• Daisy Edgar-Jones in War of The Worlds (SBS)Source: SBS
If we have learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, surely it is to not hoard the next time disaster strikes.
By
Nat Reilly

18 Jun 2020 - 4:07 PM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2020 - 10:50 AM

The plot of War of the Worlds – that humanity is all but wiped out by a devastating attack – seems eerily relatable right now. Although the sci-fi series depicts an alien invasion, the destruction, paranoia and widespread panic accompanying it feels, in this moment, just a little too close to home.

There are currently more than six million sufferers of coronavirus worldwide, along with over 390,000 known deaths from the disease. But It’s the rolling wave of fear – first, of infection then eventually of loss that has consumed us.

In Australia, where the curve has flattened to single digits until the recent Melbourne outbreak, there's been a tentative sense of optimism. As we crawl, like the characters in the series, out of our homes to face a new, doom-tinged reality, it’s time perhaps to reflect. What has coronavirus taught us about our ability to carry on in the face of disaster?

Knowing what we know now, how would we cope with a War of the Worlds scenario?

Knowing what we know now, how would we cope with a War of the Worlds scenario?

The first lesson might be: don’t hoard. When you hoard you just make it worse for everyone else. And, if it’s an alien invasion we’re talking about, well, a tower of bog roll won’t save you. Which brings us to our next idea – invest now in a bidet.

Also, if you’re not an expert then please, take a seat. Nobody needs your projected anxiety clogging up their feeds. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5G or vaccinations or the more well-meaning instructions to “kiss your grandparents goodbye” (an actual quote from a Facebook “friend”) all it does is spread more fear, which means more hoarding and more annoying arguments with the people you’re stuck at home with.

And while the coronavirus has left many cities and countries devastated, the clear instructions from experts, not the conspiracy theories or projected outcomes, were in the end what kept the majority of Australians at home.

And while the coronavirus has left many cities and countries devastated, the clear instructions from experts, not the conspiracy theories or projected outcomes, were in the end what kept the majority of Australians at home.

By March, most of us were already terrified enough to shelter in place anyway. We didn’t need that high school friend’s cousin telling us that peppermint oil would save lives, or that retired GP’s opinion – you know, the guy with zero expertise in the area of infectious disease or pandemics - that we would not see our friends until 2022.

The same rule applies to the Black Lives Matter movement. It might feel unsettling but the experts – people of colour – do not need to hear from anyone else about how they should protest or react when they’ve been enslaved and brutalised for generations. So if aliens came tomorrow, unless you’ve put in your time at NASA, or whatever it is they call The X-Files these days, keep your mouth shut.

Next, remember that just because a scenario predicted by experts is unsettling, even devastating, doesn’t mean you can dismiss it. So, if, you’re say, a President and you’re told in November that you should keep an eye on a potential world health emergency, you don’t get to creep into denial and pretend it is business as usual.

And if you’re the world’s biggest billionaire, you should probably make sure your employees are protected before forcing them to risk their lives for your business.

But if you do happen to have enough money and privilege to keep you safe, even comfortable, while the rest of the world gets zapped alive by UFOs, then please do not complain about how your US $27 million mansion feels like a jail, Ellen. And whatever you do, do not under any circumstances get a bunch of celebrities together to sing a barely relevant song in a collection of off-key voices – that may unite people, sure. But they are united in hatred.

Finally: remember that hope never feels like hope when you’re in the middle of a disaster. It feels like delusion. But it’s still worth holding onto because if we’ve learned anything from history it’s that aliens really respect resilience – oh, and that those lasers miss all the time.

War of the Worlds double episode will premiere at 8.30pm Thursday 9 July on SBS and will continue weekly at 9:30pm from Thursday 16 July. Episodes will be available on SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast. The series will be subtitled in Simplified Chinese and Arabic for SBS On Demand, available immediately following its premiere on SBS.