Hatred and blame during lockdown

Sunset over a city

The memes, jokes and hate have already started flowing after an individual who contracted Coronavirus deceived authorities by stating that they only visited the Woodville pizza shop for takeaway. The truth later emerged that the individual had not contracted the virus from takeaway but by casually working in the pizza shop with another infectious co-worker. The South Australian government had decided to lock down the state for 6 days on the assumption that the individual had contracted the virus from the pizza takeaway and was thus a case of community transmission through takeaway, a highly worrying occurrence. When the lie was exposed, the 6-day lockdown was announced, only to end 3 days early (source). As disturbing as the lie was, it also revealed to me the ease in which a community will form hate and anger. I don’t think any of the hate or anger towards this individual is constructive or justified without a complete understanding of the context.  

When you are in a challenging situation it can be easy to form thoughts of anger and hate towards people. A scapegoat can quickly emerge, and you can fall into the trap of solely blaming an individual for the situation. This seems to be the case for the worker at the Woodville pizza shop who told police they had only visited to collect a takeaway pizza but in reality, were a part-time worker at the shop. The current commentary and discourse towards this individual seem to be that ‘’they are the reason for this outbreak’’ and "they should be punished’’. Despite it only being a few days there will have been tens of millions of dollars of economic impact. For business owners and employees, these ‘few days’ have been a big deal (source). Understandably, there is a lot of anger. Whilst their decision to not tell the truth has had significant consequences, I don’t believe a public outcry for their head is constructive.  Conveniently, the South Australian Government and Premier Steven Marshall were very upfront in condemning the individual and detailing their actions whilst neglecting more systemic problems within the quarantine system stating, "the selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation. His actions have affected businesses, individuals, family groups and is completely and utterly unacceptable." What he did not suggest is that this outbreak and the lie may represent not just the failure of an individual but also a failure of services to provide a supportive environment where individuals feel they can tell the truth without consequences, receive adequate pay and continuous testing.

The individual was working multiple jobs, casually employed as a security guard, on a temporary graduate visa and on the front line of pandemic control (source). Something doesn’t add up. I am trying to ask myself, what would I have done? Would I have thought logically and rationally when I was being interviewed by a team of government contact tracers? What if I was blamed? Clearly lying to officials is wrong. However, there has appeared public backlash and hate towards this individual without a clear understanding of all of the facts and information and an understanding of the context. For whatever reason the individual didn’t feel comfortable telling the truth to police and government officials meaning they were not assured in a way that encouraged them to be truthful without consequences. They were then used as a scapegoat to take all the anger and blame.

There is also further anger that the South Australian government decided to enforce this lockdown based on the actions of this individual. However, would it have been better if these lockdown measures were not taken? They represent an overly cautious response to the outbreak which will hopefully control it. These harsh conditions, whilst difficult, will ensure that the state is secure, safe and COVID-19 free. So, whilst the pizza memes and jokes come in, I am trying to think about the individual and what they are feeling. Does feeling angry and blaming individuals help the situation in the slightest? Instead I am trying to put my energy and effort into reading and understanding the situation, abiding by the rules and waiting out this brief and hopefully effective lockdown.   

Tagged in anger, What messes with your head