Confessions of a (recovering) political junkie

Remember that (Canadian) federal election last year? It’s ok if you don’t. We all had bigger things to deal with that made it tough to muster any excitement for the political game. I remember it for one main reason: it was the first time in 17 years of being able to vote that I very nearly didn’t bother.

If you don’t know me, this probably isn’t anything remarkable. Plenty of people don’t vote.

If you do know me - especially pre-pandemic - you know this is a substantial change of heart. I’ve long been one of those blowhard “exercise your democratic right/responsibility” types, preaching the power of voting and political engagement as the primary tool for driving meaningful change. To believe anything different or to “throw away” your vote was essentially committing heresy against the democratic religion.

Yeah, I know. I’m cringing too.

So, what happened? What could turn nearly two decades of indoctrinated fervour over on its head so suddenly?

You guessed it: the pandemic.


For those of you in another time (or maybe unstuck from it altogether), folks my age refer to the global spread of COVID-19 throughout 2020, 2021, 2022, and probably well beyond as “THE Pandemic”. Kind of like how folks alive from 1914-1918 called that feud between European empires “The Great War.” I’m sure that sounds hilariously quaint to my future readers.


The pandemic has done a lot of damage to an awful lot of people. Obviously the death and long-term illness rates are a significant factor. Apart from having a couple of friends and colleagues struggling with “Long COVID”, I’m very fortunate to have seen very little of that side of the tragedy close up. I’m also very fortunate that I’ve not only been employed the entire time, but have been a part of “The Great Resignation” (twice, actually) during the pandemic. I’ve even been part of that permanent shift to remote work and have no intentions of wasting any more of my life in someone else’s office.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I offer it as context. My own individual experience, at least when it comes to employment, has been the kind of steady and predictable that I know many, many people would give anything to have at this point. I recognize this and do my best to keep it in mind at all times.

On a family level, things have been much less stable and reliable. My wife was laid-off in the first few weeks of the pandemic in the most callous and inhumane way that could only be dreamed up by a tech company. She has found employment since then (also twice), but it has left a permanent mark. My oldest son started the pandemic as a bright-eyed and promising kindergartner, making friends and learning to navigate the social world. Now, he’s in second grade and struggling, like most kids his age, with the constant shifts back-and-forth from online learning at home, to stripped-down antisocial school in person. My youngest has thankfully been in a home daycare the entire time, which has stayed open as much as the province of Ontario has allowed - but even he is struggling with basics like potty training and pronunciation because his parents are so burned out and struggling to get through the days.

Extended family and social circles have been a broad range of experiences. From layoffs, to underemployment, to collapsing small businesses, to mental health crisis, burnout, and extreme isolation - things have been dark.

I’m writing all this to paint a picture of the world we’re currently in and the absolute shit-storm we’ve been living through. To put it mildly: things haven’t been great.

So, how does this lead to an apathetic outlook of politics?

In times like these, while people are struggling - burned out, exhausted, barely (if at all) surviving - we should be able to rely on the vision and leadership of the people we elect to represent us. This is what emergency funds and government bodies are meant to handle. Day-to-day socio-economic functioning in “normal” times of lesser crisis can basically be run on autopilot; but the desperate times are when we must be able to rely on the people in power to see us through. At least, that’s the story we’ve been sold time and time again - from Churchill addressing the UK during long nights of blitzkrieg, to Obama selling “hope” and pushing for universal healthcare as a path to recovering from the previous great recession.

Obviously, politicians are human beings too (allegedly, at least). As such, they deserve the same compassion and understanding that we all do when it comes to struggling through the defining crisis of this decade (so far). They very likely also have friends and family who are suffering, sick, and dying. They may stumble and make a few miscalculations, but we should trust that they’re doing all they can to get us all back on track, right?


The “in this together” message carried a lot of weight early on, especially in those first few months of shock and confusion. During those long ago days, we shared schlocky stuff like that infamous Imagine video, because it felt like even the rich and famous were stuck at home like the rest of us. Late night television worked from home for a little while, while comedians produced ground-breaking specials from the confines of a single room. Even an unshaven and shaggy-haired Trudeau was giving press conferences from his front steps. For once, it felt like the rich and powerful were on the same level as the rest of us. Sure, they weren’t stuck working for minimum wage and being screamed and coughed at by maskless Karens - but they were making adjustments for the situation at hand!


And that’s pretty much where the pandemic stopped for the ruling class. Once masks came into the picture, while lockdowns were still in full strength for most of us, our politicians were free to continue flying, travelling, and attending global events. And the wealthy were too, of course. Pretty soon, the most realistic televised depiction of the pandemic was coming from shows about rich people that chose to ignore it altogether. While mandating vaccines became the debate topic du jour leading into that 2021 election, many of us were still struggling to access a first shot. By now, it has become obvious that the stick-over-carrot approach to vaccines has been failing for a variety of reasons - yet politicians, news reports, and public tastemakers can’t (or won’t) see this. The pandemic has been in the past for them for so long at this point that they literally can’t understand why people are still angry, exhausted, and feeling left behind.

“We’re all in this together” has quickly become “what the fuck is wrong with you?”

I’m not saying that vaccines are bad or that the folks raging against them are entirely justified, mind you. I am only trying to illustrate the level of nuance, compassion, empathy, and understanding that many of us have to exercise on a daily basis while making tough decisions about what’s best for ourselves, our families, and the communities we’re a part of. The burden of this grey-area on each individual is too much to bear - and it’s causing much of the stress and burnout we’re all slogging through. Respecting everyone around you as a living, breathing human being with thoughts, feelings, fears, and their own bundles of trauma, and treating them with dignity and compassion is exhausting! It is absolutely the right thing to do - and arguably something we should always be doing - but it doesn’t make it any less of a pile of stress. It is also the thing we are supposed to be able to look to our leaders to model and display as an example for all of us.

But this isn’t the case for politicians. From their bird’s-eye-view of the pandemic as an event in past, everything is a clean divide between party lines. It doesn’t matter what each person in the wider public thinks - they’re either right or wrong on an ideological level and deserve acceptance or scorn as result. Forget the incurable rifts between families or incalculable impact of deaths and illness. Don’t mind the generations of trauma that will need to be processed and treated. Who cares about the extreme burnout and mental health risks of low-wage workers, teachers, parents, and others who have borne the brunt of this pandemic! None of it matters to a political class who has been shielded from all of this by party lines and a thick layer of public money.

This has gone considerably off track and you can certainly see that I, like all of us, am still working through a lot at this stage of the pandemic. I am fucking exhausted. Every day, I get to feel like a complete failure as a parent, partner, employee, and person in the world - and I have it easy compared to many!

I’ve stopped believing in politics as a solution to our situation because it has become increasingly obvious that we live in a failed state. Politicians and the political class exist only to reinforce the status quo - regardless of their party or stated ideology. They have no imagination or vision of a future - and a complete lack of will or desire to dream anything up. Generations of nothing but the same, as we teeter back-and-forth between two brands of mayonnaise, has left me with little energy to get worked up over the next hand-off between the red and blue logos.

I have much, much more to say on the lack of vision or imagination in politics, but this piece has gone on for long enough. Take care of one another. Focus on the family, friends, and community around you and ignore the empty suits, selling snake oil. The future is people, and our only path forward is together - even if we don’t agree on anything.

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