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Society in emergency Sat, Mar 28, 2020
One of the disconcerting things about the brief period of pre-panic before the coronavirus quarantine was how unconcerned people were about basic preparation for emergencies.  I stocked up on a few essentials -- canned food, rice, water -- not in any crazy quantity, but enough to last us a few days in case something unexpected happened.  Everybody was like, "How could something crazy happen?"  I guess I've been on the receiving end of enough power outages from minor natural disasters (snow storms, hurricanes, etc.) to know that our society is held together by a very thin thread.  Hurricane Sandy was a real eye-opener in that respect.  When a bunch of people who live in the same area lose the same service at the same time, it suddenly puts a lot of pressure on stores and businesses in the area to provide.  And they obviously can't provide at that rate.  There were a few moments of almost-desperation -- "quick, get that gas container, they're almost all gone" -- where you realize there could've been an incident.  You get one particularly angry person who hasn't eaten or slept well for a couple days, and suddenly you have a spark that can ignite a fire.  It really wouldn't take much.  Add in some restrictions about when you're allowed to be out or how much you're allowed to buy, and suddenly you've got a full-blown panic. 

As much as we like to think we live in a well-run, organized, prepared, abundant society, all it would take to run this train off the tracks is for a store to run out of something -- meat, vegetables, toilet paper -- for some things to start going down.  Desperate people do desperate things to survive, and when scarcity looks threatening, desperation grows. #sociology

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