Calling the Better Angels of Our Nature
“Every society is three meals away from chaos”
― Vladimir Lenin
Lenin knew what he was talking about when it came to causing trouble. Fomenting a revolution in Russia was much easier with hungry people. But that could never happen in advanced, civilized societies. Certainly not during the Corona-virus pandemic, when we need to look out for each. But something happened that made me wonder. Could it all go south, barbarian even? Starting with toilet paper?
Okay, I get the panic buying, even a little food hoarding (don’t look at my pantry). As far as social isolation, it is what most writers crave anyway. As long as I stay healthy, I can stay home and do what I love under the guise of social responsibility. But this toilet paper thing. Someone please explain the sudden panic over toilet paper and why some stranger just stole my parent’s stash.
Isolated and Vulnerable
My elderly parents live a life of isolation in a small town in Mississippi. Most of their friends have passed away and by their own insistence, live independently in a huge house they can’t maintain, far from their children. They have to hire people to help keep their world going.
My sister, brother and I talk to them near daily, and now in the pandemic, video on Face Time as a form of hand-holding and comfort for us all. Proud of their independence and ability to live on their own, my Mom described their forays to the nearest Sam’s Club and Walmart, panning her iPhone camera over their provisions to show they were ready “just in case” the soup hits the fan.
This morning I talked to my Mom who told me my Dad was out driving to various stores to find toilet paper. “Mom, you showed us a video with a case of toilet paper and paper towels. It has to be there somewhere.”
“No. The toilet paper is definitely gone. We hired some workmen to fix a problem, and after they left we saw that the toilet paper and paper towels were missing. Maybe they have a lot of children and need it more than us.”
Speechless, I envisioned my 95-year-old father driving store to store on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, jockeying for the last package of Charmin. If I believed they would leave their home, I would drive across the country to pick them up before the contagion probability grows and I risk affecting them. But they already warned they would not leave, suspicious of anyone trying to part them from the little patch of the earth they call home.
But now I am worried. Lenin’s words haunt me. I hope and pray that society has evolved into a kinder, gentler place, especially now when we need what is best in each other. I prefer to not think about those few who exploit the weak and elderly. About America, and its people, I believe that Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said,
“…to every living heart all over this broad land will yet swell … when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”