‘This is and will remain a luxury crisis’ – Belgium

‘If this becomes our collective pain threshold, we are really not in a good position’, Jonathan Holslag (VUB) writes.

This is a deceptive crisis. On the one hand, you can say that it is a particularly disruptive crisis. It is not a natural disaster or invasion that stirs up spirit and solidarity, it is a silent state of paralysis that flattens the enthusiasm and breaks the ranks. It is a crisis that leads to isolation and misunderstanding. Even though war language is used, most of the population experiences little danger. They wonder whether the measures are proportional. The lack of clarity makes this crisis mentally difficult.

This is a deceptive crisis. On the one hand, you can say that it is a particularly disruptive crisis. It is not a natural disaster or invasion that stirs up spirit and solidarity, it is a silent state of paralysis that flattens the enthusiasm and breaks the ranks. It is a crisis that leads to isolation and misunderstanding. Even though war language is used, most of the population experiences little danger. They wonder whether the measures are proportional. The lack of clarity makes this crisis mentally difficult. But that same ambiguity also makes you wonder whether it has not been completely ripped off that people complain to such an extent that one of the most privileged societies is so reeling in a victim role in this crisis. We have parks where we can play sports. All vital functions of our society are more or less maintained. Thanks to our prosperity, most can stay in work or take lessons remotely. The sick are well cared for. Those affected economically have a safety net that most people on this globe can only dream of. It remains a luxury crisis. But it is a luxury crisis that can have major long-term consequences for our society. It may even be a turning point in the functioning of our society and state. Of course I realize that hundreds of thousands of people who have been struggling are now being pushed even more into poverty. But for most average middle-class Belgians, the bar for self-pity is set unimaginably low. It’s annoying, missing your buddies and your child showing up during the umpteenth Teams meeting. But if that becomes our collective pain threshold at the beginning of a phenomenal global battle for power and prosperity, then we really are not in a good position. I think that this lament often testifies to a poignant unworldliness and a lack of sense of reality. The crisis has also dealt an unprecedented blow to our political system. For a long time it was fair to claim that states were retreating. But the institutional maze of regions, member states and European institutions was passed on all sides by states, including the newly departed United Kingdom. Citizens are questioning this European political morsel. But that also remains double. On the one hand, citizens want strong leadership, but on the other hand they want to be served at their beck and call. And oh woe when Ikea closes. On the one hand, there is a kind of repulsion phenomenon, where the citizen no longer wants to know his elected politicians, and on the other hand he still largely continues to vote the traditional parties in power. We float into the stormy 21st century with a democratic project that makes water. Political distrust has led more and more citizens to believe that the political soup relieves them of their civic duty. From the squares in Molenbeek to the sheltered residential areas of Latem and Brasschaat, and from the teenager on the skater ramps to the boomer in his LED-lit man cave: cynical libertarianism is gaining ground. Get rid of the state. Get rid of the cops – me-me-me. It seems that the disorder at the political level is sending more and more people the signal that we can afford the same kind of disorder at the level of the citizens. A large number of conspiracy thinkers, digital stirrers and political agitators provide the arguments for this. Enforcers don’t know anymore either. Guidelines change all the time. Local law enforcement often has to consider mayors who want to profile themselves as powerful leaders if they can pull off a new vaccination center, but don’t want to show leadership when it comes to enforcing rules. Enforcement has become a twilight zone in which more and more incidents occur and each incident only makes it more difficult. We will only feel the greatest consequences of corona in the years to come: parts of our society have become victimized and demoralized to such an extent, and government is so delegitimated that it will be extremely difficult to cope with the greater economic and geopolitical challenges. . And even that should no longer be said, according to some therapists.

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