Hoarding in a Pandemic

The world as we know it has gone crazy. Everything has been touched. People are scared. They don’t know what to do, or what the future holds. The media speaks constantly of pandemic, and death. The numbers grow. We are told that we will be locked down 2 weeks, a month, a year!  We see refrigerator trucks for holding the dead. We see cries for masks, and ventilators. There are famous people being stricken ill, and we wonder when we are next.        

We go to the store where we always shop, and what we need is always there. But, this time it wasn’t.  This time, even the most basic things are out, and people are fighting, and lying to get the simplest items. So, we think…”Maybe it will be there next time”.  But, it’s not.       

Neighbors are telling on each other and making people feel like a criminal for going outside to breathe. We are told to avoid the store and to only go when needed. But, they never have what we need, so we keep going, hoping they will finally have it.       

Hoarding is an attempt to make sure we have what we need in times of desperation. It is an effort to avoid the discomfort, and fear associated with lack. It is actually a natural instinct of survival. Children hoard, when they live in a house where older siblings take all the good stuff, and leave them with none, or when they want a little treat for later. Dogs hoard, when they are in a pack and need to make sure they have something to eat. Squirrels hoard, to prepare for the freezing death of winter. And winter always comes. There are prisoners who hoard items, so that they are sure to have enough food to supplement the 1200 calorie diet, and to have items to trade for other things they need to survive. (Please note, I am not referring to extreme unnatural hoarding that is destructive to self, as it relates to any possible mental illness. I am referring to what is natural. Natural responses can become unhealthy and extreme. Maintain balance.)        

In all these examples, there is an overwhelming power that causes a person to hoard. Death, discomfort, fear, and an assumed all powerful force that controls what we have and our ability to get what we need or think we need. Hoarding is a natural survival response.       

For the individual, hoarding creates a level of comfort. It allows a person the ability to squash fear by reminding themselves that they have plenty of what they need sitting in a box at home, safe from anyone who seeks to take it; until it’s taken.  Although hoarding is natural and can help people survive. It can also cause us to have trust in physical things and our own ability to gather those things. Material objects can be lost, stolen or destroyed. This leads to more panic, more hoarding and more desire, for more and more things to protect us, and insulate us. It’s a cycle.        

Hoarding has good and bad costs to the individual, it can help them survive, and feel better. But, it causes them to trust in something that is transient.        

What about society as a whole? The current pandemic and panic buying, which depleted shelves at our local store, shows us that large amounts of people are unprepared for emergencies. This can be due to poverty, or decision. It also shows that our system of stores, trucking and distributing is very fragile. To this date, weeks after the fear started, the stores are still out of many items. That is a failure in the system. But, it shows that people need to be hoarding items on a regular basis, and not trusting the system. It shows that people need to be more self sufficient and less trusting on the system.       

Hoarding did not cause empty shelves. The lack of hoarding caused panic buying which led to empty shelves. Those people, who have what they need and are safe, do not panic. Once people feel that panic, and experience the lack of what they need, they will never let it happen again. They will hoard whatever they can from now on.       

This will actually benefit society, because the next time there’s a pandemic, (Winter always comes) there will be far less panic buying because folks will be in the habit of always keeping extra on hand. Hoarding is a natural survival skill. Communities should practice hoarding by having a stock pile of needed items. The next time there’s a panic, the community will be ready to offset the lack that appears in the hoards of the individual.       

Hoarding is like anything else, it can be selfish, or loving. A person who has a stockpile can help others. They can give it or even trade or sell it. They might even decide to keep it for themselves. But, if no one hoarded, there would just be a lot of people standing around hungry and dying. If we look at it in terms of the survival of humanity, hoarding allows some humans to survive. They might not be the best humans. They might be selfish. But, their kids might be better than they are. In the end, humans survive, which benefits society.       

Hoarding in relation to disaster is about survival. It is about avoiding death, discomfort and a gnawing fear. It does not hurt the economy. It is not a picture of selfishness. It can and has saved lives. Individuals and communities, who hoard are better prepared for tough times, which always come. The only downside is that hoarding can lead to placing our trust in things that never last. But, when your belly is empty, that’s the furthest thing from your mind.

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