During the First and Second World War, if you weren’t out on the frozen war-torn battlefields of Europe, you were at home, fighting a different kind of war of your own: rationing.
Between 1914 and 1918, and 1935 to 1945, Canadians were told to ration their basic needs in order to help the fighting men and women far overseas. Both happily and begrudgingly, countless citizens among the Commonwealth complied with little discourse; they cut down on meat, sugar, salt, starch, bread, wheat and other basics that we all take for granted today. And at the top of the ration list was also petrol and diesel, the very same fuel that powered war machines on the ground and in the skies against the Axis. People walked, biked, rode trains or enlisted in the larger war effort that, at the very least, covered their most basic living needs. Of course, during 70-plus years of relative peace, such small sacrifices have fallen into dusty history books.
As B.C. tries to come to terms with the ruinous aftermath of the recent storm, we find ourselves in situations where similar calm and solidarity is needed in order to prevail over current challenges. Unfortunately, it’s never so simple. After dealing with an ongoing pandemic, a whole summer season of wildfires and blinding heat, it’s fair to say that B.C. residents are, quite frankly, at the limit.
This heightened sense of risk is self-evident in what is happening now in Victoria with fuel, following reports last week that due to the storm damage done to the Malahat, fuel trucks would either be delayed or unable to get to Victoria, supposedly causing massive fuel shortages.
The click-click-click effect was surely universal: “If I can’t get gas, I can’t get to work, and if I can’t get to work, I can’t feed my family, so I must get gas, at all costs.”
This is precisely why we are currently in this vicious and unnecessary loop; the moment any fuel truck arrives in Victoria, those who didn’t get a chance to refuel are now lining up panicked to do so as well, perpetuating the problem forward, over and over. As such, countless others are put at risk of not getting any fuel at all, even if they actually need it.
Fear, after all, sometimes gets the better of us.
There is something to keep in mind, however. There is a stark difference between not having enough, and not being enough. In the final years of infamous Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, rations – fuel in particular – were not asked, but demanded from Romanians nation-wide, under the pretense that they were all working towards the greater good (though in reality, it was all for feeding Ceaucesu’s communist regime and personal interests). Even after his fall and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989, the fuel crisis lingered into a post-Soviet Romania as pre-established fuel distribution networks and systems simply vanished along with the Romanian government and the rest of the USSR. In 1990, Romanians woke up with no heat for their frigid homes, no food for their children, and no fuel for their cars. Lines at gas stations stretched for 10 km or more throughout the country, and many slept in their vehicles on the side of the road in freezing temperatures — all for a litre of gasoline.
As the beaten-to-death cliché goes, it can always, always be worse – ancient, but wise words.
Like those before us who believed in the power of the collective good, we are tasked with a similar — albeit smaller — challenge of using our rational thought, our resilience and our sense of community, instead of giving in to raw instinct, fear and paranoia.
It may not be this minute, this hour, perhaps even not this day, but there will be another fuel truck, and there will be another road and another bridge – for as long as calm and kindness prevails, we can get through anything.
Octavian Lacatusu is a journalist, writer, photographer and marketing specialist. He worked as a reporter and editor throughout Canada for more than 10 years, and his work has appeared in a variety of news outlets and magazines, including CTV News/Bell Media, Toronto Observer and Black Press. In his past time (and to stay relatively sane) he builds LEGO creations that move and drive, and daydreams about cars he can’t possibly afford.