By now, everyone has experienced the disappearing toilet paper caper. We made our monthly trip to COSTCO last week only to discover that the warehouse was void of any toilet paper and paper towels. In its place was an employee telling the shoppers parading past that a shipment will be in tomorrow. What seemed strange is that a pallet of Kleenex sat across the aisle from the empty skids where TP and paper towels were usually located. Wouldn’t you want to stock up on Kleenex instead of toilet paper in the midst of a potential pandemic?
Hoarding has been around since families lived in caves. The practice of piling up goods for personal use may have peaked during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Most Baby Boomers will remember their parents or grandparents telling stories of how those from the Great Generation began to hoard items, especially toilet paper and soap. They saved everything. Old clothes would not be thrown out, but would become a piece of a quilt – many of them beautiful. Equipment that didn’t work was saved in case a replacement part from it was necessary in repairing its successor.
The generation before us hoarded different food items, too. Hunger was massive in the 1930s. The period experienced more than an economic downturn; it was also the time of the Dust Bowl. Food was scarce because it was almost impossible to grow enough to feed a nation. It just dawned on me that Grandma’s Garden and her cave was an example of how one person could not possibly have enough food to last a lifetime.
Today, the global markets are as unstable as the tornadic Midwestern air in May and June. The NYSE is replicating the ups and downs it saw in 1929. Many economists are predicting that we are heading for a recession. I anticipate it may look more like a depression, such as the Great Depression that followed the Black Friday market crash of late October in 1929.
Now, with self-isolation, safe distancing, working from home, businesses closing, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and church services canceled (even Catholic Mass, which is the first time in my life), quarantine, and short supplies of food and staples, I wonder if some of us will be thrown back into a previous time.
Perhaps we’re in a cyclical spin. Santayana, the famous philosopher and essayist (essayist means blogger in modern terms) said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This time, the Greater Depression will be caused by a lack of leadership, failure to foresee and compensate for a disaster, and underlying anarchy. It’s inevitable that we will see an increase in crime and poverty, as if the two can be separated. And lack of addressing the issue of climate change, combined with the financial collapse of numerous economies, may add to the mental and physical decay of those living in helplessness and hopelessness.
I’m not necessarily predicting doom and gloom. Just sayin’, you know.