The world today is challenging all of us. For most of us in the United States, we are accustomed to being able to do what we want, go where we want, and live in any fashion that we choose. By standards of yesteryear and even many countries today, we live in luxury. And, most people here have never experienced restrictions on our freedom. Now, we are facing a time where restrictions limit us. In that light, each of us must focus on what we can control.
The Great Depression & WWII
The last time there were significant nationwide restrictions on Americans was during World War II. Most of the people that experienced the days of the Great Depression and WWII are no longer with us. Only the few remaining members of the Greatest Generation remember those days. It is from them that we can get some perspective on the situation we are facing today.
Availability of Items
The challenges of the Great Depression and WWII were different than the challenge we face today. Still, there are some commonalities. During the 1930s and 1940s, the government rationed items because we could not get items, such as, sugar and coffee in a big enough supply for everyone to have as much as they desired. Other items, such as, shoes were rationed to save materials for the war. An important factor is that this wasn’t for a couple of months. These restrictions went on for several years, although some were eased over time.
Today items, such as, toilet paper and hand sanitizer are difficult to find in stores. However, the reasons are different. It isn’t that we can’t get materials to make them or that they are needed for another reason. Instead, they are scarce because of panic buying and in some cases hoarding with the idea of profiting off of the situation.
The availability of most items should return to normal shortly as people see that supplies are replenished and opportunists find that selling these items more difficult than they imagined due to rules put in place by online marketplaces. To assist with the situation, stores have begun rationing the number of some items that an individual can purchase at a given time until people return to normal purchasing patterns.
You can’t control what is on the shelves, but you can ensure that you buy only what you need. Perhaps consider a few extra items so that you have to shop less often, but don’t over do it. Consider how long it will take you to use the items you purchase. The less we all panic buy, the less likely we will have new restrictions on our freedom to purchase items of our choosing.
Restaurants and Bars
During the war, restaurants stayed open in most areas. However, some had limited hours. Likewise, in some areas nightlife was put on hold by local governments. The reasoning being that it was wrong for people to have fun while our soldiers were risking their lives. Yet, theaters were still open and people did get a burger and fries now and then.
Today, restaurants and bars are closed or have limited take-out and delivery services not because it wouldn’t look right, but instead to curb the transmission of COVID-19. One huge difference is that today people eat out far more than they did 80 years ago.
Eating out is a habit and some people do it daily. Thus, it seems like a much bigger issue to most people today than it was in 1940. This restriction on our freedom seems to some as overwhelming. If you are one of them, I recommend learning to cook (if you don’t know how), spending time with your family, learning about something you are interested in, or doing some other home activity that you enjoy. If you are an extrovert, talk on the phone, have group chats, email, message, and use social media sites to stay in contact.
Already gyms, restaurants, museums, theaters, and other businesses have had their doors closed or their business greatly altered by government rules. Additionally, there are rumors that some businesses will be asked (or told) to convert to making medical supplies. This type of thing did happen during WWII. Businesses had no choice. The government told them what they would be making and the timeline they had to make it.
We aren’t accustomed to the government dictating the closure of businesses or what businesses can and cannot do. However, the longer this outbreak goes on, the more likely business decisions will be controlled by the government. Still, it doesn’t mean that it will be forever. As WWII ramped down, businesses returned to making the products they had made before the war almost overnight. In some cases, the first new civilian products rolled off the assembly lines the same day the restriction was lifted.
People travel much more today than they did in the 1930s and 1940s. People fly at the drop of a hat, cruise on the oceans, and drive across the country without it being a big deal. It was just a part of life up until the last few weeks when travel restrictions started being put in place.
Travel restrictions today are a bit different than during WWII. During WWII, people weren’t technically restricted from travel. However, gas rationing made it nearly impossible to travel. And, if you blew a tire, you probably weren’t getting a new one for a long time, as they required government approval to purchase. Likewise, you had to have government approval to purchase a car or a tractor. Fortunately, we haven’t reached that point.
Travel may be greatly restricted right now. So, what can we do? Travel online. Research places that you would like to someday visit, find museum collections online, share stories of previous travel, etc. Use technology to bring travel and exotic places into your life.
Focus On What We Can Control
The government may control many aspects of life, however, they don’t control everything. Thus, it is important for each of us to focus on what we can control. We cannot control that we can’t hang out at our favorite restaurant. However, if we can afford it, we can still order take out. We can also experiment with making new kinds of food, try new hobbies, etc.
We don’t have to allow restrictions on our freedoms to lead to negative thinking. By focusing on what is under your control, we will keep a positive mindset and make it through this situation better people than we were before. We have the Greatest Generation as our role model. Make them proud.
Join us March 26 as we discuss Being In Control In Uncertain Times. The event is FREE.