looking for the bright

I watched a video of a man in China walking around his local supermarket. It was two months after the outbreak in Wuhan and things, her assured his viewers, were returning to normal. A new normal, mask wearing is compulsory, but there was food on the shelves and people were out and about. It made me feel better. He believes there are two kinds of people. Those who look for the positivity in a given situation and those who are full of doom and gloom. I think this is pretty accurate.

We’ve been watching with morbid fascination as worried people clean out supermarkets with frenzied panic buying. It started oddly enough, with toilet paper and yesterday our Prime Minister had to tell everyone off on Twitter for being Un-Australian. Righto Cobber. What makes regular, sane, everyday people stock up on 40 rolls of loo paper, some of them taking packs from the shopping trolleys of old people because they ‘wouldn’t fight back’. These peeps are obviously the doom/gloom variety and I have theory why.

I believe that everyone is always doing the best they can. We have the option of choosing love or fear and choose based on what we are capable of at the time.

Even if the best we can do is be a selfish twat, we are still doing the best we can manage at that time. I’ve been marinating in that thought for years now and it really helps forgive others and yourself for the shitty things we do on occasion. So, if the best a person can do is to take loo paper from an elderly lady then, yes, that person needs to level up, but they are still doing the best they can do in that moment.

I’m no doctor, but obviously the people doing this, many of them, are clearly not regular, sane, everyday people. Is this a normal, healthy response to a crisis and if so, how far off are we from riots in the streets? Hoarding items you know other people can and need to use is shitty and mean. I’m not a psychologist but I’m going out on a limb to say that’s either a Sociopathic tendency and they need to get some therapy, or these people are so triggered by horrible events in their past it’s their only available course of action.

Maybe some people grew up in extreme poverty and the idea of having no toilet paper is too much to bear. Or, imagine being new to a country, you’ve just arrived from Syria, or Somalia. Life was tough there and you saw atrocities, sometimes on the daily. Then you make a new life for yourself in your new country and one day shit kicks off. You’ve bootstrapped it and had no time for therapy while trying to put a roof over your head and keep your kids smiling, so the trauma is still there, right under the surface. I can’t even imagine what that must feel like. But then…there are many who have been in exactly that situation and would respond generously BECAUSE of the pain and suffering they’d experienced in a war zone or under persecution. What makes the difference?

For whatever reason, everyone is doing the best they can in that moment based on the resources they have to draw from.

What then makes regular, sane, everyday people who’ve lived a comparatively privileged life in Brisbane (or Boise or Birmingham) behave this way? Well, there’s entitlement. For those who aren’t legitimately sociopaths, easy times breed soft people, as I heard Joe Rogan say this week. Aussies of my generation (X) and younger have never truly experienced true hardship, as a generation. House prices are nuts, yes, and uni-debt is a thing here too but not as bad as the US, and jobs are getting scarce but for the most part, we’ve had it pretty good.

And of course, there’s the Baby Boomers, those born in the years straight after World War II, who rode the back of the decades of economic growth after the wars, enjoyed free university, and bought their first house for tuppence. I exaggerate for levity, but as a generation, the Boomers only knowledge of hardship is the occasional bout of high interest rates and an ever-rising pension age. Granted, some people have had great luck and others have not, some have had illness, divorces, poorly timed business ventures but across the board we in Australia, have had decades of economic growth, personal safety, and freedom. In short, we’re soft and untried. We’re accustomed to everything going our way and obviously, when push comes to shove, we don’t like it.

I might be being a little hard on my fellow Aussies. We need to consider the part isolation plays here too. It takes a village, they say, but many of us don’t have a village around us. Physical and emotional distance between families and neighbours translates into not having anyone to call on in a crisis. There are plenty of people out there who have no one, either because they’ve just moved here, or because they’ve had to put distance between them and their families for safety reasons.

When we start seeing humanity through this lens, forgiveness is so much easier. Having said that, isn’t it time we start levelling up where we can? If only ‘being human’ gave out patches like Guides and Scouts and we all started working on earning the Self-Awareness patch, the Kindness patch or the Generosity Patch.

We’re being challenged to choose love over fear. We’re all being challenged to grow up. We can break our patterns but we have to see them first. As a species we are being asked to open our eyes, see the dirt, clean the house and wake up.

Feature Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash