Alongside stories of heroism demonstrated by American citizens during the devastating hurricanes, stories about the price gouging spread as well. The price of a flight ticket jumped from $550 to $3,300, and a pack of bottled mineral water jumped to $42! These examples alone provoked a public storm on social media, and the New York Times reports that last week the Florida Attorney General’s Office filed more than 8,000 complaints about exorbitant prices for basic necessities such as gas, food and ice.
But should we expect retail chains to be considerate of others at a time of need? Did the stock exchange operate differently? If we had the good fortune to be sitting on a barrel of oil, would we not have seen an opportunity to make a profit when the whole country migrated north? If on a sunny and warm day every man expects to make a big profit, why should he be ashamed when an “opportunity from heaven” falls right in his lap during stormy weather? And this is not about extreme cases like a homeless person, a lost child, or an abandoned dog thirsty for water. This capitalistic “greed” is only natural, not to mention legal and acceptable in the free market.
So in times of distress, there is an expectation that the heart will expand slightly and take others into consideration. But it is unwise of us to protest price gougers’ lack of conscience.
If we want things to be different, we need new education and new social values. Human behavior is the product of a centuries-old social, educational and cultural climate. If you’re unsatisfied with what is happening, then let’s aspire to do things better. Just before life returns to normal, let’s find out where we stand as global citizens. And if we find a hint of desire to add a human tinge to our lives, then the solution lies in education, in fostering a higher quality of human connections.
A few tweets to “make America great again” won’t do the trick here. Only a large-scale program that would unite the multi-stakeholder groups across America could be a springboard for evolving to a more positive, sustainable and optimistic future.