Is The Coronavirus Bringing Out The Worst In People Everywhere?

 The Coronavirus Bringing Out The Worst In People
Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

It’s official: the World Health Organization just declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic. In a crisis like this, it is imperative for us to keep calm and fight back as one. Differences aside, we are members of the same species. Sadly, going by news reports and personal observations, so far the virus has turned on the lizard brain in most people. The result? People have tapped into their inner caveman and gone into aggressive ‘survival of the fittest’ mode. This change didn’t happen overnight. I was just too wrapped up in my own issues to take immediate notice.

Racism was the first sign. Ever since the outbreak was traced back to Wuhan, China in December 2019, the online and offline world has been busy blaming the Chinese culture of “eating anything” for the outbreak.

In particular, their consumption of bats is being blamed, when in reality, this is merely a conspiracy theory. As of today, scientists do not know which creature transferred the virus to humans, so pinning it on the Chinese is baseless. This belief is affecting the very livelihood of Chinese business owners. I personally know people who have given up eating Chinese food not only at establishments that serve chicken and pork but also at establishments that are 100% vegetarian! Owing to their oriental features, Northeastern Indians in my very city are being addressed as coronavirus. If things continue to go this way, I am afraid that soon people who merely “look Chinese” will be attacked or kept in isolation so that they do not transmit the virus to others. It’s already happening in Italy, after all. But I digress.

Lack of supplies was the second sign. I had been trying to purchase sanitizer and face masks for nearly two weeks, but the chemist always seemed to have just run out of them.

Online stores were out of stock too, but I hoped it was merely a coincidence. It was only when I read about people hoarding essentials did I realize that the shortage was a direct result of the coronavirus. I finally tuned in to the news and noticed an unsettling pattern. People around the world were making rash, fear-fueled, unethical decisions owing to the virus. Reports from Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, the UK, and the USA all have one thing in common: people are busy hoarding things like face masks, groceries, medicines, and toilet paper.

It is normal to want to be prepared in case the future calls for a mass quarantine. But stocking up without restraint means denying other people of basic utilities. What with stores being cleaned out and people getting into fights, governments and this scientist have advised people to not stockpile as there is no need to do so. To help us be rational shoppers, this publication has even enlisted the items people should actually stock up on. Many supermarkets have even limited the number of purchases a customer can make. But going by the number of empty shelves at major retailers, these measures have not stopped people from panic buying.

And now that I keep myself updated, the signs of sheer depravity are getting harder to miss. Even though I am a bit of a cynic, I did not think people would stoop to cash in on a pandemic.

But I guess capitalism will always be in fashion. Scott Disick proved that by selling limited-edition ‘please wash your hands’ apparel. Some people might think he’s raising awareness, but I personally feel it’s an unethical move. But of course, he is just one of many, and truth be told, folks who are hoarding hand sanitizer only to sell it at exorbitant prices are the worst of the lot. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fear-mongering propagated by mainstream media.

Why is it that certain media outlets give constant coverage about the number of people who are infected or dead? When everyone is already terrified, how can they carry on doomsday reporting? The right thing to do would be to eliminate daily misinformation and replace it with health advice from medical professionals. When I say health advice, I mean advice that deals with both physical and mental health. It is important that the media focus on the chronically ill and disabled amongst us as well; it’s a shame that this community has been completely ignored so far.    

Do you want to know what’s the weirdest bit? Not even the fear of this highly contagious disease has stopped people from evading compulsory airport checks.

Check out exhibit A and exhibit B. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the masses will self-quarantine if they suspect they are infected. And let’s not forget that Japanese man who went bar-hopping to “spread the virus” because if he tested positive, why shouldn’t others?

Look, I get it. It’s hard to deal with uncertainty and the fact that there is no cure for coronavirus makes me anxious as well. But this isn’t the first pandemic we have experienced and it definitely won’t be the last. While we cannot control our fate, we have complete power over our behavior. The rich have their luxury bunkers, sure, but all of us have humanity, and the power of community has sustained us since the dawn of time. Let’s remember that as we gear up for the dark times that lie ahead.

Life's better when you are aware of your surroundings.

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