We must avoid the “get mine” mentality
In the face of this unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, I had a moment when I felt a true sense of community togetherness. There is something to foregoing one’s plans and making a small personal sacrifice for the greater good of society. Even though I am not personally at high-risk of serious complications from COVID-19, I want to ensure that I do not catch it and spread it to others who may be.
Being that this is the first time I have experienced anything like this, it was a unique, and uplifting feeling.
Knowing that collectively, we are in it together and will get through it together, made me feel more connected and like I am a part of something bigger than myself.
And then, I went to Target.
It was an abrupt wake-up from my brief utopia. I looked around and remembered, “Ah, right, we’re still imperfect human beings.” Deep down we have a basic survival instinct that, through evolution, we have been able to suppress, but will never fully eliminate.
Empty shelves everywhere. Chicken — gone. Pasta — gone. Beans — gone. Paper towels — gone. Toilet paper — gone. Medicine — gone. Many other items just about gone.
The survival instinct that kicks in is, “I need to get mine.”
Our suppressed individualism comes to the forefront. All the authorities are saying wash your hands, practice social distancing, stay home if you are sick, and stay calm. Not, go buy everything you can before others can because this may be the end of the world.
I wish I was still in my utopia. In that society, people maintain that sense of community. They buy only what they need, like any other week. They collectively keep the personal survival instinct in-check. In that utopia, they don’t panic, causing others to panic, creating a snowball effect of stockpiling unnecessary things like toilet paper.
And — side tangent — of all things, why is toilet paper the number one headliner of items running out? Is that really top of the list of essentials that people can’t possibly fathom a world without? As a Peace Corps Volunteer I lived in Guinea and they didn’t have toilet paper. It’s not that bad… just sayin’.
I couldn’t help but think that, God forbidding, if something much worse happens in our lifetime, when essentials are truly limited, are we going to allow our individualized survival instincts to take control? Will widespread panic and mayhem be our greatest threat? Is that going to be our downfall?
Since the beginning of time we have evolved from the cavemen and cavewomen whose number one objective was to personally survive on a daily basis. We must be better than that. We must think of others, people more vulnerable, our society as a whole, and the greater good.
The next time you are in the grocery store, buy what you need like every other week. If everyone does that, we will all get through this. Together.