After enduring two years of lockdowns, forced confinement, segregation, and other constitutional violations in Canada, the recent softening of Covid-19 restrictions by governments in Canada at all levels are welcomed and liberating. However, the historical precedent of the Iron Curtain and its removal may prove a valuable lesson for Canada's immediate future, as we maneuver over the newly installed invisible barriers that might prevent us from returning to normal.
While I was completing research on the Velvet Revolution for my recent novel, Jindřich, I came across a Radio Prague current affairs broadcast, "Iron Curtain continues in the minds of Czech deer." This broadcast is about a Czech-German research project in Šumava National Park and its Bavarian counterpart which straddle the Czech-German border. As I listened to it, parallels between the affects of the Iron Curtain and of Covid-19 lockdowns began to unfold in my mind.
According to the broadcast, after the Iron Curtain was removed, both governments "expected that wildlife would have quickly got used to the fact and started to move in both directions across the former barrier." However, the deer population took more time then expected to catch up to government expectations because "some patterns of behaviour have continued as if the event never took place," which meant that the deer continued to behave as if the restrictions were still in place.
The Czech government was so fascinated with this post-velvet revolution deer behaviour that it financed a group of Czech-German scientists for a "six year study of deer movements." The scientific hypothesis was that once the Curtain came down the animal wildlife eventually would freely cross — in this case the deer — but according to the researchers' conclusions the "herd" did not exercise its freedom so quickly.
The six year study also revealed that the animal population on both the Czech and German sides "behave as if it [the Iron Curtain] is still there." Further results of the study showed that "the population are overwhelmingly sticking to their [Czech] traditional side and so are their Bavarian counterparts." Moreover, the chief scientist, Pavel Šustr, elaborated onthis "invisible-wall in the mind" phenomenon by stating that "They are repeating movements which is probably the source of their respect for a border [barrier] which is not there now."
I can only imagine a situation from this study involving baby deer born after the removal of the wall — those who have no individual memories of a standing Iron Curtain — and who by nature have to obey their parents, who themselves are governed by "collective" memories of the standing Iron Curtain. I would like also to imagine that these baby deer would be free in their minds to run across the barren land, and who — in contrast to their parents — are not conditioned by a "collective lock down."
A "curtain in the mind" may appear absurd to some, but our "covid curtain" in Canada has certainly caused at least two eminent threats to our freedoms. First, the landscape of the covid-curtain becomes larger as our leaders' pursue their goal of "herd immunity." Hence, as the herd becomes larger, the covid-curtain does too. At this stage, there seems to be no hope of a "return to normal" because the "herd" is conditioned collectively and genetically by now, either by our government leaders or by those who obey them. Second, this covid-curtain has been constructed in our minds invisibly by vaccine passports, forced quarantines, residential isolationism, classroom mask mandates, our very own homegrown "Check-Point Charlies", and the illegal invocation of the Emergency Measures Act to stop anyone — by extreme force — from wondering outside this covid-curtain. Hence, these invisible barriers — in our minds now — are dangerous and an eminent threat to our democratic freedoms.
According to the chief scientist of the "Iron Curtain continues in the minds" project, there is hope for future generations to come. The broadcast states that Šustr caught and tagged a "few exceptions" to this "respect for a border" behaviour. A deer in particular — a male deer — "was not respecting all the rules that we found before because he was moving in different areas on both the Czech and Bavarian sides of the border." Šustr concluded that eventually there will be more exceptions to the rule when, "overtime...the Iron Curtain mentally will disappear and more deer will start to wander freely." Hence, our return to normal will depend upon individuals "not respecting all the rules," rules that have been forged in the collective mind by this covid-curtain in Canada.
To restore our fundamental freedoms, and therefore our constitutional democracy, we must exercise those rights. In March of 2020, there were no legal cases against covid restrictions, in contrast, "over time," thousands of legal cases have been launched by organizations such as the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, Action 4 Canada, the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, Constitutional Rights Centre, and financed by funding organization such as the Democracy Fund. Two years ago, there were few individuals protesting, nor could we see any acts of civil disobedience, such as exemplified in the recent Trucker's Protests across Canada where millions of people "over time" have wandered freely across the invisible barrier of our very own covid-curtain.
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