What if COVID-19 is our global cue to level up and become better humans? If so, it looks like not everyone on social media got the message. During a crisis, what kind of person gloats about how much they can afford to hoard? Who whines about cancelled vacations when others are struggling to survive because their livelihood is going up in smoke?
How tone-deaf is that? At a time when solidarity should inform our every word and gesture, showing off can accentuate others’ sense of impending doom. People who don’t know how they’re going to make rent, buy food, or access health care should they fall ill really don’t want to hear about stuffed pantries. They don’t want to hear about stashes of hand sanitizer or innumerable doorstep deliveries either.
They’re already overwhelmed, they’re already terrified, and now social media marketing of the self just made them feel worse. And that little more convinced that there’s zero chance they’ll make it to the other side unscathed. Or even alive.
Fear is more contagious and travels faster than a virus does but we don’t have to be vectors. We don’t have to enable it.
We must understand the precariat — to which I belong alongside millions of others — isn’t envious or even jealous of anyone’s good fortune. But instead of reinforcing the urgent message that the only way through this pandemic is together, anyone boasting about how they can afford to opt out of discomfort isn’t doing much to quell general panic.
We’re all humans the same and no amount of money or online shopping or brushing our teeth with some bizarro concoction that might turn us into Smurfs can prevent a single one of us from getting the coronavirus. Unless we find our humanity, unless we find our compassion, unless we find our empathy, the future looks bleak.
If we don’t reclaim the internet for the common good, those for whom it is a lifeline and need the handholding won’t make it.
This is on us all, folks.
Hoarding hurts the most disenfranchised.
In the Netherlands where I live as in many countries around the world, panic buying has completely disrupted the supply chain and stores are still playing catch up. The government has confirmed we’re unlikely to run out of anything and PM Mark Rutte appealed to people to be reasonable and mindful of others.
This goes for all of us, everywhere.
Fellow humans living paycheck to paycheck or on government assistance can’t afford to hoard and much less buy the more expensive items left behind on the shelves. Those relying on the cheapest store brand pasta are likely to go hungry even if they shell out for the fancy quinoa that costs several times as much. Unfortunately, one box of quinoa doesn’t go as far as five boxes of pasta.
So before clearing out store shelves and buying multiples of everything, let’s pause to consider those who can only afford to buy one so we’re not the person who forces them to go without. Or eat something unfamiliar they don’t like or know how to prepare. Or go hungry because there’s not enough. Food is comfort to most of us, regardless of our bank balance.
Hoarding is the very opposite of what we should be doing right now, namely share what material and emotional resources we have with those who have less than us. Some folks are furloughed, others have seen their jobs, gigs, and assignments vanish, and many business are hitting the wall.
And yet, rent and bills still have to be paid, and everyone needs to eat.
Raiding local stores by purchasing as much as we can isn’t smart, it’s antisocial.
As is bragging about it online.
It doesn’t make us look good and it doesn’t turn us into fine, upstanding community members. Plus it certainly doesn’t make us look like parents of the year either, unless these are the values we want to teach our kids. Instead, we’re outing ourselves as deeply inconsiderate, as do all those who praise us.
Can we please stop glorifying greed, for all our sakes?
How about getting what we need and maybe a little extra if our budget allows to placate our anxiety as long as there’s something left for the next shopper? The thrill we feel when we spot the last four small bars of that German chocolate we adore isn’t a sign we need to buy them all.
It’s a sign many fellow humans appreciate the same thing we do so why not allow others to experience this thrill, too? We can always make our chocolate last long by eating it one piece rather than one bar at a time.
Chances are that’ll make it taste extra good, too.
The impact of small kindnesses is magnified in times of crisis. We cling to what little nuggets of joy we can find to keep going.
Basic human decency isn’t a personal brand.
We don’t have to be Jack Ma to do our part. At the very least, we can all be mindful and inject a little hope and cheer into the global conversation, we can all check in on one another. And we can also all relearn to share and be present for those we love and strangers in need we may happen upon.
Just as we naturally did when we were kids.
Illness is the great equalizer and we’re not in control of this pandemic, not yet.
Now’s the time to ask ourselves how much good we can do and make sure our actions, our gestures, and our words reflect this commitment.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.