I took my camera out of its bag a couple days ago. Lovingly brushed it off and attached a favourite focal length lens – my 24-105 f/4. I use this lens for much of my walking around shooting. But as we all know, there hasn’t been much walking around to be had lately.
As I turned knobs and adjusted settings, more and more came back to me about why I love photography. The choices available and decisions made around capturing a photograph give a sense of control and accomplishment to my day. While they can also be a source of frustration, for the most part, they are positive.
This week, our provincial authority once again allowed visits to local parks and recreation areas. Day trips only, no camping, no lounging. We can walk through, stop for a few minutes to see the sights, and move on, all the way staying wary of the need for social distancing and self-protection. Retail and many service businesses are also opening with restrictions.
There have been such a wide variety of plans released by all levels of government to give us our lives back. Frankly, some don’t make sense to me, but I give full credit to politicians for doing their best to navigate the complexity of sanity, economy and safety.
One philosophical area of debate is how much responsibility each of us have for our own sanity, economy and safety vs. what our governments should provide us. Each of us has different considerations, whether they be health conditions, family dependencies, income needs or personal well-being. We weigh each of these elements differently and take risks (or don’t) accordingly.
I was recently surprised by the decision of an organization that I belong to. They have decided that regardless of any positive advice from authorities saying things are manageable, they would cancel all of their face-to-face activities until at least January 2021. Online alternatives are being explored.
First, let me say that I don’t consider this decision to be right or wrong. There are a host of reasons why it was made. I understand all of these reasons.
But it is not a decision I have made or will make for myself. And herein lies the philosophical debate. At some point, governments must yield to the self-determination of their citizens. They provide information, they offer expertise on reasonable precautions, they even legislate those precautions when needed.
There was a really good article written from a psychological perspective about this:
All societies need limits. A limit generally accepted by everyone is that you have no right to harm others. Verbal, psychological and physical harm are generally unacceptable. Governments can legislate within that framework. We want them to do so.
Citizens have individual rights and conversely, individual limits too. That’s what defines a democratic society. After what was a full lock-down, I now have the freedom to be out in public, to associate in limited ways with other members of the public and to go about living my life, including taking photographs. I have fully grabbed on to these freedoms.
But I also don’t rely exclusively on government to protect me. As I go about my life, I will start with the assumption that everyone can harm me. Sad, but true. I’ll then weigh every situation to see if that harm is more or less likely, and weigh that against the personal value of the activity, experience or event. There won’t be a blanket answer.
I encourage everyone to become their own self-protector. The only way all of us can get back to the lives we love is to protect our own lives fully. Make conscious decisions to protect yourself, with the guidance of government and within the framework of your own acceptable risk. But don’t forget that taking risk is part of life too.
It won’t be a walk in the park – or maybe it will be.