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Hypotheticals are fun, aren’t they? They’re a great way to learn about your values, who you want to be and who you think you are.

These questions range from the silly – what would you take to a desert island if you could only bring three things? – to the more serious: would you take revenge if someone murdered your family? Would you cut off your own arm to save your life in an emergency?

What would you take to a desert island if you could only bring three things?Credit:Louie Douvis

This past 18 months we’ve all had to ask ourselves an interesting hypothetical question (that I wish had stayed hypothetical): what would you give up to save a stranger’s life?

In most hypothetical scenarios we see ourselves as a hero who can swoop in to stop a mugging, run into a burning building or perform CPR. The question usually puts us at brief risk and ends with a grateful stranger who can thank us for saving their life.

But the coronavirus pandemic has put us in the more challenging situation of having to give up a lot, for a long time, without any credit. That’s where many people start to buckle, as we’ve seen lately in Victoria.

Through this exercise we’ve been able to see how far people will go – such as those who think wearing a mask is too much to save a stranger’s life, while for others, their breaking point was not being able to get a haircut, watch the grand final as a group, or visit their mum.

The coronavirus pandemic has put us in the challenging situation of having to give up a lot, for a long time.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Then there are the people who have decided which types of strangers they would be willing to save. They give themselves away when they start talking about how COVID will affect only the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions.

I wonder if they have an age or sickness level in mind, when they think about the deaths they find acceptable. What’s their cut-off? Sixty years old? Seventy? Eighty? And is asthma enough of a pre-existing condition to make someone not worth protecting, or do they have to have a serious heart condition?

We’re not being asked to give up minor things, and we all have limits. But you can’t deny that we’ve learnt a lot about ourselves, and those around us, in this pandemic. And not all of it has been good.

With NSW opening up from Monday, it’s going to be even more challenging to stay the course in Victoria. But we have to remember that they’re in a different situation than us, with lower cases, higher vaccination numbers, and a Premier who is openly prioritising the economy over health.

We just have to keep remembering why we’re doing this, and who we’re protecting.

Alice Clarke is an award-winning freelance journalist, producer and presenter.

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