/The riddle and the madness 

The riddle and the madness 

By Jim Poling Sr. 

Why is a raven like a writing desk?
That’s the question the Mad Hatter asks Alice in Lewis Carroll’s fantasy Alice in Wonderland.
Alice ponders the question but does not have the answer.
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter prods.
“No, I give up,” Alice replies. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” says the Mad Hatter.
scene from the Hatter’s tea party is today’s reality. Our world has
become a wacko tea party with characters just as nutty as the Hatter,
the March Hare and the Cheshire Cat.
Too many people don’t have the
slightest idea of how to conduct themselves during this awful COVID-19
pandemic. We are living in a world of Mad Hatter mania with crazy
behaviour increasing everywhere.
Confrontations over wearing
protective masks have become numerous and ugly. They have led to racist
rants and violent scenes resulting in injuries and deaths.
week’s police-involved shootings of disturbed elderly men here in
Haliburton County and outside Detroit, Michigan are examples. Both began
with arguments about wearing masks.
There is Mad Hatter-style frenzy
on the roads and highways. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
says 59 per cent of Canadians polled reported having seen an increase in
dangerous driving since the COVID-19 crisis began.
Speeding topped
the list of observed bad driving behaviours. Forty-four per cent of
those polled by CAA said they saw drivers speeding in the last few
Speeding has not been in the top five of CAA’s observed unsafe driving behaviours since 2013.
Aggressive behaviour is being seen more often while shopping. Racist rants are being reported more frequently.
have lost some of their previous pleasantness, and you can’t blame
them. Despite precautions, they are exposing themselves every day to
customers who might be carrying the virus.
Customers also have become
more unpleasant. A Home Hardware in Vancouver has seen enough bad
customer behaviour to post a sign telling customers that disrespecting
and abusing staff is unacceptable.
The sign reads:
“If you think
you will be unable to behave in a calm, respectful manner and accept our
current situation with empathy and an expectation of compromise, we
kindly ask you to shop elsewhere.” 
Businesses, on top of suffering
huge financial losses, are seeing an increase in crime. Commercial
break-ins in Vancouver between March 18 and April 15 were up 147 per
cent compared with the same period last year. Residential break and
enters were up 51 per cent.
Police forces in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, and York Region also are reporting increases in business break-ins.
are various theories about why folks experience distress during
stressful times. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the Russian author whose novels
often delved into madness, believed that madness is a manifestation of
moral or spiritual crisis.
I believe our current craziness comes from
the many stresses of modern living finally reaching the boiling point.
We live with worries about the environment, changing climate,
overpopulation, out-of-control drug addiction and an unstable economic
situation. Then, along comes COVID-19.
Social media is aiding the
madness. Anyone can pull out a smartphone and rant and rave and spew
misinformation and other nonsense to an audience of millions.
all that is a disheartening lack of strong leadership. Here in Canada,
government responses seem to be to keep writing cheques. That’s helpful
in some ways but it would be nice to have regular assessments of the
impact on the national debt and how it will get paid down. Therein lies
another potential future crisis.
What’s happening in the United
States, which has COVID-19 problems worse than many banana republics,
makes the Mad Hatter’s tea party look calm, reasonable and sane.
Watching TV reports of the U.S. government’s responses to the crisis is
like walking through an 1800s madhouse.
There are many difficult
riddles about how to kill this terrible pandemic, how to open schools
safely, how to get the economy back on track while keeping people safe.
So many riddles and so many leaders who haven’t the slightest idea.
Meanwhile, the Mad Hatter’s riddle remains: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
The answer is obvious to me: Because Edgar Allan Poe, the American writer of stories dark and macabre, wrote on both.