The Psychology Of Toilet Paper

Today marks a year since the beginning of the pandemic, at least in the part of the world where it caught me, Spain. I still remember the vibes of those first days and weeks. A lot of nervousness, a bit of panic (well, for some, a little bit more panic) and a sense of hope. At least that’s what I remember, that we still had hope back then. That part changed dramatically during the last year, thinned by conspiracy theories, tiredness, authoritarian measures and confusing news about vaccines or treatments.

But enough with it already, I’m not gonna focus on that, at least not now. I’m going to ramble about something else, something that made the headlines in the news for weeks a year ago. Namely, the toilet paper thing.

Remember how people rushed to the supermarkets to buy toilet paper? How they even fought over packs of toilet paper?


What is so important about toilet paper and the end of the world that people are capable of fighting over it?

You would expect them to fight over food or pills. It’s the end of the world, you may not have food tomorrow. Or you may get even sicker. But no, they fought over toilet paper.

The first – and the easiest – explanation is that, deep down, humans know they are actually full of shit. And they know that if a long isolation period will follow, they won’t be able to manage their own shit, won’t be able to dump it (on other people), so they’ll have to contain it somehow. So, they really have to have lots of toilet paper, otherwise the situation will get stinky.

But if you really think about it, there is another level to this, more profound, and less funny.

All animals have a limited field of vision. When a potential danger arises, this field of vision becomes even narrower. So, they have to focus only on the things which offer them a higher chance of survival.

But, being so focused on their own survival, being so individualistic and ignorant, humans make the wrong choices. They choose toilet paper instead of choosing medium or long term alliances with other people. They choose toilet paper because that will keep them clean, preserving an identity to which they cling every second, keeping them inside their own safe ego.

When danger hits, humans fear dying at all levels, physical, emotional, conceptual. If their image of “me” is tainted, that means they’re dying. Even if they keep being healthy, if they don’t know who they are, anymore, or if that image is covered by the byproduct of its own existence, by the residue generated by ingesting energy, then they’re technically dying.

So, the psychology of toilet paper is the psychology of the all mighty ego, the all mighty “me” that needs to survive, to preserve its structure, its image, its characteristics.

It’s so shortsighted, this ego, though, that it can’t understand that toilet paper needs to be produced. There is an entire process for that toilet paper to come close to their reach, a process involving raw materials, energy, transportation, . And this process is initiated and managed by other people.

If those people get ill, there won’t be any more toilet paper in the world.

So it would be so much safer to focus on the well being of all the people, at once. All the people in the world, everywhere. If all people are well, I, the guy desperate to keep my ass clean, I will also be well, because, obviously, there will still be enough toilet paper around.

But, you know, sometimes I think we don’t really need to go to that profound, and not so funny level.

It’s just that, deep down, humans know they’re actually full of shit.

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