Oh, my gosh! Reality has become more absurd than we could have imagined. Imagine: trains of Costco carts leaving the big box store with nothing but toilet paper! Enough TP to supply whole subdivisions for months going out the door in a day! Our most precious product/belonging –TP: not mother of Pearl nor potatoes, nor steak, nor fine wine, nor great music, nor—even—antiviral meds; just TP!?
And what is the basis of this panicked run on TP? The Coronavirus. So far it has killed almost 8,000 people. Though the Coronavirus kills a much smaller percentage of the people it infects than MERS and SARS did, our world today is so much more ‘socially connected’ that COVID-19 has already killed more humans than MERS and SARS combined.
So far a little less than 8,000 people have died from COVID-19—too many people. I hesitate to even ask it but do you know how many people died from malaria in 2018?—405,000; most of them children. Why oh why is the world not turning itself upside down to address this horrendous death toll? Could it be that the deaths are mostly among the children of black people in Africa; people who do not spend so much time in jet planes and many who have no stores to raid for toilet paper so they can waste rolls of it while fellow citizens face a bum rap?
Few seem to be paying heed to the fact that, under the influence of our ever warming Earth, the malaria belt moves further north every year. As our Earth warms a wide belt of deadly tropical diseases encroaches on those in temperate zones. And even without the encroachment of tropical diseases, Climate change with its shrinking land base and its deteriorating soils and its unstable weather is rapidly constricting the Earth’s ability to accommodate the toilet roll people.
Isn’t it amazing? 400,000 children die from Malaria every year and the biggest/ most urgent concern of North American shoppers is how many rolls of TP they can stuff into a super-sized Costco shopping cart? Don’t kid me. It(all this TP) is not about survival—half of humanity already use a swish clean Bidet rather than clear cutting their forests for a chemically treated/created tissue.
What would Jonathan Swift say if he were here? Well, he’d rewrite the last chapter of Gulliver’s Travels for sure. Even the cynical Swift could not imagine a species who would fight over their hoard of tissue paper while children died from lack of available treatment and mosquito controls.
There was a time when it was axiomatically assumed that humanity with its religion and art/music and science was some higher—ever evolving higher—life form. In the voice of Hamlet, Shakespeare exclaims: “What a piece of work is a man!”…“How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! … In action how like an angel! / In apprehension how like a god! … The paragon of animals!” Centuries later Darwin cast doubt on Shakespeare’s ennobled vision noting the “indelible stamp of (our) ‘lowly origin.’”__and he didn’t get to see the selfish/greed obsessed faces on those powering trains of toilet paper heading out into the Costco parking lot.
In fact we are, inherently, neither high nor low. We could end this viral outbreak and we could turn our attention to saving children from malaria and there is yet great music to be written and poems to recite and love to be shared. We could see in this virus the mirror we have long needed to reflect on. Do we really want a transportation system that is destroying our atmosphere, and insures that an ever more likely viral outbreak anywhere is, very shortly thereafter, an outbreak everywhere?
Can we not see that in the lowly Yahoo wallowing in the shit of his own home, Swift is foretelling our own wallowing in the dirty oil that is destroying our Earth/home? How could we focus so intently on stopping a virus yet be so nonchalant about humanly induced climate change that, uncorrected, will lead to the loss of swaths of humanity—and much of the natural world with it? If there is anything noble left in humanity, we will learn to value the lives of children over mountains of ass wipe; we will learn to love and honor and care for our precious home-The Earth. We will take enough TP for our needs and leave enough on the shelf for the comfort of those who come after us.

Norm Reynolds