In 1964, French novelist and former spy Pierre Nord wrote in essence that “if there was one thing that we should recognize in Anglo-Saxon culture, it is the genius of pragmatism. The proof is that they won both world wars by engaging only at the end.” This shortcut does not diminish the admiration I feel for a culture which, it must be said, often makes excellent choices when it comes to efficiency.
On that basis, the city of Vancouver and the province as a whole have the chance, or perhaps the opportunity, to add a strong component of Asian culture. Whether Chinese, Japanese or Korean, that might somewhat explain the success that we are enjoying to some extent in the fight against the pandemic. Because Asia, in this global crisis, can boast of having managed the impact of COVID on its societies much more effectively than the West. “That’s normal, China is a dictatorship, they control their people with an iron fist,” we hear. That is to quickly forget that Japan, South Korea and especially Taiwan, which are true democracies, are doing just as well as the Red Empire.
There is a real advantage for the province in being able to count on its cultural diversity when it comes time to face major crises like the one we are experiencing. If you take a close look at the numbers, British Columbia is doing much better than the other Canadian provinces: Quebec and Ontario have 4.5 and 3.7 times more cases, respectively. That’s to be expected, we’re told, as their population is greater. But what about Alberta, which has a smaller and less dense population than B.C., yet has almost double the number of cases that we have here?
In February, we saw masks and protective measures multiply in the streets and supermarkets around us. I was aware of this crisis at the end of December, and despite my warnings to major Canadian media as early as the 7th of January, they preferred to ignore the firsthand information I could provide. On the contrary, Asian media were talking of little else since the New Year. My wife, Chinese-Canadian, imposed mask wearing on the family for any outings even before the first case affected the province.
For various reasons I have traveled to several countries since the start of the pandemic, armed with my wife’s recommendations and the crisis pack she had prepared for my travels: gloves, masks, gels … Even though I had to catch a plane in several different countries, travel to places where the crisis was proliferating and was obligated to meet many people, I went through COVID unscathed ( confirmed by several negative tests) even as the virus struck many people in my Western circle of friends.
Facing all difficulties, my Asian entourage (and myself by necessity) have never deviated one iota from strictly following the hard set of measures and discipline that we were advised to observe. We always met in very small groups with social distances respected and protective measures followed to the letter. No one in this part of my family has been sick. No one has caught this miniature demon which has, it should be remembered, killed nearly 1,440,000 people to date.
If the freedom of enterprise, of thought and of expression are pillars of our British Columbian culture, it must be recognized that the discipline, the seriousness and the altruism brought by our Asian brothers show us that the mixture of the two cultures is not only effective, but also desirable on a large scale. Yes, the virus was born in Asia, but it is precisely because these people are better versed in this type of experience than we are that we must learn from their resilience and their success. British Columbia will no doubt be studied in the coming years to draw lessons from the experience.