Coronavirus brings out the best in some, but worst in others – leader comment
A crisis tends to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. It amplifies the content of our character, making the true nature of the people around us more obvious, but also revealing what kind of person we really are and, perhaps, moving some to self-reflection.
Among disgraceful reports of people stealing hand sanitiser from hospitals and causing shortages by panic buying, there have been some accounts of people and companies acting in a most commendable way in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
These include simple things like the staff at the Piecebox cafe in Edinburgh’s Polworth taking the time to clean the door handles regularly. This shows care for their customers and is a step that others could take.
The soap chain Lush is allowing people to come in to wash their hands for free. “We’ve got loads of soap and plenty of hot water,” said Lush chief executive Mark Constantine.
Banks have also been rallying round to offer help. RBS, still mostly owned by the taxpayer, said yesterday it would allow people affected by coronavirus to defer mortgage and loan payments for up to three months. Lloyds and TSB have said affected customers would also be able to defer payments.
Cynics might claim this is just a marketing ploy, but doing the right thing tends to come with an often-unavoidable side-effect of making the individual or company responsible look good.
There is a danger in using cynicism as a substitute for wisdom. You might look smart to some if you always doubt the good intentions of others because occasionally people do let themselves down.
But most of us are reasonably decent human beings; we have evolved to be so – if we were not ‘social animals’, if we really were all ‘in it for ourselves’, then society would break down. All the greatest things we have achieved are the result of co-operation. Even an individual genius like Isaac Newton admitted: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Coronavirus is a deadly global threat but the best way to beat it, which would add to the list of our achievements, is by working together.
So we should give credit where it is due and remember that being overly cynical will only encourage selfish behaviour at a time when we need altruism more than ever.
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