The Boy and The Filberts

Apr 21 2020
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The filberts looked mighty tempting. The boy plunged his hand into the pitcher and grasped so great an amount he could not withdraw his fist. 
Unwilling to release a single filbert, yet unable to retrieve the nuts,
he became frustrated.  “My son,” said his mother, “don’t be so greedy.  Be
satisfied with half the amount, and you’ll easily pull out your hand.”

“But I want them all, each and every filbert!,” cried the boy, “They’re all mine! I will share with none! If I can’t have them, no one can!”

Change the era of Aesop, who lived during the sixth century BC, to whom many attribute this fable, to the present time of Coronavirus (COVID-19),  substitute paper and sanitizing products for filberts and the frenzied
hoarders for Filbert Boy.  Panic is immortal. 

My Mama would have referenced another Aesop fable, “The Dog in the Manger”. The creature occupied the manger not because he wanted to eat  hay, but to prevent other animals from doing so.

Boys with filberts, dogs jealously guarding mangers, creating shortages in a sea of plenty.  Everyone from President Trump to corporate managers of food stores have pleaded with the hoarders to stop:  If everyone would return to a normal purchasing routine, all customers could have a fair share.  The food industry, since the corona-panic began in early March, sold three months of supplies within ten days.  This hoarding has forced food retailers to compete with one another for additional refrigeration and freezer warehousing space.  Trucking shipments to grocery and
discount retailers increased an average of 56% between March 15 and March 19, as compared to the same period in 2019.

Retailers have set limits on per-person-per-item-per-day purchases and instituted senior citizen only
shopping time frames.  It’s made scant improvement; my observation, in the availability of products for the non-hoarders who just want to obtain normal quantities. Store employees monitor “social distance”. Police officers prevent Kleenex kerfuffles. 

Anyone remember the Y2K preppers? 

How much paper, hand sanitizer and chlorine bleach do the filbert-fisted need?  Here’s a simple calculation for a four-item limit on toilet tissue.  A four roll package times four equals sixteen rolls, times thirty days (for those who irreligiously snatch up the precious product) equals 480 rolls. One roll per week, per individual, based on a 52-week year is a nine year supply.  The Y2K preppers were not as gluttonous.  

Those who are down to their last roll could follow the advice of singer-environmentalist Sheryl Crow, who prescribed “one square per restroom visit”, because using too much tushie paper is an environmental sin. “One Sheet Sheryl”, on her 2007 Stop Global Warming College Tour, demanded the furnishing of thirteen gas-guzzling SUV’s for herself and her entourage. 

Retailers have announced they will not accept returns of these stockpiled treasures.

But the filbert boys and girls still line up in front of the stores – some sleep in their vehicles overnight – to rush the doors and grab armfuls. 
The depleted shelves of  American food stores could easily be mistaken for those of socialist “central planned” economies – the Soviet Union and Venezuela, being two examples. Central planning is not about the efficient allocation of agricultural or other economic resources. Rather, it is rigid state control.  The causes of our manufactured  paper items and food “shortages” and those of totalitarian states are very different, but the result is the same.  COVID-19 has provided us the bitter taste of socialism.

Psychologists suggest that hoarding provides relief of anxiety and a means of control.  As it relates to the Coronavirus, this is not a time to engage in “me first” behavior. Common household products should not be used as weapons in the viral war.  COVID-19 has already been overly-politicized and made a partisan issue.

Benjamin Cheyette, MD, advises not engaging  in “psychological
pandemic”, but, rather, practicing “Social Vitamin C”:  Courtesy, Consideration, Caring, Community, Compassion.

None of this diminishes the seriousness of  COVID-19.  As this column has been submitted, there are 46,603 confirmed cases nationwide (16,690 deaths); 11,483 in Texas (223 deaths); ten local (no deaths).

A “white swan event” has certainty, a probable impact and is explained as the result of human error.  A “black swan event” – COVID-19 –
is one that is  unpredictable, has major impact, but, in retrospect, will be judged less random.  In Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake”, Odette and Odile are metaphors for good and evil.   We are Americans all, regardless of our politics. We will defeat Odile, the “black swan”.

Social distance!

Mary Himlin, is President ofthe Kendall County Republican Club