We’ve witnessed some appalling behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen price gouging and profiteering, scams and disinformation, and acts of selfishness on an international scale.

However, we’ve also seen the best in people. People all over the world have been looking after their neighbours and community, helping to deliver food and medicine to the vulnerable, signing up to volunteer in the millions, and donating to help others.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Julia, who thinks that selfishness is ingrained in humanity, but that we all have it within ourselves to be more caring and compassionate at times like this. Will the coronavirus lockdown bring out the best or worst in people?

To get a response, we spoke to Vytenis Andriukaitis, currently World Health Organization (WHO) Special Envoy for the European region and formerly European Commissioner for Health. How would he respond?

My answer will be very simple: please don’t forget the excellent verse from the New Testament, from Saint Paul: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. Please use it.

I don’t know whether we are inherently selfish or altruistic. From my point of view, I am a humanist. For me, altruism is the spirit of life, the spirit of co-existence together and, of course, the spirit of humanism and humanity. And I will be more than happy to send such a simple message from the New Testament: hope, faith, and love, but the greatest is love – please stay in love!

For another perspective, we also put the same question to Dr Sarita Robinson, Principal Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), whose research focus includes human responses to survival situations. What would she say?

I think it sort of depends where people are to begin with. I’ve seen some amazing acts of selflessness already, and people in my local area seem to be making sure that elderly relatives, and other people who can’t get around the local area are being looked after. We’ve organised shopping and medicine drop-offs, and there seems to be a real community spirit that’s gathering.

I’ve also had occasion where people are emailing me complaining that things aren’t good enough and that we haven’t done enough to help them with things, so it really is a tale of two sides. For some people, it seems to be bringing out the best, and for other people – and it’s probably because they’re anxious and upset about the situation and are displacing that anger and upset – are being a bit more difficult.

Finally, we put the same comment to Natascha Strobl, an Austrian analyst of right-wing extremism and popular Twitter user, who has been active on social media helping to organise community support activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. What would she say?

That’s a good question. I think both are possible. I can already see, as Julia says, that people can be very selfish, that people say, for example: ‘Now I can’t go on vacation just because we have to look after people who would otherwise die!’ And I’ve often read: ‘Well, is it worth it?’.

That’s why I believe that such a crisis situation brings out the best and the worst in people. And it’s not only that it’s bringing out the best in some people and the worst in others, it’s bringing out both in all of us, and sometimes you have to struggle with yourself. Sometimes you catch yourself in very bad moments, and then you may also notice thoughts that may not be so great. And then, other times, you can do good things again. I think you have to accept yourself and see that you look after yourself and others.

Is the crisis bringing out the best in people? Is selfishness ingrained in human behaviour? Or do we all have the capacity to be more caring and compassionate at times like this? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Andriukaitis (cc) Wikipedia Ufartas; Robinson (c) Hartley Robinson

23 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    The fact is that 1/4 of the world lives off the rest with the 2/4 in the middle try to resist while living off the left over 1/4 that suffers for the other 3/4.I am really hoping that after this pandemic will be a better place but that is just a hope.

  2. avatar

    For the vast majority yes.. at an individual, corporate and institutional level.

  3. avatar

    And the best in the countries… Like Netherlands

  4. avatar

    It brought out the best in the Netherlands for sure.

  5. avatar
    Daniela Xavier

    This crisis is showing everyone’s true colors, we’re seeing people and countries behaving in amazing ways and our country is one of them, for example. Nurses and volunteers fighting in the frontline very courageously and getting support from everyone, people helping the elderly, cooperating with the recommended guidelines from the government by staying at home. On the other hand, we have individuals who are price gouging and profiting from this crisis, disrespecting quarantine and protesting government action, like what is happening in the USA.

  6. avatar

    Yes, but people have short memory to continously doing good. And even shorten memory to remember good things (unlike bad things, which people remember for long time). Media is also showing more of how horrible is everything and much less of examples of kindness and bravery.

  7. avatar

    No. This Crisis only served to bring agendas to the surface and divide people. the propaganda of fear, forcing people to accept these normalities that are against their birthplace values, against family values ​​and is not at all well. Long live Europe, live the values ​​of the birthplace of Europe that have brought us here so successfully.

    • avatar


    • avatar

      past tense: served; past participle: served
      perform duties or services for (another person or an organization).
      “Malcolm has served the church very faithfully”
      work for
      be in the service of
      perform duties for
      be employed by
      have a job with
      be obedient to
      carry out the wishes of
      be of service to
      be of use to
      give help to
      give assistance to
      lend a hand to
      give a helping hand to
      do a good turn to
      make a contribution to
      do one’s bit for
      do something for
      minister to
      be a member of
      work on
      be on
      sit on
      have/hold a place on
      perform duties on
      carry out duties on
      present (food or drink) to someone.
      “they serve wine instead of beer”

    • avatar

      Successful sense of (great …) humor. Perform duties…?

    • avatar

      since the leftist brain is a little slow, I splice it as if it were for a child. This crisis is being used, it is being an excuse for, it is a reason for …..

    • avatar

      since the leftism brain is a little slow, I splice it as if it were for a child. This crisis is being used, it is being an excuse for, it is a reason for …..

    • avatar

      Excuse me but what is the current situation of Your brain? Are you in a position to spell some words on your issue? And I repeat after you check your ability to make some logical thoughts (on your issue and not like a child, too much to he expected I m afraid… like an amoeba perhaps?): Perform duties?

    • avatar

      . You are making fun of my age.. How 5ridiculously predictable from an amoeba-level brain…. And sad… No caliber at all… You know what? The quality of your answers proved exactly what I said in the begining: Yes the cricis helped humanity to understand once more and separate the logical from the conpirasists, the No in everything by default from the critical minds, the calm from the terrified uneducated. Thanks my boy… Thanks…

  8. avatar

    In Ireland. The answer is no. Most are divided about what is going on. Causing more friction with others than normal. We can’t see smiles, we are less likely to interact when outside our homes due to masks on faces. People are more anxious and stress here. So it is hard to be your best self for yourself let alone others. I am speaking from dicussions i was involved in with different people and groups here in Ireland. As a possible Level 5 looms tomorrow for the nation.

  9. avatar

    It’s bringing out the inconceivably stupid in people.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.