No amount of intention saves a drowning child. It takes a body that knows how to swim. A body to dive. A body to take hold of another, and a body with strength to pull both of them out of the deep end to safety.
There is nothing arbitrary about our bodies and the things they do in real life.
So as we see the arbitrary dropping of mandates. Mandates about our bodies and how we cover and move them. As we see masks come off of children in the deep ends of our society, while they stay on shallow adults until March 1st. We have to ask ourselves. If we've been drowning all along. In a deep end of best intentions and dire consequences.
What most of this boils down to is consistency and compliance. We were told that if we all consistently wore masks the virus would be stopped. But when we asked about the consistency of the masks themselves we were given a perverse sort of freedom that we liked because we were a perverse kind of people. The deep end of mask use doesn't care if you prefer to wear a bandana or if you're going to double mask. It knows what works and what doesn't because it wasn't always as subject to public malpractice as our current lifeguards and current drowning victims are today.
When multiple levels of swimmers are all thrown into the deep end it becomes drastically clear who's making it to the edge of the pool and not.
A seasoned and fit (read, fit tested) silicone half-face respirator, with fresh p100 particulate cartridges makes it to the edge of the pool from a powerful dive to the center. With no thought about the danger of deep water or the fact that the lifeguard was busy doing poolside politics at the time. He wears a speedo because it reduces drag and is muscle-bound and sleek. Most importantly he does what he is visibly made to do. The silicone half-face respirator is not arbitrary in the least. Everything he does in the water is intentional.
This is why when the lifeguard said that you have to be able to swim to enter the deep end he dove in because clearly, he could swim. But as he turns around, towel in hand to see who else was in the pool, he's faced with an awful scene.
A non-valved n95 is flailing around in an attempt to breaststroke to the edge. He's making progress but not making things enjoyable because he's splashing around too much. He's in trendy oversized board shorts that restrict his movement and make it hard to do the swimming he thought he could do. He's not drowning but he's also not swimming if you want to call what the half-faced respirator was doing swimming.
A blue surgical mask is screaming at the top of her lungs as she clings to and helps drown a cloth mask in unison. They both obviously thought that since they were together, the deep end wouldn't be so scary. They are both in modest but still appropriate two-piece tankinis that make the wearer look like their wearing a one-piece bathing suit when secretly they are actually wearing a two-piece. The scandal of it all. They match even coordinate with the half-faced respirator's speedo. But looking the part and actually being the part are different things. So they flail as drowning people tend to do.
A pair of bandanas talks politics from the edge of the pool. Because they know that's what the lifeguard is doing too. One floating as if he's drowning trying to get the attention of the lifeguard. Still busy with other non-life-saving duties. They are also wearing speedos but not for drag in the water. they are wearing them to show off to the tankinis and to point out the ridiculousness of swimming in general.
And a face shield is off in the shallow end claiming he's about to drown with the inability to stand up. wearing one of those floaty belts you see in aquafit classes and kiddy pools.
"Who let these people swim?" Says the half-face respirator. "They can barely float or don't care." He's troubled by the arbitrariness of it all. "And where's the Lifeguard?"
He's still on the phone talking with his boss, looking very busy. Not his real boss, the one who actually pays for things. Not a head lifeguard, but the Rec Center's biggest donor. They wanted a return on the investments he's made in the pool and is very happy so many people are in the water under the careful watch of the lifeguard.
The subtle unease and even anger you feel to governments arbitrarily dropping any mandate. A feeling you have because of poll number, popular discourse, truck convoys, or science that can't be scrutinized by scientists is called a conscience. And what we are learning as a society is that consciences can only be kept underwater for so long. They float to the top like a cork and can save people from drowning in falsehoods if you let them.
You are right in thinking that the dropping of these mandates is arbitrary because their picking up was just as arbitrary. There was no scrutiny to them but there was authority behind them. Blind authority. Almost no one in Alberta would have been able to tell you who their provincial health minister or chief medical officer was before the pandemic. Unless they worked with these people, an individual may have been aware of their position but never knew their name or political leanings or current policy for the kinds of mandates that would be enacted upon them on the publics' behalf.
You know who a cop is by their badge and uniform. By their cars and by their flashing lights. Their authority shows up in a very un-arbitrary way when challenged or needed. The same thing goes with firemen and lifeguards, masters of their realms of authority. But the health ministers had to be lofted to their positions to mandate healthy living. A task they did sweet nothing about for over the last few decades as obesity rates skyrocketed and smoking got a newer high-tech version of nicotine to pander to young people in vaping. The public knew about health professionals and ignored them all the same because fast food is well marketed and big mac's beat carrot sticks every day of the week in public discourse.
But then, when the threat seemed real enough, medical professionals were given the kind of authority that only those who contend with real threats usually have. They were given the authority to mandate actions that they never could have persuaded people to do in the first place, which is why their mandates failed. Like a lifeguard who can walk around a pool and sit in a chair and watch children play in the shallow end. 90% of their job can be done by an amateur, but the 10% that requires a trained professional, can't. Medical officers are not lawmakers. Not people who deal in freedoms and restrictions, not voted in or able to be voted out. They were just as out of place as the dealing lifeguard who let everyone into the deep end.
A cop persuades you to follow the law by the threat of enforcement and deadly force.
A firefighter persuades you of his ability to fight fires in a Nomex suit and a truck that can pump water at 2000 liters per minute.
But a chief medical officer with no social clout and a representational parliamentary elected premier behind them exercises no real authory. It's is the societal equivalent of someone saying their dad could beat your dad up. Which only works until you find out that their dad is a wimp and remember yours is a trucker. Then, all the time you spent listening to their false authority and arbitrary power, seems like the theft that it was in the first place.
Romans 13:5 ESV
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Proverbs 16:12 ESV
It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.
If you want to feel good about the dropping of these mandates then you need the kind of righteousness that would never trespass a charter right to keep someone safe out of principle. The same way a lifeguard would never let someone convince them they could swim from persuasion alone. They would want to see some skill before they let them in the deep end. They would want to know something works before they say everyone should have to do it.
But if you feel bad because you can see the double standards now, you can see the authority not being used correctly, you can see that persuasion of good intentions wasn't just absent but never even an option. There is no end to that feeling until the people causing them are arbitrarily removed from power.
And that is a sinking feeling if I ever had one, because power is never relinquished arbitrarily.