Monday, 22 February 2021


Cabin fever is consuming the Province. The latest manifestation is on social media, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health acknowledges, dozens of people are sending her gifts. Some propose that a street should be named in her honor. Some call this virtue worship.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is a busy gal to be sure and we should applaud her work - and those who support it – but I find myself in the group that will let time and perspective evaluate the enduring contributions of society’s presumptively worthy.

The idea of virtue worship, the unwavering belief in and an unquestioning reverence for authority figures, was something to which I gave mental notice recently. It happened as I took a hard right at the bottom of “Danny Way”, the stark empty landscape confirmation that I had either come face to face with prophesy or landed in a place reserved for Mars' Perseverance. Worryingly, I reversed and drove in the other direction; my intended destination, the site of COVID-19 testing, was situated a little to the east.

That might have been a mistake, too, though not as painful as Galway it had a Martian quality. “Three hours at this test site”, one indignant and “presumptive” person explained, now trying to recover from frostbite and engine fumes, his diminished blood circulation having forced him out into the cold. Perhaps he wasn’t “presumptive”; just “presumptuous”.  I should have listened more carefully.  “Award winning”, he growled, a hint of sarcasm confirming that he had more to say.

“S’pose it never occurred to anyone in Eastern Health to pick up the phone to one or a few of the car dealers and say: we want your big, drive-through garage for a few days until we figure out a more civilized arrangement - say one befitting a place not just with a Medical School, but a School of Engineering, too.” He was right, of course. 

The notion that, given all our Smartphones and countless high-paid professionals, we still need to queue mercilessly in the dead of winter is evidence not just of an overfunded and dysfunctional healthcare system, but of the mistaken belief that the system needs doctors when people in logistics, including some engineers, would do just fine.

The Premier of Ontario didn’t pick Col. Rick Hillier to organize vaccine distribution because he had practiced jabbing an orange! 

Strangely, NAPE labels this type of "front-line" endurance as heroism when, more correctly, they ought to be simply questioning the 1960s mentality of management. But that's politics.

And, on the subject of logistics, before any canonization of anyone - including Dr. Fitzgerald - is contemplated, we should not let our collective cabin fever suppress any analysis of our penchant for genuflection. We were a sparse island at the start of the pandemic; no catastrophic eruption has occurred since, except a most aggressive invasion of the Covid-19 coronavirus; altogether 801 cases so far. We barely still – and only barely - have two or three airports which emit a sparse few who need tracking. Oh! And one ferry. Somehow, we are expected to assume that it is cheaper to shut down most of the provincial economy rather than control the few sites of entry. 

The same dysfunction lies beneath a three-hour queue. 

Hard as it may seem, there is good reason, amidst cabin fever and the need for normalcy, to assess the actions of the “Chiefs” that govern us.

The Chief Medical Officer of Heath - and the CEO of Eastern Health - may, yet, be deserving of a street name. We should wait and see.

What of the besieged Chief Electoral Officer, Bruce Chaulk, the self-assertive remonstrator against deficient legislative drafting; scion of participatory democracy? What edifice do we name for him? The new Law School? 

Possibly, the law library will do.

Who would deny an unsubsidized group of law students the opportunity to parse tomes such as: “How I Interpreted the NL Elections Act and Refused to Explain", "How I Disenfranchised Seniors in the Controverted Election of 2021”, and the zinger: “The Scarlet Thinking of a Non-Legal Mind”? 

Problem is, nothing is for free including Olympian-sized ennoblements, prematurely awarded. It is fine to be history’s most gracious society, but what about the dictum: "no good deed will go unpunished"? Few icons survive most any scrutiny. Then there's Twitter's own noble reputation to be considered. When has the platform ever missed an opportunity to ‘shoot the messenger’? 

That is why, in the case of the Chief Returning Officer, too, forbearance and restraint is counselled. If, for example, the voter turnout is less than forty percent, I suggest that all "naming" bets are off, even for the Law Library! 

Worries over any invocation of virtue worship risks the prospect of being too fast or too slow, possibly at the same time. NL politics - even today - is replete with examples. Think of the man who delivered the "Atlantic Accord" - no, no not Danny, silly - how many in all of NL, let alone Mount Pearl, know where to find Peckford Place?

Saint Thomas Aquinas
In contrast, after just six months Premier Furey has already been bestowed an honour equivalent to that given Thomas Aquinas. As much as the Twitteratti are merciless participants in the blame game, this conferral, while not confined to that august social media platform, is evidence that occasionally it is possessed of particular convivial moments. A case in point: Not once has Twitter blamed Premier Furey for having redefined Newfoundland’s new world order, with Justin as Saviour. Even the Liberal Magnificat (aka, the “Red” Book), notwithstanding its content of multiple innocuously repurposed parables, is deemed purposeful by well over fifty percent of the electorate.  

It is truly a textbook example of virtue worship’s perturbation; one all too typical of the kind that arises within the paradigm of pandemic. 

That is why I emphasize, again, the importance of sobriety associated less with cabin fever than something more natural, the kind that is a by-product of normal social interaction. It is a lasting strategy that employs both time and, yes, a virtue, called patience. At least, then, it is less likely that the recipient is named for a cul-de-sac rather than a boulevard. 

There is one other thing, however, of which you can be certain: The machinations of the virtuous will endure – or not – and eventually “cabin fever”, and hopefully, virtue worship, too, will be replaced with just the sheer joy of the “cabin”.