The Sunday Magazine·Personal Essay

A COVID-19 confinement chronicle: week 14 — Michael's essay

“From the moment the COVID-19 virus began to spread, we were at war. At least that's what our political leaders told us. In early March, French president Emmanuel Macron fired the opening salvo. In fact, he said “We are at war” six times in one speech. War is a handy metaphor that politicians love. [This] bellicose metaphor [doesn’t] sit well with the British philosopher Nigel Warburton. He argues that the constant war references can embolden political leaders to enact severely restrictive measures as would be appropriate in a real war.”

'War is a handy metaphor that politicians love'

A resident on Gardens Crescent in East York has put four signs on their front lawn, which thank essential workers and send messages to those who walk by. (Michael Wilson/CBC)
Listen4:34

My neighbours across the road, a retired lawyer and his wife, live in a smart house with a small lawn in front. When I say small, I mean tiny — perhaps the area of a supermarket parking space.

Yet that little patch of greenery may be the best-looking lawn on the street. Every day in every kind of weather, my neighbour is out, sometimes on his knees, weeding, planting, raking, seeding, sodding and trimming with the attention to detail of a PGA greenskeeper.

Laser-like focus is a cliché, but it perfectly describes my neighbour microscopically examining his bits of grass, especially since the start of the lockdown.

I've never paid much attention to lawns or gardens, but since confinement, I have found myself staring at them and wondering about them. Getting things to grow — it takes a special talent and time and endless patience. 

Because I'm lacking in all three, I'll stick to my lockdown crossword puzzles.

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson greets French President, Emmanuel Macron while keeping a social distance at Number 10 Downing Street on June 18, 2020 in London, England. President Macron is the first foreign dignitary to visit the UK since the coronavirus lockdown began. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

From the moment the COVID-19 virus began to spread, we were at war. At least that's what our political leaders told us.

In early March, French president Emmanuel Macron fired the opening salvo. In fact, he said "We are at war" six times in one speech. Boris Johnson jumped in with, "We are engaged in a war against the disease which we have to win." Others, such as the New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised doctors and nurses as warriors in this new and very different war. 

War is a handy metaphor that politicians love. Which is why we had the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, and of course the War on Terror. And we ordinary people "battle" with cancer.

War is a handy metaphor that politicians love. Which is why we had the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, and of course the War on Terror. And we ordinary people 'battle' with cancer.- Michael Enright

None of these bellicose metaphors sits well with the British philosopher Nigel Warburton. 

He argues that the constant war references can embolden political leaders to enact severely restrictive measures, as would be appropriate in a real war.

He cites Viktor Orban in Hungary, who has assigned to himself the power to rule by decree — his.

Warburton writes: "For anyone concerned with civil liberties, there is a real fear that the virus is nudging us into an Orwellian future in which our every move can easily be monitored by the state — and will be."

Lysol wipes at Canadian Tire in Vancouver, B.C., on March 2. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A report by the Centers for Disease Control reveals that an increasing number of Americans are ingesting or adding to their food, dangerous cleaning supplies.

In April, Donald Trump mused about the idea of eating or injecting bleach or other noxious cleaning products to kill the coronavirus.

The makers of Lysol and Clorox immediately issued warnings, urging buyers not to use their products as medicine. 

Despite this, the CDC said many Americans have rubbed cleaning products on their skin, sprayed themselves and their food, inhaled the fumes of household cleansers, or drunk or gargled with diluted bleach.

In a masterpiece of tautology, the CDC reported: "These practices pose a risk of severe tissue damage and corrosive injury and should be strictly avoided."

Toronto Reference Library (Katherine Holland/CBC)

Ta-dah. Finally finished The Mirror and The Light, the astonishing part three of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel. The range and sweep of the novel boggles the mind. Mantel is a genius, plain and simple.

The book is 882 pages. I started reading March 15. I read very slowly.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full essay.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now