COVID-19 has provided a window into something far more disturbing than the microbial and viral dangers nature has up its sleeve.
The real viral agent here is people and their irrational, illogical and irresponsible behavior. Some anecdotes and observations from the past several days/weeks to illustrate the point:
• I was in Lihu‘e Safeway a couple of days ago, and there was a mother and father with what appeared to be a 3- or 4-year-old son. They were all walking around the store while the son was periodically engaged in this open-mouthed wet cough. The parents did absolutely nothing to stop this. The lack of respect for the health of others is hard to take;
• Across the country, people are descending upon stores like locusts to strip the shelves bare. Meanwhile, those not caught up in this irrational frenzy and just trying to go about our daily lives can’t even go to the store and get things as we would normally do. You are engaging in hoarding. You are negatively impacting the lives of the people around you while you do this. You are contributing to hysteria and panic. Don’t claim to be “living with aloha” because you are far from it. That excess food is going to rot and be thrown away or sit in your freezer for years until it can’t be used for anything when someone else on the island could have used it when it was fresh. This is pure selfishness. And don’t think that sharing your loot at some point down the road makes you any better. You are still hoarding and, frankly, it should be expected and made illegal with stiff penalties every time something like this occurs;
• A coworker told me that that another coworker told them that they should buy a gun to protect themselves and their family. From what? Is this person admitting that the people of Kaua‘i are not stable and should be counted on to become dangerous? Based on what I am seeing with other exceedingly selfish behavior, perhaps this is correct. The coworker who told me this was clearly disturbed by the suggestion. This is another example of people creating mindless panic. If the best advice you have for your fellow Kaua‘i residents is that they should buy a gun, please stop offering your advice, as you are not helping anybody;.
• I keep hearing people complain about “the media” causing panic. They are doing no such thing. They are trying to provide you with the information they have been able to get (which hasn’t been easy due to the issue to be discussed next). You, the public, are causing the panic. Moreover, if the media reported nothing, you’d be angry with them for not giving you information. You can’t have it both ways. Apparently, you only want them to give you the information you want, but you don’t know anything about the situation to even know what information you want or need. Just stop it already with scapegoating the media for your lack of knowledge and inability to react rationally to what you hear;
• Republican government officials have created an atmosphere of confusion. First, in the annual hatefest known as CPAC, they push this idea that the virus is a “Democratic hoax.” As they are doing this, one of their own is exposing other attendees to the virus in what can only be seen as the most delicious instant karmic retribution imaginable. Now, these officials find themselves self-quarantined due to a “hoax” virus, but we hear not one of them backtracking on their irresponsible rhetoric. The president tries to control the message of the CDC by not allowing it to speak directly to the American people without Executive Branch filtering. He spreads lies about the danger, tells people to continue going to work, exposes his lack of knowledge about the seasonal flu claiming he didn’t know anyone ever died from it, manages to get himself exposed by at least two people, and shuts down travel from Europe without discussing it with other world leaders. Remember, this is supposed to be a “Democratic hoax.” All the while, the stock market is tanking because the message his administration is putting out is one of irredeemable ineptitude.
Honestly, this analysis could go on an on. There are so many examples of sheer stupidity at work here.
People are the virus. Rationality and logic is the only effective antiviral. Please seek it out before you contribute to the failure of society.
Michael Mann is a resident of Lihu‘e.