Friday 11 February 2022

Freedom Convoy 2022

All I hear from the elites is, "ew, truckers! They're ignorant GED holders who don't know what's in their best interest! If they refuse to get vaccinated, then fuck them!"

OR, "ew, truckers! They're ignorant GED holders who are probably being organized by a shadowy cabal of Russians! Or Q-anon! Or Trump!"

Imagine if you will. A pandemic hits. You're a blue collar essential worker, which means you can't work from the safety of your home. There are no vaccines, no known treatments, and the virus is actually pretty scary. We don't know much about it, but what we do know is that it's really contagious and it's killing people. The country locks down, but you keep showing up for work. Maybe you don't want to, but you don't have a choice. You can't quit because you'd be quitting without cause, which means you won't get unemployment insurance. The government closes all nonessential businesses, then passes several relief bills in quick succession (let's collectively call them CERB). The total cost of this first round of coronavirus relief exceeds the entirety of the previous year's federal revenue. And 2019 was a GOOD year. An entire year's revenue spent in the space of a month or two, just on coronavirus relief. People around you have been laid off because of closures, and they get paid exactly what they were earning at their jobs. To sit safely at home and play video games. Maybe they'd rather be working. You don't know. What you do know is there are essential job openings at your workplace. More staff are needed to deal with the new sanitization regimen, and there have been people who've quit because they didn't need to work, or who were able to take medical leave because their doctors agreed they're vulnerable.

You aren't in their position, and you're working extra shifts to take up the slack. And you aren't seeing any CERB recipients applying. Just noobs straight out of high school who have no other option.

Still other people around you, most of whom earn 6 figures or close to it, can work remotely from their home offices. To them, the new normal is GREAT, because the commute is less than a minute, and they don't have to pay for dry cleaning or parking. Financial correspondents on CNN will a year later report that it was a record year in terms of median savings.

Sure. For people who earn enough to vacation in Cancun or Paris, but had to stick that money in savings instead. And again, that ain't you.

YOUR commute is still the same hour and 10 minutes each way by bus. Except now the ratio of passengers is more meth-heads and fewer commuters. Which is super awesome. But you deal.
Every day, you strap on your steel toes and take that bus to work. For a few months in the spring of 2020, public transit is free. Not for your benefit, mind you. It's because in order to pay or show your pass, you'd have to enter by the front door of the bus, and that would put the driver at risk. Still, it's better than nothing. Except for all the extra meth-heads. You listen to the radio and turn on the TV, and realize the government has spent millions of those CERB dollars on ads praising and thanking essential workers like you. "We're in this together," is the constant mantra. Well, no. Not really. Unlike those receiving government benefits, you're bearing the burden of essential work, doing what needs to be done, and paying taxes on the modest income you earn through your productivity.

And unlike those who can work from home, most of whom earn 2 to 3 times what you do, you're ALSO bearing the constant risk of infection.

It doesn't exactly feel like everyone's in it together.

You wonder sometimes whether maybe the government could have cobbled together an essential worker coronavirus tax credit. A little bonus for people like you, who have no choice but to make society go, whether you're scared or not. But I guess it was cheaper and easier to pay a marketing company and purchase ad spots to tell you and the millions of others like you just how much you're appreciated.

"We're in this together," after all. And the people making the decisions? The people picking the winners and the losers, choosing who will be put at risk and who will be kept safe and financially supported? Yeah. Their paychecks, and the paychecks of those they chose to protect and provide for, are siphoned off of the incomes of workers just like you, who have to provide for themselves, and who don't enjoy any protection. But you know. At least they're willing to spend some of that money to tell you how important you are. Vital, really. If it weren't for brave people like you, who have been given no option other than to keep working and risking your health, then all these other people who aren't working and all the other ones who aren't bearing the risk, well, they wouldn't be kept safe and fed and sheltered by your labor and your tax dollars.

You keep lacing up your boots and walking to the bus stop. Unloading the trucks and keeping the shelves stocked. This is a crisis, dontcha know, and no one should have to go without. Pallets of gourmet, organic dog treats, $12/pound spelt flour (WTF is spelt anyway?), and other vital "necessities" continue to arrive, and you continue to make sure they get where they need to go. In early December 2021, you catch COVID. By then, your employer has a program for paid COVID leave in place. It wouldn't be fair to make the taxpayer foot the bill for your mandatory 14 day quarantine, after all. They don't even make you use your vacation pay. By this point, there's no more "We thank our essential workers, and let's all remember that we're in this together" messaging on the radio. You're actually kind of glad you don't have to listen to that bullshit anymore.

You continue to put your steel toes on and go to work. There still aren't enough people to fill all the shifts. The public has demanded InstaCart for all, and that means more work for everyone. Have a serf do the shopping, bag it all up, and deliver it right to the trunk of the car. No one got a raise, though. Because the company is struggling.
Days later, the government cancels Christmas. $1500 fines per adult for multi-household indoor gatherings. But you, your parents and brothers have now all had COVID and have immunity, so fuck it. You're having Christmas with your family, and if you get busted, you'll all tell them where they can stick their fines. Over the next 8 months or so, the government vacillates between opening and closing the economy. But none of that really affects you. You're an essential worker. You go to work, you come home, you pay your bills and your taxes. Your favorite local restaurant opens, closes, opens, closes, changes hours, closes, changes hours back to normal, closes, reopens... You can live without calzone night on Saturdays, I guess.

Then the government tells nonessential businesses like restaurants that they have a choice. They can continue to operate at half capacity, or they can operate at full capacity and require customers show proof of vaccination or a $40 negative rapid antigen test less than 72 hours old. By this point, 80% of the population has been vaccinated, so every single business chooses the latter.

Your calzone place, two blocks from your home, won't even let you pick up an order in person without paying a $40 surcharge just to enter the building. It's hard to blame them. They could get fined $10,000 for each violation of the rules.

The government has said that they're considering an "equivalent to vax" passport for the previously infected, but it might take months for them to determine whether natural immunity exists.

Even though vaccination is just artificially induced natural immunity. And even though more than 100 different studies from all across the globe confirm that you're at least as protected as someone who's only been vaccinated. You might be blue collar, but you're not a moron. You know that if natural immunity doesn't exist, a vaccine COULDN'T exist.

But the vaccinated get the keys to the kingdom. Meanwhile, you have to pay a $5 delivery fee to have someone who's officially "safe" drive your calzones one block to your house, because you're not allowed to enter the building. Why? Because if the government admits natural immunity exists, it might slow vaccine uptake.

Christmas comes around again. Your grandfather died about 7 weeks ago. Not from COVID, thank goodness, because that would have been really tragic.

Your grandmother and most of your extended family have gotten on a plane and flown across the country to go celebrate together. Not you, your parents or your bothers, though. You all had it and after looking into all the research and doing a risk/benefit analysis, decided not to get vaccinated. The risks might be rare, but why take that risk when the vaccine will only make you exactly as immune as you already are?

But you know. No vax, no boarding pass. Even for domestic flights.

So. First Christmas without grandpa, and it's just 5 little lepers eating turkey and watching Die Hard movies 3500km away from the rest of the family. If they'd held it here, the entire family could have spent the holidays together. But why would they? You should have just gotten vaccinated like you were told. Why can't you just cooperate?

So here you are. You put yourself at risk. Not by choice, but because you were essential and the essential weren't given a choice. You paid the price for that risk and it knocked you on your ass for 8 days. The moment you were better and cleared to go, you were back at work making sure rich people had an uninterrupted supply of quinoa and free range duck for confit, whatever the fuck confit is.

You keep unloading the trucks. You keep stocking all the shelves. Then you do their shopping for them and put it right in the trunk of their car. You've been doing this for 20 months, except for that couple of weeks you became a filthy leper and weren't safe to be around. Then, under extreme pressure from the government, your employer decides it's either proof of vax or $80/week out of YOUR pocket to get constantly nose-raped and prove you're not infected. Just to earn the privilege of continuing to be an essential worker.

And if you refuse both options? You'll be fired. With cause. So no unemployment insurance for you.

And you refuse. People ask you, "why don't you just comply?!" Your response is, "I've been doing nothing but comply for almost 2 years now. I went to work every day. I bore the risk and paid the price, all so that you could sit safely on your ass collecting a portion of MY paycheck, or work from the safety of your own home with necessities delivered to the trunk of your car or your door. I masked even though I hated it, I socially distanced and learned how not to hug people, I sanitized my hands until they were raw, I rode that nightmare of a bus every damn day while the rest of you commuted across the hall or not at all, and I ended up getting COVID because I didn't have the luxury of hiding under the bed until there was a vaccine. I didn't put myself at risk because I'm some hero who voluntarily sacrificed for the sake of others, but because I wasn't given a choice. And maybe if I had been, I'd have chosen to do that, but I wasn't offered that choice. I was told to work or starve. Because I was essential.

"I've been a disposable human since this pandemic began, but at least I was an essential worker. Now I'm a disposable everything. Because, so they tell me, we're in this together."

"Even babies raised by wolves, they know exactly when they've been used." - Gordon Downie
"Trudeau can lick my sweaty butt crack." - Karen Straughan