When I lived in California I kept a 60-day rotating supply of food and water, plus a rotating supply of 80 gallons of petrol (stabilized with fuel additive) because in the event of a major quake I knew everyone and their pet hamster would rush out and strip the shelves bare — plus, in a nation of 400 million smallarms, I suspected things could get quite ugly. I also had a full medkit and had trained to deal with everything except major surgery. Finally a pair of camping stoves provided the means to cook food during a prolonged gas & electrical outage. Ironically the panic buying I knew would occur has happened in front of me while I’m in Europe and no longer have quite as much preparation to fall back on, but I’ve a realistic understanding of my needs (very modest) as well as a pragmatic view of infection, so I don’t feel personally induced to participate in mass hysteria. And having grown up in what are now termed “developing countries” I also know how little we really need in order to get through each day. I have noticed, however, that those who throw themselves enthusiastically into panic are most unhappy with the few of us who aren’t similarly inclined. That’s basic group mentality at work, and in the end this need for conformity and shared hysteria may be far more dangerous than any temporary stripping of supermarket shelves.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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