What H1N1 helped us see

Wise men say a single evil occurrence may actually help teach a lesson more valuable than one thousand words of advice.

Wise men say a single evil occurrence may actually help teach a lesson more valuable than one thousand words of advice.

Could the H1N1 epidemic (if it is really one) be one of such occurrences?

Let’s think: Since we have found that baby in our lap, we have discovered so much about ourselves that we were not even willing to talk about.

The first discovery relates to our incompetence and our state of unpreparedness in a crisis situation.

You will remember, it was only days after the federal government announced its approval of the use of the vaccine as a preventive measure that we found out we did not have enough of it, and neither did we have the capacity to produce it in required amounts to maintain mass vaccination clinics in any one of the provinces.

Further, a recent study commissioned by the Senate commission on national security and defence said Canada was “discouragingly” unprepared for national emergencies.

The report blasted both provincial and federal governments for a “lethargic” approach to emergency preparedness that doesn’t give adequate or flexible enough funding to emergency services.

It said bureaucratic wrangling and a lack of co-ordination among all levels of government are hindering much-needed improvements to the system.

This was on the national front.

Coming to our own province, H1N1 helped to show another social ill, still very much alive under the surface of a functioning healthy democratic society.

Calgary Flames, the pride of at least one half of the province and of many others elsewhere, did not see anything wrong in jumping the queue to have their players, coaches, managers, staff and families (probably extended families) vaccinated as officials were scratching their heads to find a solution to the problem of vaccine shortage.

This has just proved once again that we are living in a social setting where the idea of being “more equal” among all the equals and the temptation to allow this unequal equality to survive and thrive, as and where possible, remain intrinsically strong.

That one or two officials have been fired over the embarrassing saga can not bring any real relief as we are clearly reminded that there is always potential for such unfairness in every walk of life.

H1N1 will probably remain as the main topic of daily conversations for another few weeks and months and it will die down with the onset of spring.

H1N1 was never a really major threat. By the time it vanishes from our screens, quite a number of people will have made a lot of money, politicians and health officials will have lost (or gained) points depending on how they handled the problem.

Let’s hope that it will also have helped us see what is wrong with us, at least to some extent.

— Mustafa Eric