The Spotlight of a Pandemic

31st March 2020
Matt Selley

The Spotlight of a Pandemic

10 Minute Read

One of the few things that could be deemed as beneficial with a global pandemic such as the current Coronavirus crisis, is the spotlight that shines onto all areas of society.

When shit hits the fan and all sense of normality flies out of the window, the rawness of human behaviour is exposed; the good, the bad, the ugly and the uncomfortable.

 

As news of the virus first came to light, hoarders ransacked the shelves of shops of inedible items, to scurry back to their homes like ants carrying leaves back to their nests. We have to wonder why toilet paper was the merchandise of choice over, say, the more logical tinned food, you know, stuff that can actually be useful in a worse-case-scenario?

This toilet paper grab wasn’t a fad in one area, however. Here in Australia, shoppers were openly fighting in the supermarket isles over 24 packs, as they were in the US, the UK, France, Germany, and other countries.

Because it seems such a strange product to stockpile, let’s look at this logically. Say you were told you were going to be locked inside your house for three months, never to be let out in that time but you also had access to a fully stocked supermarket to stock up on whatever you required to see you through. What would you buy? The most obvious, and probably sane choice would be a mix of everything, some fresh food, ingredients, tinned, packets and frozen and enough sanitary items to last the distance.

The fact that so many people made a beeline for toilet paper as their first choice, and so much of it, signifies something else is going on here, especially as the behaviour was so widespread, almost global. Perhaps, to the subconscious, toilet paper means something else.

We instinctively go for what we feel we need the most. The subconscious plays a significant role when faced with a dire situation, so much so, that it can basically take over our rational decision making. For some people, with thoughts of being holed up inside their houses and society crashing down around them, perhaps the instinct to buy toilet paper was simply too strong to ignore because it represented the amount of internal crap that was soon to spill forth, once left with minimal distractions and left to their own company in self-isolation. Maybe.

As the weeks have gone on, and the supermarket shelves have resembled those of Russia back in the early 90’s, the elderly and those still working at essential services, such as nurses, are left with emptiness, and no food for their families.

This is the ugly side of a pandemic – the ‘every man for himself’ mentality for some. But we are in a strange time, and strange times takes some adjustment to reorientate ourselves. While millions of people have had to deal with a sudden and unexpected job loss, something that can have a catastrophic effect on an individual and their families, millions of others are now working from home, while homeschooling the children and being in the company of their partner 24/7 is enough to test the patience of even the hardest of people.

As humans, we are bound together. We are all a part of this tapestry of life, interconnected with not only each other but with nature, the planet and beyond. As we self-isolate it becomes apparent that when we are together, we are at our strongest. We are not solitary beings at heart, and we need connection with others to feel most alive and most human.

Of course, having alone time is a good thing, a very good thing. To have most of our distractions forcibly removed from us, we have an opportunity to internalise ourselves if we so choose. Something that may have been avoided under normal living circumstances when nipping into town is easier than sitting with our feelings.

In circumstances like this, our values instantly change, almost overnight. What we deemed as important a few months ago can suddenly lose its shine. Under a pandemic with the possibility of death upon us, it is not the entrepreneurs, the corporate executives, the billionaires or those whom a capitalist society readily rewards is looked up to, it is the doctors, nurses, health workers, caregivers, social workers, cleaners, logistics drivers who are all battling to save lives by risking their own. The emphasis on what is truly important shifts from what our society deems as important to what is, erm, actually important.

It is also interesting to note that doctors aside, most of the other, now, ‘saviors of society’, are usually the lowest paid with some even deemed ‘unskilled’ by our governments and their corporate media mouthpieces.

In times like these, the spotlight also shines onto our leaders, governments and social systems with an awkward glow. We can watch the governments of late-stage capitalist countries such as the UK and the US flounder between looking after its people and keeping the markets alive. In times like these, both go hand in hand. By looking after the interest of its population, a nation is in real danger of committing financial hara-kiri via a slowdown of the economy. Or it could choose to keep the markets alive at the expense of ignoring the dangers of the virus. Decisions, decisions, but it is choices like these which have kept these countries from acting as fast as they probably could of.

The spotlight also falls on the capitalist philosophy of these great nations, which has, in effect, rolled over to be butt-fucked by socialist ideals. When the shit hits the fan, like our own personal values can change as to what is important, so can political philosophies.

In the UK, the homelessness problem has suddenly be dealt with, albeit temporarily. Money has been found to move people off the streets and into accommodation. Was this because the circumstances of the poor living on the street, not being able to self-isolate, would suddenly affect those of the rich, who were? We can’t have that. Both countries are offering payment to its citizens. Where the UK government is giving people 80% of their wages, the US is lagging behind with a paltry $1500 a month, but at least its something. Money can be found, the same money which was never there before and always denied to exist – or “there is no magical money tree” as the ex-UK prime minister Theresa May infamously said.

How we each deal with this crisis is up to us. Like any change, there can be a whole host of different emotions and reactions that one must work through depending on our own circumstances. The unknown usually leads to fear. A sudden job loss could bring grief. As we settle in, our fear leads to education and learning and finally into growth. How we choose to spend our time and how we will emerge on the other side will be a testament of how we can deal with this change, and with others.

If there was anything which we have been wanting to pursue but have been putting off, the time is now. Take that online course, learn a new skill, play that harmonica, start writing that book. Forced quarantine doesn’t come around very often.

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