An ocean-going canoe is thousands of kilometres from land and crowded with families (women, men and children). Tropical storms are a constant threat, and the flimsy craft is the only means of survival.
Nevertheless, the crew are experienced and work well together under leadership that encourages good communication and teamwork.
Most of the travellers realise their fate is best served if they put their faith in the deep knowledge and experience of the crew. Their best contribution is to support each other and keep calm, especially for the children’s sake. After all there’s not much point in adopting any other approach, especially given the leaders are getting everyone to work together for a common purpose and are providing reassuring commentary on progress and warnings of danger.
But our craft has a problem. Someone has smuggled a mobile phone aboard and a few doubters are secretly huddled around a Twitter feed that is spreading stories that sailing in an ocean-going canoe is complete folly without individual free choice and that it’s preferable to swim and fend for oneself: #doctor free swim
In short time, the splinter group has become fearful and enraged about being restricted to the little craft, and resentful of the crew hindering their personal rights. Their lack of knowledge about ocean sailing is replaced by a simple belief that their lives are in danger and that action is needed to save themselves.
In the dead of night, the splinter group begin hacking at the canoe hull in a quest to sink it and liberate themselves from the tyranny of the others, and to freely swim to safety. But, in the nick of time, they are discovered by the crew and forcibly prevented from sinking the craft.
Am I naive in inventing such a story when, for many doubters in the current Covid environment, they are merely protecting their personal rights and pushing back at an authoritarian vaccination programme?
Analogies are never precisely parallel. Individual choices, far from land in an ocean-going canoe, are severely restricted and not entirely the same as for people continuing to largely live and work their normal lives.
But therein lies the problem. In living our “normal lives” we are all still able to make individual choices, even when those choices could catastrophically affect everyone around us.
The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that we are infinitely better protected from Covid with a vaccination. There will always be some risk, but it pays not to amplify that beyond reason and the weight of available facts. Furthermore, vaccination is the best way to guard against personal infection and prevent the spread throughout the population.
Already in the United States we have seen a second wave of infections and deaths from the pandemic, which is overwhelmingly happening in states where the local governments and people were most sceptical about vaccines and actions to prevent its spread. In states that have vaccinated heavily, the pandemic impact is much lower. And at an individual level, the recent wave of infections is negligible among those already vaccinated.
In a major sense, it is becoming apparent that humanity is in a small canoe, bobbing about in a vast ocean. An individual’s beliefs and actions can severely affect others, even those who have chosen to listen to experts and follow advice.
In the US, vaccination is a politically divisive issue. Republicans, particularly Trump Republicans, have railed again encroachments on individual freedoms relating to mask wearing, mass gatherings, travel and vaccinations. The result is that Republican-led states, such as Texas and Florida, are at the forefront of the resurgent crisis.
Democrats, who have largely supported the community response to the pandemic, might well be tempted to encourage Republicans to stick with their misguided folly and allow them to perish from the virus. But there is not a separate canoe for the vaccinated and another for the knockers. Humanity has only one planet and we will live, or die, together. So let’s get the damned vaccination.
Fraser Carson is a former member of the XŌtaki Ōtaki College Alumni Trust and the founding partner of Wellington-based Flightdec.com. Flightdec’s kaupapa is to challenge the status quo of the internet to give access to more reliable and valuable citizen generated content, and to improve connectivity and collaboration.