We live in truly fascinating times. None of us have a guidebook for this as almost nobody has lived through anything like it.

World Wars have an obvious and visible threat that brings people together. Pandemics present an invisible threat that we cannot fight with a gun nor hide from in a bunker.

Unfortunately, what comes with such a threat is fear. In wartime, I imagine that this fear saw people become courageous and resolute, working together to oppose some form of perceived evil. However, it seems that during a pandemic, this fear turns into self-preservation, distrust, conflict and abuse.

My 63-year-old sister, who is slowly and very courageously working her way through stroke recovery, was appalled last week to see two elderly ladies brawling in a supermarket over a packet of toilet tissue. These women were probably some child’s kind and loving grandma.

Last night I was a little dismayed to read an email from an old friend. She was citing a dictatorial government who people should stand up to as they take away our rights and freedom. She wanted to go about life as normal and ignore the pandemic. She felt that it was her right. But of course, that then meant in her eyes that the government are wrong.

I wondered for a moment where someone with no training at all in the human sciences received all of her incredible knowledge of pandemics. But alas, I could not help from that perspective.

The reality we face is that we all have minds. Minds tend to be mostly full of trash and they can talk to us and tell us things. If we listen too much, we can go mad. I have experienced it personally. When playing football years ago, I remember being in a lot of brawls, often I was close to the flashpoint. In the wisdom that has come with age, I realise now that a kind word at the time might well have been all that was needed. Perhaps I loved to violence a little too much, along with the attention that comes with being a bit of a tough guy.

I have a sense it would be helpful for us to all realise right now that our minds are just minds, and minds are prone to madness if we lose focus and close down the wise guidance of our hearts, then we become little more than a person living on the edge of reactive savagery.

In times like this, living in communities, we need good people to step up and take notice, to help out by using their awareness and good character to become more of a social conscience and to take on a guardianship role in the community. There are vulnerable people who need to be cared for and protected.

At times like this, domestic violence is an issue we all need to pay attention to. It is not a case of us thinking that people should not be violent. Some people are. We can debate the reasons, or just accept that right now, that is how it is. Vulnerable people are at risk of abuse.

When the abuser is home more, and the effects of fear take their toll, we may be at risk of witnessing an increase in this terrible social scourge.

So, at this time, I am keeping my antennae up. I will stay alert to what is going on around me and make sure I notice when someone needs care and/or protection.

I do not suggest that you go alone to take on a violent and enraged offender. That is why we have police. But you can let the offender know they have been heard and that police are on their way.

And I leave you with something to consider. Our prisons are filled with people who made a really bad decision on a snap of reactivity. Their lives are ruined because they exploded and hurt someone. Many of these are fundamentally good people who lost self-control.

When you step in to prevent or interrupt domestic violence, you are caring for the perpetrator as much as you are the victims. Condemning someone who has lost control of their mind does not help. With this compassionate perspective, if you do know of people in your neighbourhood who have a tendency to be reactive and violent, perhaps it is a good idea from time-to-time to take a mate and go check in with them to make sure they are ok and coping.

This is a problem that will not fix itself.

John Toomey


Leave a Reply