THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Peter Hanenberg / 26. 5. 2020
As a contribution to the debate, I would like to quote my colleague Ana Margarida Abrantes who wrote the following reflection:
“This is not a war
It is not uncommon for politics and the media to refer to crises as wars. It helps frame the situation and concentrate efforts on fighting a cause, the more so as this cause is a living organism with an identity: Sars-CoV 2. This rhetoric however may be as misleading as when it was used in the aftermath of September 11, when war on terrorism was declared. Although the enemy has better contours now – a virus –, when President Macron says we are at war he does so to justify measures to control citizens’ social behaviour, rather than to fight the virus. Politics can do just that: make hard decisions to ensure the common good. The virus is up to doctors and scientists to fight: doctors fight for their patients, scientists search for ways to fight the virus. The powerful metaphor entailed in “this is a war” may also fuel reactions such as hoarding (notoriously of toilet paper and pasta) in Europe or stocking up guns in the US. Neither are good means to kill a virus, but both lay bare fundamental differences in the way these two societies are built. In Europe, the collective experience of war clashes with the consumption and hedonistic economic models of the post-war period, but in both, we may find a justification for the impulse, the reflex to stockpile. In the US, citizens are buying guns out of fear of other citizens, who have always been chronically disadvantaged and who in a crisis mode might be tempted to claim what they feel is righteously theirs. The two interpretations of the common Western neoliberal organization are evidently different. This difference will ultimately decide who lives and who dies, but in different ways: in Europe because of shortage of resources (medical and human) in result of successive disinvestment in common infrastructure in favour of more appealing sectors of the economy; in the US because of unequal access to medical care.
In any case, the situation we are currently living is a pandemic, not a war. And if one should insist on the metaphor, it is useful to think of Syria, where the corona meets an actual war that has raged for 9 years, no end in sight.”
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