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KELLY McPARLAND: Politicians ramp-up anti-stupidity measures, as dimwits keep flouting social distancing rules

Ontario Premier Doug Ford peers into the Ontario legislature in Sept. 2018
Ontario Premier Doug Ford peers into the Ontario legislature in Sept. 2018 - Ernest Doroszuk


Late last week, Toronto Mayor John Tory signed an anti-stupidity bylaw as part of the city’s war against COVID-19. It allows for fines of up to $5,000 for people who ignore orders to stay two metres apart.

It’s not called “the anti-stupidity bylaw.” The official title is: Emergency Order No. 1 — To impose Regulations Requiring Physical Distancing within Parks and Public Squares. It was followed a day later by Emergency Order No. 2 , which could have been titled, “This means Nathan Phillips Square too, you idiots, in case you were too dim to figure that out.”

Tory offered a few words on why he’d seen it necessary to seek a measure targeting people who act like dorks. “We must do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 now, to save lives in the weeks and months ahead,” he said. “There have been plenty of warnings issued … now it is into the realm of enforcement.”

In doing so, he echoed similar expressions of exasperation from other elected figures. “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pleaded a week or so earlier.

And Ontario Premier Doug Ford tried again on Saturday to beat the message into the thick heads of the province’s numbskulls. “If it takes standing here every single day, if it takes mass messages to every single person in Ontario to save even one life, I’m prepared to do that,” he declared wearily.

Of all the heretofore unimagined scenarios of the coronavirus emergency, the sheer determination of a portion of the population to carry on demonstrating intelligence levels akin to the Three Stooges is one of the most perplexing. As Tory noted, “The time for puzzlement at this misbehaviour is over. Lives are potentially at stake and we will turn up the heat in the hopes that the few who don’t get it or pretend not to get it will get with the program.”

Just what makes dorks act like dorks is fuel for later analysis. Perhaps a royal commission looking into the causes of chronic dimness in people who are so blinkered they can’t figure out why the rest of the population has been locked indoors for the past month. Ideally, it would be headed by someone who’s skilled at the art of emulating imbecility. Too bad Jerry Lewis is dead.

The point they’re all trying to make is fairly simple and doesn’t require an advanced degree in physics to comprehend: even if you think you’re special, or you don’t care if you get sick, or you think all the quarantining and stay-at-home orders are an overreaction, you should still pretend you have a brain and obey the social distancing restrictions because, should you get the virus, you could give it to someone else who isn’t as boneheaded or uncaring as you are. Maybe to a friend, if you have any. Or a relative. Or even a complete stranger who doesn’t deserve to be put through the agony of the virus, or who might even die because you couldn’t bring yourself to act like an adult.

Get that? It’s not about you. It’s about the other people you could infect. Have that tattooed on your wrist, if you need something to remind you. Maybe get your mother to phone you every morning and yell it in your ear.

Authorities across the country, and well beyond, have been puzzling over how to get this message through. Quebec Premier François Legault gets visibly agitated just talking about it. “I don’t think we can accept that a vast majority of people are making an effort to fight the virus, and those efforts are annihilated by a few others who aren’t taking it seriously,” he said over news that Montreal was the site of a quarter of the country’s confirmed cases.

The authorities are driven by the persistence of a surprising number of people to ignore the obvious. You can’t outlaw stupidity, of course, but you can make rules against the active pursuance of idiocy that endangers others. Despite all the warnings, alerts and threats, reports continue to pour in of people who insist on their right to brush past people while jogging, gather with other clueless folks in parks, jump over gates or pull down yellow warning tape so they can get access to playgrounds, walk on the beach or crowd onto a bench.

Montreal’s civic opposition leader had to admit the engagement party he threw for his daughter in the midst of the pandemic “was not advisable,” and he’d be “more prudent” in future. His son, who was in the house at the time, has tested posted for the virus.

We shouldn’t need mayors, premiers and prime ministers to tell us that this sort of stuff is not smart. Most people have taken note that the virus spreads easily. It’s demonstrably not a hoax: 81,000 people don’t die from a hoax, no matter what Fox News might have believed. “There’s going to be a lot of death,” U.S. President Donald Trump finally admitted recently. And that’s Donald Trump, the patron saint of the chronically oblivious. If dopes can’t believe Donald Trump, who can they believe?

Maybe fines will do the trick. Even stupid people don’t like to pay fines. If that doesn’t work, maybe enforced isolation in special colonies would work — like they used to do with lepers. Stupidity may not be contagious, but it can still be dangerous.

National Post
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