Most of us have never lived through a time when civic responsibility was a priority on this scale. But now, with the appearance of coronavirus on our Island, everything has changed.
We didn't have to send our children away and go to work during wars.
We never had to shelter each other during difficult times or go without or sacrifice things that were important to us for a greater cause.
For the first time in many of our lives, we have to rally like we've never had to rally before. The arrival of COVID-19 has meant that there is a new sense of urgency when it comes to working together.
But duty is a new word to us — doing things to benefit the greater good rather than furthering our own needs, an alien concept. Today that means a responsibility that is also measured in a new way — the online world.
The virus of fearmongering is spreading faster than COVID-19 itself.
Last week the hoaxes over WhatsApp began arriving. 'Coronavirus in Leisureplex' the first text read. 'A man was there all day celebrating his nephew’s birthday after being in Italy last week'. The fake news spread like wildfire. After receiving the viral message (and passing it on), concerned parents jammed the phonelines at the play-centre in South Dublin which hosts hundreds of children every weekend.
It was eventually revealed as a hoax — a twisted chain-letter text that plays on parenting fear and the current uneasiness when it comes to this virus.
In Co Clare last night, a detailed list of schools closed 'due to coronavirus fears' was being shared online. The trouble is that it was actually a list of schools closed due to a weather red alert last year. Someone had doctored the list and sent it viral fueling concerns among a community already petrified that this illness had just taken one step closer to them.
The virus of fearmongering is spreading faster than COVID-19 itself. And we each have a responsibility to ensure we don't play into this game. That's our new-fashioned civic duty. Because it isn't a game, this is scary real-life stuff that doesn’t need to be escalated.
The media too has a duty — a responsibility to report the facts and to stop sensationalising some of the details.
Today a headline in one of the usual culprits reads that the global death toll could reach 68 million. This is based on an algorithm that just multiplies continuously without taking into account things like containment, future vaccines, seasonality and hundreds of other factors that will affect those numbers.
The result is nothing but panic. It prompts some to stockpile groceries unnecessarily so that others go without. Or horde face-masks so the health professionals go without. This is the opposite of social responsibility. This is prioritising the individual.
Let's shelf the panic — it breeds selfishness
If there was ever a time to trust in the experts, this is it. If there was ever a time to take everything else with a pinch of salt, this is also it. People love a good panic — something the social media conspiracy theorists, the tabloids and those seeking to spread fear are preying on.
The majority of us, should we get the virus, will be fine. We are the ones that should be signing up to help the more vulnerable and the elderly with things like delivering shopping to them... rather than stealing it off them in the supermarket aisle.
Maybe this can even be a crisis that brings back the lost sense of community spirit, communal resilience, neighbourly relationships, pride in how we overcome adversity together...
Let's shelf the panic — it breeds selfishness. And for goodness sake, don't spread rumours without actual verification. It is time we braced ourselves for what we can do instead of shivering about what we can't.
It's time to do our civic duty. It's time to wear the crown.
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