To the Editor: Why are our market shelves clean out of toilet paper? Understandably people don't want to be caught with their pants down in the event they are quarantined, but the frantic and irrational pursuit of this bathroom item goes beyond the bounds of good taste and reasonable precaution.

It's a defining moment for mass psychology in an emergency and is also a test of what we're made of. Lessons on failed civility should be taught across the curriculum once our schools re-open.

Was there such hoarding during World War II? Was there not more of a sense of total community engagement and unity of purpose back then? People of the "greatest generation" didn't fear they'd need to use cabbage leaves as a substitute for Charmin.

Just imagine how quickly we'd fall back into unbridled savagery in case of an actual cataclysm! Is this what our evolved spiritual values amount to, when push comes to shove?

in one report, a person proudly announced she had a stash of hundreds of toilet rolls in her garage, "just in case." At her current rate of consumption, even on her all-bran diet, she will be stocked beyond the actuarial projections of her life expectancy. She will bequeath whatever remains to a support group for survivors of dysentery.

Crude slob.

Of course this is no joke. Sometimes making light of a dark situation helps us cope, understand and re-group emotionally. The British, during the worst of The Blitz, did a hilarious spoof of Hitler doing the "Lambeth Walk" and sang a song about hanging their washing on the Siegfried Line.

What will we teach our students about individual and collective character in times of stress? Have history and moral upbringing truly humanized us when we can't share the toilet paper, or we must buy up all the milk in a supermarket when there is a forecast of 4 inches of snow?

It takes so little to reduce some people to their basest instincts.

If I were in a classroom right now, I'd elicit from my students their views about what shapes the way a person is ethically constituted and how they feel they are themselves developing in that area. They would provide evidence and illustrations of the temptations and challenges they have faced.

Did they meet the mark or fall short? Have we?

The lessons of community unity, individual unselfishness, greed, self-control, fairness, sacrifice and proportional response to the pressures on her psyche may be, in one guise or another, part of a textbook-covered syllabus, but they lend themselves urgently to our self-evaluation during this pandemic.

We are the adults! Are we really?

Panic buying, not to assure our own subsistence, but as a cut-throat act of confiscation of our neighbor's share of essential supplies, is not a mere quirk of hysteria but a tale of societal incrimination.

Can't you hear our friends' assurances, laden with "middle class values," that "that's not who we are. We're better than that!"

Not so sure!


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(1) comment


Excellent, Ron. I trust the values and honesty and fairness of little kids more than I trust many adults.

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