With the advent of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we are witnessing extreme versions of people. Some people take Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice to “Be Kind” to heart. We see examples of people choosing to be the best version of themselves and acting with generosity and kindness. Then there are the other people who unleash a nastiness and vitriol that we only saw hints of in past interactions. The ongoing conversation has become, do difficult times reveal the actual predisposition of a person or does it reveal of lack of coping skills?
Since the beginning of civilization, there are examples of people who seek out those opportunities to dominate others. The motivations have ranged from selfishness, jealousy, insecurity, entitlement, sadism or fear of losing power. We have historical relics such as the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, concentration camps and the documentation of slavery, as glaring examples of this. With COVID-19, there are increased reports of family breakdown, abuse, separation, divorce, racism, and volatility in the community. Last week, a Kitsilano resident assumed the responsibility for aggressively questioning people on the beach, where they were from and ordering them home to their own neighbourhood. There is no shortage of examples of outrageous, opportunistic, and perhaps Machiavellian behaviour to warrant responses of anger, depression and dismay.
Yet, the friendliness and kindness is palpable on a daily basis. There are so many examples of generosity and kindness in person and online that have the capacity to fill our heart with gratitude. The smiles, the friendly conversation, inspirational stories, and the commiserating over lines at stores are daily occurrences. The 7 o’clock salute to thank health care workers has expanded from pots and pans to include percussion instruments, car and boat horns, sirens, and in some cases full bands. In their lives, did these people receive good character education with an emphasis on moral justice, integrity, and kindness from friends, families, or teachers?
In my heart of heart, I don’t believe in truly bad people who go out into the world with a mission to make other people miserable. And yes, good people have bad days. However, all of us are called on to make choices and are responsible for those choices. The COVID-19 global pandemic will be one of those times when the measuring stick comes out to judge where we were as a civilization in 2020. History will hold out the examples of the human capacity for greatness, or like Margaret Wheatley points out, the very clear indicators of the fall of yet another civilization. We will be held responsible for how we raised up the voices of those in need of help and encouragement, and how we responded on a societal or individual level.