A few things have been running through my mind lately. I've been thinking of two books in particular--The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I loved both books. It's obvious why Station Eleven is on my mind--the book takes place a few years after a global pandemic has left a few survivors scattered around. These people have to form new communities in a world that is completely new to them, without consumer goods, electricity, or the internet. The main focus of the story is a group of actors who travel around performing Shakespeare in settlements along the way. Even in the face of disaster, the need for art is alive and well.
Different parts of The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 come back to me at various times. The premise of this book is that US dollars become worthless pretty much overnight, because other countries finally get sick of the attitude of the US government. They band together and choose a different currency to be the 'world' currency. There are warning signs that the collapse of the dollar is coming, but people have an 'it can't happen here' attitude and refuse to believe it. The exception is an 11-year-old boy who tries to warm his family. Even though his warnings fall on deaf ears, they do end up having to rely on him to navigate the new world in which they live as things start to fall apart. There's even a border wall in the book--one built by Mexico to keep migrants from the US out of their country. What makes me think of this book now is the frenzied toilet paper grab that is underway. There is a scene in the book when they have to venture out to try to find some more.
The next thing that has popped into my mind a few times in recent days is not from a book, but is a real-life experience. Years ago, I had a Facebook 'friend' (we were not actually friends, although we did get together in person once or twice) who was an evangelical Christian of a conservative persuasion. She told me that I was the only non-Christian person she knew and spent a good deal of time on Facebook lecturing other Christians about whether they were Christian enough and wondering whether her god would be OK with her wearing jeans and not wearing a kerchief. I stayed out of these 'discussions.' I pretty much communicated with her only when she commented on one of my posts or when she posted cute cat pics or something. The rest of it was none of my business. One day, she shared a post that was about how, when the apocalypse arrives, no one better show up at her gate looking for help. She was stockpiling for herself and her family (in this case, it would be her and her husband as they had no kids) and she would be ready with her gun should anyone show up looking for help. Too bad they didn't prepare ahead was the message. The cruelty of this post took my breath away, but I did not respond to it. However, this woman's aunt expressed what I was thinking in her comment when she said, 'That doesn't sound very Christian.' The woman went on to sort of chastise her aunt, defending this idea that she would blow away anyone who needed help in a crisis. They went back and forth with the aunt becoming more distressed and the woman becoming more angry. Finally the aunt commented that the world being described did not sound like one worth living in, and expressed her hope that this woman would not now block her from the page. I felt so sad for the aunt. Eventually, this women's hatred and bigotry got to be too much for me and I removed her. I wish I wasn't being reminded of this episode now, but there is an abundance of selfish behaviour at the moment. Bill was reading a story this morning about people who went around buying up all of the hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial soap, paper towels, toilet paper, etc they could find and then trying to sell it on various websites. These websites finally started shutting these types of people down.Now one guy, who went around in a U-Haul to small towns and cleaned out dollar stores, is whining about how he thought his family would have it made when he sold this stuff at very high prices and what is he supposed to do with $17,000 worth of this stuff now that he can't sell it. There is so much wrong with that attitude. First there's the sheer greed and trying to profit from people's fear and illness. Then there is the lack of empathy for anyone else. If this guy is buying up this stuff from small town dollar stores, he is targeting people who may have little money and few options when it comes to acquiring supplies. There may not be all that many stores in their communities and they may not have transportation to go to a larger town. And even if they did, those shelves would probably be empty as well.
Of course, there are stories as well of people going out of their way to help others and finding creative, socially distant ways of doing it. Let's hope that as this crisis rolls on we see more of these kinds of people and less of the others!