Well .. if one thing can be said for the first few months of 2020 .. they’ve been memorable. Not all of it negative and not all of it positive. We appear to be in an epoch of time that is continuously highlighting the various aspects of what it is to be human. Good, bad and downright mortifying.
We have had bushfires where Australians have covered themselves in glory. Great bravery saving people, animals and homes. Great generosity in monetary donations and an overflowing of goods purchased for those left stranded. Great people working night and day to search out injured wildlife and nurse the critters back to health. Great pride in Aussie community and spirit.
We have grieved the loss of a young woman and her three innocent children at the hands of a violent man. We’ve found our voices to clamour loudly at the plague that is domestic terrorism and have started pushing for change. Some people have shown their lack of humanity. Others have shown an outpouring of empathy and anger and stood up.
Now comes a third huge chapter in only the third month of this new decade. A pandemic.
I sometimes ponder whether as a species, human beings are heading further down our abyss of selfish behaviour. Or whether access to modern media platforms just makes it more visible for us to analyse. Of course, we have been capable of pretty appalling standards since the dawn of our evolution as far as the history books reflect. Yet what we are experiencing right now is a glaring spotlight on what ails us as a society. When we require security guards standing over pallets of dunny rolls and you can’t buy a packet of pasta – things are getting grim. Yes, we are facing a state of temporary emergency. Yes, it’s unsettling. The question is – why can we not seem to follow simple instructions to manage the crisis. Research and the memories of our older citizens demonstrate we have managed it before.
My mother used to talk about rationing when she was a child of WW2. She was a chubby little thing who got a couple of extra coupons a week as a result. Odd government reasoning, but good for her. (Who would say no to extra emergency bacon and chocolate). My grandparents also kept chickens for eggs and grew veggies to supplement what could not be bought. They were reasonably well off for the era. Grandpa was part of the essential war effort at home, (having already seen active service in WW1). Australia was not as impacted as the U.K. where things were extra grim. Britain was blacked out and scraping together enough to get by. The Queen’s wedding gown was paid for with ration coupons. People were scared, had large slabs of their family perhaps never coming home or returning physically and mentally maimed. Society had no idea when it would end.
It is idealistic to believe it was all tickety-boo with everyone playing by the rules. Humans are human. There was inevitable theft, blackmarket selling, crime, assault and cruelty. However, one is compelled to ask just how the Sydney women going at each other over a huge trolley of toilet paper would fare with rationed coupons to supply their family’s needs. Forming orderly queues to receive those precious goods. Hoarding was not even a viable option.
This is a nation of plenty with enough stock for everyone. We are not inevitably facing down years of war with an uncertain future. The future does appear wonky for us as a virus threatens our usual order and routine. It’s not a pleasant sensation. It all feels decidedly spooky. We are worried about catching a very nasty illness, about hospitals coping and looming financial hurdles of interrupted work and economic mess. (Plus some dead set dodgy political planning and decisions that inspire zero confidence).
But quite frankly, our behaviour as a collective worries me more than COVID-19. At least it has the excuse of being a soulless virus that is simply running through an evolutionary process.
Rationing began in Britain in January 1940. Final rationing concluded in 1954. That is fourteen years of limited supplies, waiting your turn and daily hurdles. Each man, woman and child received a ration book of coupons. Fresh fruit and vegetables were not rationed but fluctuated as to availability. Rationed goods included sugar, meat, bacon, cheese, cereal, biscuits, eggs, milk. Soap was rationed in 1942 as was petrol. Clothing was also bought via the coupon system. Post war, bread was rationed in 1946 as supply chains were greatly interrupted. Rationing of clothing ended in 1950 with final meat rationing concluding in 1954. I see no mention of toilet paper in my researches, but I doubt three ply was readily available in bulk.
Although slightly less restrictive, Australia also worked on the same system.
Goods were rationed as to specific need. Children, expectant mums and invalids received extra coupons for eggs and milk. Neighbours often shared or exchanged coupons according to who really needed what.
I would like to offer here that I am an avid, modern consumer. I am not saintly. I mean … look at my fridge photo. I am used to living in a way where if I want something, I go to the shop and I have what I desire. Good grief. My dogs eat steak, chicken breast, premium veggies and various types of rice and a smattering of pasta. Plus some form of gold plated prescription kibble. The little buggers even regularly dine on tinned red salmon. This isn’t some superior diatribe on returning to simpler times.
I am more focussed on pondering why we are in a state of mass hysteria and FOMO. ‘F-O-M-O’. Fear. Of. Missing. Out.
We are being bombed by a determined virus. We are not being bombed by a terrifying military force. Quite frankly, Lord help us if we ever are. We’ll be sheltering in bog roll forts clutching bags of rice and litres of hand sanitiser.
The outbreak of COVID-19 is a horrible event. Our comfortable day to day is under threat and politicians and media have made somewhat of a hash of it. Mixed messages and misinformation. Social media is a barrage of ‘this thing will kill you and we’re all gonna die’ interspersed with, ‘it’s a common cold and we should all still go to the footy’. ScoMo is merrily singing happy clappy tunes at a Hillsong Conference amongst a seething mass of religious humanity. Then BOOM. Hours later borders slam closed and self isolation really gets some traction. Kids are going to school, they’re not going to school, crowd gatherings are underway, then they’re cancelled, the dunny rolls are all gone and people are clobbering each other in supermarkets.
It might be a moment to reevaluate how we have responded to crises in our past. Britain was blacked out (covering all doors and windows along with low street lighting) from September 1st, 1939 to April 1945. In an attempt to make visibility poor for enemy bombers, people sat inside their homes at night with blacked out doors and windows, a radio to listen to and rationed food. Many of their loved ones were absent. Yes, it was a different time. Yet it was community doing what was necessary to see out a crisis.
They didn’t know how it all would end. We’re not all too sure right now either. That’s what defines a crisis.
Everything passes and this mess will too. If it doesn’t, then at least let’s try not to disgrace ourselves on the way out. Unlike some other nations mid COVID-19 battle .. we have plentiful food, modern comforts, in-home entertainment, means of easy communication and a solid history of getting our sh*t together.
To kick COVID-19’s arse FOMO has to go.
No comment on ScoMo.
In the meantime, as I am a casual employee in the entertainment and promotional sector I am in the same position as many others. Facing uncertainty. Writing my blog – starting out with a well stocked bar and an impressive stash of dog friendly cuisine.
Stay safe and share the loo paper. xx
What you need to know about rationing and the second world war
Hiding from ww2 bombs