Wiley Online Library
Scientists warring over how COVID-19 is transmitted: droplets/touch vs aerosols – YouTube (September 2021) discussion on the Canada situation at 9:00 min but the whole interview is interesting.
Covid-19 has redefined airborne transmission (bmj.com)
The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill | WIRED (May 2021) – kudos to librarians everywhere!