I’ve been reading about why people act selfishly in situations like the outbreak of the coronavirus. There is the selfish hoarding and then reselling of products like hand sanitizer and face masks. It turns out that greed is a big motivator for people to act selfishly. People’s greed is so intense they put other people at risk (which in turn puts all of us at risk). I don’t need any further evidence that some people will put money above the lives and health of others (we knew this about many corporations, but I didn’t know this about the average person). It is ugly. The greed of individuals puts all of us at a higher risk of being exposed to the illness by not making sure everyone has everything they need to help fight the spread of the virus.
Then there is self-preservation – making sure that you and your loved ones have what you need (or more than you need) so that you can try to reassure yourself that calamity won’t knock on your door. Of course, having a hundred rolls of toilet paper isn’t going to keep the coronavirus from visiting you or your loved ones.
There is also comfort. I have been doing much more lately to comfort myself. I have bought things that I consider to be “treats” and I have been indulging in them daily. I have been trying to prepare for a two-week quarantine in the best way I can because having supplies ready makes me feel safer (even though, nothing about being prepared means that you won’t get the virus). I haven’t been stockpiling or hoarding. I have just slowly been buying a few more cans of vegetables, a couple of frozen pizzas and things to get us through fourteen days if necessary.
Then there is fear and panic. I am sure some people are so fearful they can’t function or so panicked they are buying supplies that will take them a year to use. I don’t know any of these people, but I have seen pictures at Costco of people buying over one hundred rolls of toilet paper. Even if you used a roll a day, it would take over three months to use all of that! I’ve heard there is a run on beans as well. I hope when the virus is more contained that people take their extra stash of food and supplies to food pantries so that people who need it can have it.
I read an article in The Atlantic about people who choose to save other people’s lives at the risk of their own and also about people who have chosen to save themselves over others. The article doesn’t give any clear cut answers about why people do what they do other than to ask if it is selfish or smart.
I don’t know if saving yourself over others is selfish or smart, but I do know that I am a community person. I want not only safety and wellbeing for my loved ones. I want safety and welfare for my neighbors, my community, and the country at large. Just because I don’t live in Seattle (where we currently have the most extensive outbreak) doesn’t mean I don’t care about what happens there. I care very much about what is happening in pockets throughout the country and even in other countries like Italy, China, and South Korea. One thing we are all going to learn the hard way about this virus is that once you live in a global economy and community, what happens to one of us, impacts all of us.
I hope that I am the kind of person that would help save the lives of others rather than climbing over them to protect myself. I hope most everyone else is too because the ones who are motivated by greed or trying to save themselves without regard for the rest of us are depressing to me, and I don’t need anything else to bring me down right now.