The Corona Virus is a respiratory malady. The danger is that it could lead to pneumonia. Corona does not attack the digestive system, and so doesn’t cause diarrhea. There isn’t, therefore, any practical reason to hoard toilet paper. And yet, the shelves of most stores are completely sold out of it. This is all quite enigmatic, and suggests that there is something deeper going on, something really interesting occurring.
One could argue that people are hoarding the toilet paper simply because they expect to be holed up in their house for an extended period, fearful of shopping or too ill to shop, when the virus becomes a full-blown plague. And, of course, once the run on toilet paper began, there were many who began hoarding it themselves, because they knew that other people were hoarding it, thus creating a vicious cycle. But if that were simply the case, why aren’t other essential items — such as food and medicine — being hoarded? Well, hand disinfectant has been hoarded, but not much else.
So what, then, is the real motive for the toilet paper hoarding? Even among secular people — indeed, among many avowed atheists — there is deep sense that their suffering is due to sin. And even among secular people, there exists the perception that mankind has sinned and that the apocalypse in coming as divine punishment.
How, then, does toilet paper enter the picture? Well, the perceptive fault, or sin, often takes the form that one is, to use a vulgar expression, “full of shit.” In other words, the foundation for one’s life — one’s ideas, notions, beliefs, ideology, and worldview — is simply a lot of crap, false, without substance or merit.
Most of the time, we hide from this perception. But the dread of death, which emerges when people fear an apocalyptic plague, reveals how insubstantial, indeed how hollow, our ideas and beliefs really are. Each of us has that moment when the Dread Spirit knocks on our door — at four in the morning, the time of the dark night of the soul — and interrogates us, as the Ghost of Christmas Future did to Scrooge, in Dickens, “A Christmas Carol.”
Thus, for those who, in such dreadful moments of stone-cold sobriety, realize that they are full of shit, they know that, following their inner confession must come their purgation, their effort to purify themselves. And this purgation symbolically will take the form of shitting out all of the crap that’s been in them for so long. And they know, subconsciously, that they are going to need an enormous amount of toilet paper.
Why the panic? It too is symbolic. It is that one will not have on hand the supplies to “clean up one’s act,” i.e., the toilet paper, after the long purge — physical, psychological, and spiritual — that will be occurring in the commode. People will know and one will feel shame.