In January 2020 I wrote briefly about the devastating bushfires in Australia, people pulled together to help those affected. Now in March 2020, we watch people fight over toilet paper, stealing from each other's trolleys. The panic buying is akin to a locust plague, descending on your local supermarkets and cleaning out virtually everything.
There is new terminology now, social distancing; new rules of keeping 1.5m away from each other, needing 4 square meters of space per person, self quarantine.
Our world stands on a precipice, what stands out the most is our laissez faire attitude as a species and how thin our veneer is. Human "civilisation" reached behavioural modernity about 50,000 years ago. Yet it took very little to bring out our fears and unleash the inner barbarian, the casual racism and xenophobia. People see an Asian anywhere and think they will be infected with COVID-19, yet at least a few hundred people had no issues congregating on Bondi Beach in defiance.
As of today, 22 March 2020, Victoria (which is where I am based) has announced that the State will go into shutdown within the next 48 hours with only essential services remaining open, as part of an unprecedented effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Term 1 holidays have been brought forward and schools will be shutdown as of Tuesday 24 March 2020, without knowing when they will reopen again for students.
Parents will need to adapt to new challenges. Some schools have already in place online and remote learning, some workplaces too are rapidly trying to cater for a remote workforce. Every business is suffering and everyone is suffering. Mother nature and viruses do not care if you are rich or poor, old or young, it transcends all boundaries that we impose. I am curious to see how the world will look once we survive this event, just like as a species we have survived so many others. The retail market will be unrecognisable I believe, working from home, rotation of workforce shifts and social distancing will become the norm.
There are other impacts too, perhaps more damaging in both the immediate and long term. Children with separated parents, if the parents are on good terms and co-parenting, it is a lesser issue. Sadly given how overloaded our Family Court system is, these are indeed a rare species. I can foreshadow some parents will use this as an excuse to suspend visits and spend time. What about paying parents of child support? As we have already seen, Qantas for example, has stood down all their long haul staff with no pay. How are they going to keep their commitments? I can absolutely assure you that the Child Support Agency will not be sympathetic, and neither would many receiving parents. The world still has to turn, and money is still needed for everything.
So fellow humans, think of your peers and think of what it might be like in their shoes. Our sick, old and vulnerable are all in the same boat as the young and healthy. We all need toilet paper, we certainly do not need a stockpile for them until 2050. You do not need 100 kg of dry pasta at home, or 200 kg of steak. Australia is a primary producer, yes it may surprise some people - we grow our own vegetables, fruits, we have cattle, hell we also have pigs and sheep! Our butchers are local. And most importantly, we manufacture our own toilet paper, with 85% local pulp!
Keep your heads on your shoulders, be mindful and respectful of each other. We need each other's help to get through this period, and we sure as hell will need each other to recover on the other side.