Saturday, March 28, 2020

Snake Oil: all the sanny's been magpied

Most of us are trying to look for sunshine amid the gloom of the worst pandemic in our lifetimes. We're adjusting our behaviour in response to advice and regulation. Flexibility is the key because flexible thinking enables adaptivity. We're finding ways to continue living when much of what we have taken for granted for all of our lives has been taken from us, albeit temporarily. People are becoming accustomed to the COVID-19 world; even slowly desensitized to the surreality, the sickness and the death.

Humour, as always, is proving a powerful weapon in the fight against the contagion of anxiety and negativity associated with this rapidly spreading virus. An anonymous genius has coined some new slang which I've already adopted, as many others will. People are making humourous videos and sharing them on social media platforms. We're joking with each other about the lighter, more trivial aspects, like the lack of toilet paper. Humans are incredibly resilient, as has been proven time and time again throughout history.

Less well known or acknowledged is how we are designed to survive, and to lean each other, as much as possible to get through hard times. The so called 'will to live' is an exceptionally important part of our programming. The magpies taking all the toilet paper and fighting over what is left are not representative of us. We're better than that because God made us better than that. In times of trouble we come together, we help each other. We make sacrifices for others because we care. In all this we reflect God's character which is, above all else, love. We love because God first loved us. Love only seems natural; in fact it is supernatural.

I'll finish with a couple of funny experiences. One at a Coles supermarket, and the other at Domino's pizza. There was no toilet paper on the shelves but I asked a manager-looking type and he got me a four pack from the storeroom. I felt very conspicuous as I paid for the toilet paper and then carried it under my arm through the entire length of the mall. I couldn't stop myself from thinking, 'they're coming to get me. They want the toilet paper.'

At Domino's we proceeded to the counter at the appropriate time having been forewarned not to enter the store until our pizza was ready. While we stood at the counter, sorry 1.5 metres from the counter, two staff set up chairs at either end of the social distancing line, then made a chest high line of duct tape to prevent people from crossing the line. I was momentarily thrown off by this. How was I to get my pizza? The young lady behind the counter and I looked at each other. Stupidly, I asked the question: 'How does this work?'

Another customer arrived and demonstrated how two outstretched arms easily covered the social distancing gap. As I said, these are strange times we live in.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Dog's Eye: I'm sick (of it)

Sheep are very social animals which like hanging out together and among which there is very little dominance or aggression. They run from danger (sensible) and stick together in a large tight group for protection (also good strategy). These behaviours form part of what is known as "flock mentality" or "herd mentality".

Unfortunately flock mentality is such a strong instinct that it can override good sense. When one sheep moves the rest will follow, even if it does not seem like a good idea. There is no consideration given about whether to follow or not. Sheep follow. For example, in 2006, in Eastern Turkey a sheep tried to cross a 15 metre ravine. It died in the attempt as did the 400 other members of the flock who followed it. There may not be any actual danger, but if one sheep perceives it is in trouble, it will run and the others will follow.

I now can't buy toilet paper and some other things at the supermarket. There are limits on how much of any one thing I can buy. Only government pension/concession card holders can shop between 7am and 8am in the morning. I can no longer visit the supermarket after 8pm because they close to restock for the next day of insanity. This situation used to be amusing, but now I'm starting to feel angry about it. I'm disappointed by the herd mentality shown by my fellow human beings. Aren't we smarter than sheep?

It only takes one person to spark a panic. Panic and fear are much more contagious than any virus, and equally as dangerous. I overheard a conversation between colleagues yesterday discussing how long they could survive on what food they had in their homes. People are seeing empty shelves at their local supermarket and reacting in fear; buying more than they would usually buy in case they "run out". In my home, we are about to run out of toilet paper because people are hoarding the stuff. Why? Why was toilet paper the first thing to disappear from our supermarket shelves? Why were people  fighting over toilet paper? COVID-19 is a respiratory virus with cold and flu like symptoms. Why not buy truckloads of tissues?

In my last post, which was three weeks ago, I said stories about COVID-19 dominate global news services now. Currently the situation is worse as the wave effect of the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. The economy is being smashed. Societal behaviour is being forcibly modified. Some industries are going down the toilet (and they can't buy toilet paper either). For example, Australia closed its borders to visitors from 9pm last night so there goes the tourism sector. I also said the virus will be contained. New infections will stop occurring. The death rate will slow to zero.Travel restrictions will be lifted. That hasn't happened yet. More people are becoming infected and more people are dying. However, I also said life will go on. This is not the apocalypse. It's not the end of the world. Even the actual end of the world is not really the end of the world.

The truth about COVID-19 has been discovered, and we have never been better informed about what it is and how to deal with it. Sadly though, the initial hysteria has not abated:quite the contrary in fact, and the media continues to feed this. Tabloid broadcasters encourage fear with sensationalist reporting, but there's nothing new in that, while the flock mentality sees many people behaving poorly; selfishly and irrationally. 

Until today, I have resisted writing about COVID-19 again because I didn't think there was anything worth saying. It's all been said. It's all anyone ever talks about. I don't want to talk about it, but how can you not talk about something like this? COVID-19 has exposed our weaknesses. I live in the Northern Territory where, despite the fact there are no cases of COVID-19, the same hysteria has infected us.

There are a lot of strange things happening. People aren't shaking hands. Football is being played in empty stadiums. Supermarket shelves are empty, devoid of certain products. We're all washing our hands a lot. Tomorrow my family will be watching a live streamed church service because we can't go to the actual building and meet together like we do every week. Some of what is going on is sensible and justified. Some of it is insane overreaction.

I concede the environment is weird and unsettling. I understand the concern. People worry about what will happen next. They worry about getting sick. About their loved ones getting sick. I appreciate how anxious people feel, but it's too much.

Here are some facts to finish. In Australia, as of yesterday, there were 709 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 6 deaths. That's less than 1%. More people die in motor vehicle accidents. Last on the Australian Bureau of Statistics top 20 causes of death in Australia is melanoma which caused 2094 deaths in 2018. People are still driving, and exposing themselves to unsafe levels of sunlight.

I am not afraid. Regardless of what is happening around me, around Australia and around the world. I fear nothing because I am a sheep who follows the Good Shepherd. He knows my name. I know his voice, I listen and I trust Him.