It brings out the best and worst in us

What a strange week last week was. Struggles to get a delivery of my online shopping – to the point where the site couldn’t be accessed and the app has been taken offline. I finally got a slot, but a number of things were completely sold out and I have to wait 5 days instead of the usual one or two.

People buying their own weight in toilet rolls. Why toilet rolls? Chocolate would make more sense!

Rice, pasta, tinned vegetables – all in short supply. Some flu remedies completely cleaned out, as well as medication that some of us have to take as an ongoing prescription – thanks panic buyers.

No hand sanitiser anywhere.

It was frustrating, but we mostly got what we wanted and have enough non-perishables to be ok for a couple of weeks if we end up in quarantine. This made me feel better, especially as it’s harder for me to get out to the shops on my own. But everything in moderation.

People complain about social media being the root of all evil, but I’ve seen some really good things on social media lately. Small business owners pulling together to lift each other up and help plan for the future. People looking out for those who might find it harder to get out or go to the shops for basic supplies. People reaching out to each other in Facebook groups, even though they don’t really know each other, to help those who are on their own or don’t have transport to hunt around for things that have sold out. People making each other smile. That video of the people singing together on the balconies in Italy. There is a lot of good around, and it’s good to see people helping one another and standing together in these difficult times.

I’ve had offers from two different countries if I get really stuck and need something. Offers of help from people closer by as well.

It also brings out the worst though. The selfish panic buying – or hamster buying as it’s called in Germany – that leaves some people with more than they could ever need and others without anything. People who are buying things that are in short supply just so that they can sell them on at a profit.

I’ve seen multiple instances of selfishness, and they make me angry.

“I’m not going to get ill, so why do we need to cancel the thing I’m organising?” Ok, so screw everyone else who may have underlying conditions, who may be caring for someone at risk, or who might end up ill because of your event that you’re still hell-bent on going ahead with. Main thing is you don’t have to change your plans. Lovely! I’m not saying that everything should be cancelled, but at least have the good grace to not make people feel bad if they can’t make it.

I understand that change is hard. I understand that people are worried about their livelihoods and making ends meet. I understand people want to carry on as usual as far as is possible.

Maybe the saddest thing I saw is that parts of the disability community are on a race to the bottom of basic humanity as well. “I’m not as badly off as someone else, and the main thing is that I’m ok. I only have a physical disability – sucks to be one of those people in the at-risk health categories”. Ok, that’s not word for word what was said, but the essence of what this person was saying “was that we as members of society who just have a physical disability can’t be asked to put ourselves out and do anything different so that we can help more vulnerable members of society. Drastic preventative measures will be bad for the economy, and some of those people were going to die anyway.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s not an ok attitude in civilised society, and it’s not ok to not see what’s not ok about writing something like that in a public forum. But it represents that “everyone for themselves” mentality that you see as soon as things start to go wrong, or infrastructure starts to wobble.

Like the story on Linkedin of the woman who took all the toilet roll on the plane because apparently she was entitled to consume anything on the plane. Too bad if you were one of the other passengers who didn’t think of the idea first. She did replace it, but only when the passengers were threatened with a bag search. There would have been enough to go round if people weren’t so selfish.

And that’s the problem, as soon as we begin to feel vulnerable, we go into fight mode, to defend what we have with tooth and claw. I think we all do it to some extent, but there are those who take it a bit further and feel justified in doing things that they would usually condemn in others – because they’ve convinced themselves that it’s ok in their particular case.

But this isn’t a victimless act. There are people who need things like aspirin and paracetamol who now can’t get them. There are people who will be throwing stuff out because they bought too much, and others who won’t have enough. These are scary times, but our own behaviour is making them worse than they need to be.

So I’ve been heartened by the random acts of kindness that I’ve seen, but also dismayed at the ugly side too. And that ugly side is even more ugly when people hide behind their sense of entitlement when others try to call it out. Some people do have greater needs. Some are at a disadvantage. But some are just arseholes looking to make a quick profit or trample over those who are not quite as strong, fast, or well-connected.

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