Monday, March 9, 2020


As readers will know, the Eastern coast of Australia is undergoing a coronavirus-inspired madness of panic buying and hoarding, manifested and symbolised by the runs (ha ha) on toilet paper.  Even Canberra is being caught short, from what I have been told.  As I have previously mentioned, Toilet Paper Wars have seen a knife pulled on a shopper, a man tasered and recently three women brawling, all in supermarkets over toilet paper disputes.  Security guards in supermarkets, 2 hour queues, and tissues, rice and pastas all gone are the latest.  People who have posted pics of their hoarded items on social media have been subjected to hostile abuse.

I echo what one person commented:

“Australia . . . brought together as one during the bushfire disaster, a month later torn apart due to toilet paper wars.”

Another commenter:

“Things I thought I’d never say:
‘Girls get dressed. We have to leave early for toilet paper hunting.’ “

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Remember the Seinfeld “spongeworthy” episode? 

In that episode, Elaine finds that her contraception of choice, Today Sponge, is now off the market.  A hunt finds 60 sponges and she is thereafter forced to decide whether a date is worth having sex with and using one of her precious sponges, what she refers to as “spongeworthy”.

I have been wondering whether people have to decide whether to share toilet paper with friends and relatives who are out by reference to how close the relationship is – are they pooworthy?

It only took a panic over toilet paper to show that underneath the veneer, we are all still savages, given the right circumstances.  Think that Nazi Germany wouldn’t have happened here? Then think back to the 2005 Cronulla race riots or to the anti-Muslim hostility when the Martin Place hostage siege was taking place and when hostages were killed.

I could be wrong.

When the Martin Place siege was taking place, a spontaneous movement – I’ll Ride With You – grew quickly.  It began when Rachael Jacobs said on Facebook during the siege that she had seen a woman she presumed was Muslim and who she also presumed was afraid of the Islamophobic backlash and expressed hostility taking place, silently removing her hijab while sitting next to her on the train. "I ran after her at the train station. I said 'Put it back on. I'll walk with u'. She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute - then walked off alone.”  That post inspired Twitter user, 'Sir Tessa', aka Tessa Kum: "If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/Martin Pl, wear religious attire, & don't feel safe alone: I'll ride with you. @ me for schedule."  She suggested starting a hashtag “#illridewithyou?" which then did happen.

Thousands of people joined the spontaneous campaign, offering to meet Muslim people at their local stations and to ride with them on their journey. There were 40,000 tweets using the hashtag #Illridewithyou in just two hours, according to Twitter Australia; 150,000 in four hours. And it kept growing.

As I said, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe people are intrinsically not savage and all Id with an overlay of civilisation and superego.  Maybe it’s only the extremists and lunatic fringe that get the attention in the media, making it look like that is the norm.

What do others think?

Perhaps the true test will come when the hoarded stockpiles are exhausted.  It could look like an episode of The Walking Dead then.  Or maybe we go back to days of the Romans and use a cloth on a stick.

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