Hoarding is despicable, but those stocking up on toilet paper are misunderstood


People have spent weeks deriding their fellow citizens' buying of toilet paper. The pictures mocking empty store shelves are a constant on social media feeds. People scoff at the idea that some others believe toilet paper has anything to do with COVID-19, a respiratory disease.

For what we now know was a gloriously aimless period, when many were unsure of the seriousness of coronavirus - say, a few days ago - people felt awkward going on even a regular run for TP, lest they be judged by their fellow shoppers as a survivalist or hoarder.

Hoarding is despicable, and especially so in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens lives, social stability and the economy. News reports of stores being sold out of basic cold and flu medications are worrying. Stores will need to implement more limits on certain key products to keep some online hustlers-cum-vultures from swooping in. "Don't be a jerk" needs to be a guiding mantra.

But to me, the desire to stock up on some extra 24-roll packages of TP has been largely misjudged. It is mostly an act of wanting to be prepared for an unknown. It's an attempt by people at exerting some control over a situation increasingly out of control. And a bit extra of everything to be ready for two weeks or more at home isn't a bad or selfish thing - a reasonable level of preparation is actually helpful for society.

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