OPINION: Mass hysteria over the coronavirus and the social impact it could have

OPINION By Ben Sanderson

I was privileged enough to receive a thankful and detailed response to my earlier article about mass hysteria which addressed chiefly the economic consequences of this upsurge in self-isolation and near-lockdown, which have the potential to be disastrous.

The detailed response raised a few issues which I had not considered, which may turn out to mean so much more than potentially the greatest financial crash since 1929 and biggest state intervention in the economy since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Has anyone thought about how the mental state of human beings is affected by an extended stay at home?

Depression is bound to rise. There is no catalyst for depression quite like boredom, and extended stays at home filled with no work and few passtimes will make many people question the point of everything.

My brother, in Year 11, is having a mini existential crisis dealing with the fact that his GCSEs, which his whole time at school has built up to, will not take place this Summer.

While this is a case which will see a recovery, many will not. Think of those people who at around this time may have received the promotion they had been working for their entire careers and the opportunity that had long been their goal.

Knowing this virus and the Twitter-driven hysteria surrounding it has stopped them from that goal will surely make them feel the world has come crashing down on them.

Image courtesy of US National Park Service: The coronavirus

People’s aims will change, sometimes for the worse. Many will fail to keep themselves busy. People will be bored out of their minds and faced with precious little to do will slump into depression.

You may not be one of the people this happens to. If so, congratulations. Many will not be blessed with such a controlled mental state. They are going to face a difficult few months indeed.

Relationships are bound to turn ugly. Facing a long period of isolation with partners, relatives and loved ones will fuel in many cases some contempt over time. Domestic abuse is surely going to rise the longer people are stuck at home together.

If and when there is a lockdown, which there is clearly the propensity for, people will be stuck at home with each other for far too long for many to bear. Things will get very, very ugly.

With the cash-strapped police, hit by years of senseless austerity cuts, losing power to arrest people, adding to the fact that many domestic abuse cases terrifyingly go unreported, taken into account, there is serious potential people may get killed.

Child support services may be forced into cancelling appointments to check up on vulnerable children, which is going to leave them in the control of dangerous parents.

In addition, the racism and bitterness fuelled by the fact that the virus originated in China means the situation will turn even uglier.

Image courtesy of Bay Harbour Islands: The coronavirus

Now, this is all worst-case scenario stuff, much like the hysteria in the other school of thought, but the longer this mass isolation goes on, the more likely these things become.

The response to a lot of the hysteria has been to think it selfish to think that isolation is not a sensible response to the virus considering the people who may be affeced.

All who disagree with the hysteria are very concerned for them. Nobody would wish this virus on anyone. What has happened here and around the world has been a terrible tragedy.

In a very good point the response raised, worldwide fear has proven to be very dangerous throughout history. People in fear do not act logically and when people act irrationally bad things tend to happen.

Bitterness, apathy, wrath and hatred, the ugly side of humanity, will be empowered by the longer stays in self-isolation.

Many dismiss the economic consequences of the mass isolation and hysteria as sacrifices we have to make. I cannot imagine anyone will want to take these kinds of risks, though.

There is petrifying potential for some very bad things to happen over the coming months. If the stock market crash and job losses don’t strike a chord with people, hopefully this will.

There are far more worrying human consequences to the coronavirus than simply those who get it. We are facing a Draconian world order and only with temperance and less hysteria will we emerge from it with civility.