The Sunday Magazine·Personal Essay

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

"Many of us are experiencing the Third Quarter Phenomenon. This refers to a decline in performance and an increase in frustration, anger and sometimes aggressive behaviour as a period of confinement winds down. It has especially been experienced by astronauts, people in Arctic bunkers and submariners."

How will we be affected by the changed order of things?

This hand-tooled finished stainless steel sculpture is called Kindred Spirits. It was created by artist Alex Pentek in 2015 and located Midleton, County Cork, Ireland. It celebrates the financial contribution made by the Choctaw Nation to starving Irish people in 1847. (Alex Pentek)
Listen4:44

The United States government began its planned extermination of Indigenous people with the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. 

Over the next dozen or so years, 60,000 Indigenous people were removed from the Southeastern United States and moved to areas west of the Mississippi River. More than 8,000 — more likely about 15,000 — died along the way. The trek became known as the Trail of Tears.

Around 1847, the potato crop in Ireland failed. The resulting famine killed a million Irish people. Word of the famine spread to North America. Some tribes, especially the Choctaw, Cherokee and Seminoles, heard about the famine. They pooled their meagre resources and sent $170 to the starving Irish.

These days, native American tribes, especially the Choctaw Nation, are among the hardest hit with COVID-19. Now Ireland is responding.

Special funds are being set up across the country to send money to the tribes under siege. 

More than 170 years later, Ireland is repaying its debt.

Across the land, everybody just wants it to end. The talk has only two questions: When will it be over, and what will it be like in a post-pandemic world? No one — not the experts, not the pundits — no one has a concrete answer to either question.

Many of us are experiencing the Third Quarter Phenomenon. This refers to a decline in performance and an increase in frustration, anger and sometimes aggressive behaviour as a period of confinement winds down. It has especially been experienced by astronauts, people in Arctic bunkers and submariners.

How will we and the world have changed since we were locked down? Will we be nervous about facing an open and unmasked world? How will we be affected by the changed order of things?

After 9/11, our world changed in a myriad of ways, especially in the way we thought about evil and terror. We became suspicious of foreigners who didn't look and talk like us and who worshipped the same god in a different way. We became obsessed with the "other." Countries closed their shores and their borders to migrants.

We make promises to each other. We will try to repair the damage we have done to our elders in the nursing homes, which have become death traps for many of them. We will make our cities more liveable. We will strive to lessen the inequality gap. We will house the homeless 

The big questions — what to do about China, huge deficits, high unemployment — will be seriously addressed later. In the meantime, we will have to learn how to live with the changes in our personal lives.

There is a parallel pandemic to COVID-19, across the country — a growing plague of violence against women trapped in homes with an abusive men.

In the first month of the pandemic, nine women and girls were murdered by their partners. It is estimated that violence against women has increased nearly 30 per cent since COVID-19 struck. On average in Canada, a woman is killed every six days.

Women and their children are fleeing to shelters or sleeping in their cars. This is something to look at in the weeks to come, but why do we let this violence continue?

Where are the cops? Where are the Crown prosecutors who won't enforce restraining orders? Why do Justices of the Peace continue to grant bail to men who have a record of repeated physical abuse against their partners? 

This epidemic, like the COVID-19 plague, is universal. Countries like the United Kingdom, France, Singapore and the U.S. all report an increase in spousal violence.

The violence is not going to disappear with the pandemic.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full essay.

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