“May you live in interesting times!”
This is supposed to be a Chinese curse but there is no evidence to suggest it originated in China nor is there a corresponding saying in the Chinese languages.
The intent of the quote – that interesting times provide excitement, doubt, opportunity, despair, advancement, loss – is apparent to almost everyone who has heard it. Interesting times are times of turbulence and strife. And living in interesting times means you might not have the peaceful and serene life you hoped for but rather one filled with uncertainty and tension.
For much of the past decade, we have been living in uninteresting times.
Remember when the only thing you had to worry about was who was going to pick up the kids from school or what was for dinner? After the financial crisis of 2008 (another interesting time) almost everyone I know settled down to what appeared to be a life of quiet and serenity.
Unemployment was down. Employment was up. The stock market seemed to be doing well as were our pension plans. International trade was on the rise. Prices on some big-ticket items were holding steady or even dropping. For a few short years, the future looked rosy and uninteresting.
Of course, having said that, I am sure many readers will recall the last decade of pre-COVID differently. Climate change, ongoing labour issues, environmental degradation, rising national debt, and a host of other problems - we never really live in uninteresting times. There is always something disrupting our life of tranquility and happiness.
Maybe that is our lot in life, to constantly have to struggle to survive. After all, struggling for survival seems to be the way of the natural world.
The above leads us to this past week because we are definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, living in interesting times.
The December job numbers suggest we are about to be hit by another round of lay-offs and rollbacks. The service sector and particularly the hospitality sector have been hit hard while some of the other major sectors (i.e. manufacturing) are seeing job growth (or return might be a better way to put it). Overall 63,000 jobs were lost across the country in December but significantly more in the service sector alone.
Last week also saw record highs in COVID-19 cases and fatalities. Last spring, Canada hovered around 12thplace in the world with regard to cases but over the summer, we dropped to as low as number 33. Over the past four weeks, we have climbed our way back into the top 25 and, at our present pace, we should pass Belgium and Romania in a few days taking us to the 22ndspot.
Too many of our friends and families have caught this virus. Too many have died unnecessarily. Too many are going to living with the repercussions of a disease which has lingering long term effects.
And yet there are still members of our community who deny the existence of the disease, who think the medical community is lying, who think mask wearing is some sort of affront to their freedom and human rights.
In response, I would quote George Clooney: “Your freedom is this: You're free to smoke until your lungs turn black, but you can't do it on the bus… This is one [rule] that says: Put on a mask and we'll get through this. We've got vaccines coming — let's save another 60,000 lives before the vaccines."
Or maybe if you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t ask for medical assistance if you get sick.
But to top off the week, there was the spectacle of US citizens storming their own Capitol building, attacking police, and disrupting the certification of electoral votes by Congress. All at the behest of the orange monster himself. No, he didn’t tell them to seize the Capitol and takeover the government.
Trump simply said: “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved… We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.”
Trump told them to walk over to the Capitol and be strong.
Incite a crowd. Keep telling them they’ve been wronged. Repeatedly say the election was stolen. Tell them even the Vice-President isn’t going to save Trump. Can anyone be truly surprised at the result?
Yes, we live in interesting times. Hopefully, one day, we may get back to peace and tranquility.