OFF TOPIC: Human nature reveals itself in times of crisis

It’s usually for the better, despite what books and movies would have us believe

off topic

From Mad Max, to The Road, to The Walking Dead, there’s been no shortage of films, books and television shows predicting just how quickly humanity would devolve into chaos and violence in the event of a disaster – whether it were to come upon us suddenly in an apocalyptic blast of radiation and light, creep up slowly with warming temperatures and the resulting violent storms or, you know, zombies.

OK, that last one’s a bit of a stretch, but a virus of some description – more Contagion than World War Z, I suppose.

Since I was old enough to watch or read such bleak works of dystopian fiction without then having to sleep with all the lights on, I just assumed that whoever wrote them had taken a very dim and, more to the point, unrealistic view of humanity.

To suggest that society would collapse the moment supplies ran short or communications were cut off seemed, frankly, ludicrous. While these authors’ prognostications of anarchy might be extreme, unfortunately, it appears they’re not entirely off the mark.

During the past 20 months, we’ve seen random, violent attacks on Canadians of Asian descent (often elderly) who were simply doing their job or going about their day. Store and airline employees have been punched and spat on for enforcing rules that were put in place to help keep the rest of us a little safer. And a loud minority have taken to the streets to scream about how citizens’ rights – specifically theirs – are being trampled.

More recently, with the Lower Mainland and several smaller B.C. communities cut off by flood waters, the panic-buying of gas and groceries left some store shelves and fuel storage tanks temporarily empty. This was despite regular reassurances from the province – and the president of a major local grocery chain – that everything is going to get where it needs to go. There might be a little less of it, and it may take longer to get there, but that’s all the more reason to take only what you need at any given time.

Some folks, it appears, learned nothing from the great TP crisis of 2020.

It would be easy to give in to despair if this were all that was happening.

Luckily, though, there are far more good people out there doing many good things.

From the moment news started trickling in early last week about just how serious the situation had become, heroic relief efforts kicked into high gear.

Getting people and animals out of harm’s way, wherever possible, was, of course, top priority, as well as doing everything humanly possible to keep the disaster from widening in its scope.

These jobs fell largely to emergency services, government agencies and the military. But from the outset, neighbours stepped up to help one another. And almost immediately, we in the media were being asked by everyday British Columbians how they, too, could help.

We’ve seen donated meals prepared here and airlifted into an isolated Hope, while every road in or out of that community was closed by a washout or mudslide; volunteer pilots have taken to the air to deliver tonnes of relief supplies; local businesses are collecting cash and non-perishable items; and animal rescue agencies are offering food and boarding for displaced pets and livestock. None of this includes private online fundraising efforts set up for those who have lost homes and property.

Stories of devastation on the scale we witnessed during last summer’s fires and again this month, all set against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, can be hard to take. We’re told British Columbians’ mental health is taking a collective beating.

Why wouldn’t it be?

I find it helps to stop and remind myself that while, yes, there are definitely a few who are filling carts and cars, thinking only of themselves, there is a far greater number people out there doing everything they can to help others, be they friends, neighbours or total strangers. Check out any Black Press publication this week and you’ll find accounts of their efforts.

These are the stories we all like to read – the ones that help us sleep a little better at night.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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