In a world where fear of the unknown hangs over the collective consciousness of entire populations the best and the worst of human nature is on display. In Britain small stores engaged in price gouging are being named and shamed on social media — one shop was selling single toilet rolls £10 — while the ‘I’m all right Jack’ brigade are stripping supermarket shelves bare without thought for the needs of the elderly or parents with newborns.
A video of a young mother sobbing when she was unable to find milk for her baby speaks volumes.
The WW2 spirit of all for one, one for all is sadly absent. Editor and commentator Marcus Papadopoulos is succinct on this. “The horrendous scenes of panic buying by Britons, together with the grotesque behaviour of British mainstream media in having deliberately created an atmosphere of fear and panic constitute one of the most shameful periods in Britain’s history.”
Yet people are opening their wallets to give to charitable campaigns to help the poor. Beauty Banks collected £60,000 in a single day to supply soap, hand sanitisers and washing powder to the needy. A friend, a nurse who lives in Kent with her Octogenarian ailing husband, is housebound due to a knee replacement operation. She tells me that they have been inundated with offers of help from neighbours.
Across the pond, the virus shines a light on selfish teenagers who believe they are invincible and care not a jot that their unwillingness to abide by social distancing could kill elderly family members or those suffering from serious illnesses.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, whose state is under a stay-at-home order, took Spring Break partygoers to task. “Those young people are still out there on the beaches thinking it’s time to party,” he said. “It’s time to grow up, time to wake up. Time to recognise that it’s not just about the old folks; it’s about your impact on their lives. Don’t be selfish.” Sectors of Britain’s younger generations behaved in a similar ‘me-me’ fashion packing the pubs and clubs until the government ordered closures.
On a governmental level, China, where new cases have dropped to single digits and in most of the country life has returned to almost normal, is a star. There the government’s swift and decisive actions have borne spectacular results, which unfortunately are not being emulated by Western liberal democracies.
Beijing’s generous spirit has been inspirational, especially in contrast with the EU that neglected to heed pleas from member countries begging for assistance and President Trump’s underhand attempt to poach German-manufactured vaccines for the exclusive use of Americans believed to have been rebuffed.
China has flown many millions of N95 masks, gloves, protective clothing, ventilators and test kits to Italy, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Iran, Liberia, Cambodia, Philippines, and elsewhere, thus adopting a global leadership role that is historically the province of the United States.
While it is the case that Beijing’s motives have been called into question with some pundits suggesting the nation is furthering its geopolitical ambitions, in many eyes it has achieved a status bordering on heroic. In any event, the message written on Chinese care deliveries, “We are all waves in the same ocean” can no longer be denied. A virus knows no borders.
In the US, the Trump administration has been called to account for putting out mixed messages and false information. The White House refused to take COVID-19 seriously for months leaving frontline medical staff without protective clothing, a shortage of life-saving ventilators and test kits.
Test, test, test
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) that has been deprived of millions due to budget cuts has shockingly told doctors and nurses without masks to use scarves instead!! And as for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) mantra “test, test, test”, that is being ignored by the US and the UK where even medical staff are being refused tests. Some British nurses are resorting to cladding themselves in garbage bags.
On a positive note, the planet is in a process of recovery from human-manufactured pollutants. Waterways such as formerly murky Venice canals are purifying. NASA’s satellite images show a massive decease in pollution and greenhouse gases in parts of the world where lockdowns are in place and there are reports of vast improvements in air quality.
Among the many lessons to be learnt from this assault on our way of life is the pursuance of health and the preservation of a clean environment must always be the priority of governments which, with few exceptions, have displayed a lack of preparedness. Those who eschewed the science that human activities are exacerbating global warming might like to think again.
Secondly, it may be worthwhile encouraging parents and teachers to inculcate youngsters with the importance of adopting a community spirit thus ensuring greater responsibility for the greater good in coming generations.
Lastly during an era rampant with far right nationalistic sentiments, we can only hope that the knowledge that in this one beautiful planet the reality that we are indeed waves in the same ocean will eventually hit home.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.