The corona crisis is a tragedy for everything and everyone. Thousands of people are dying in solitude and isolation. Leaving their relatives disillusioned and in shock. A humanitarian disaster that we have only experienced a few times before in our history. And on top of that now comes a global economic recession. The big question that now emphatically arises is, “Is the contraction of the economy a new disaster or just the cure for an even bigger, latent problem?
Hooray! – the recession is coming
Not only is the corona crisis an immense health tragedy for thousands of people, but the economic consequences are becoming increasingly clear. In order to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from losing their jobs, The Agency of the General Treasury is going to auction treasury bills on a weekly basis to raise 65 billion euros. This will raise our national public debt to almost the ceiling (60% of GDP) agreed within the EU. If the crisis lasts longer than 3 months and new emergency measures are needed, we will shoot well through the ceiling. In recent years, the budget reserves so handsomely built up by Rutte and his cabinets have evaporated within a few weeks.
Global recession inevitable and at the same time a blessing for humanity?
As recently as January, the Central Planning Bureau (CPB) predicted that the Dutch economy would grow by 1.4 percent in 2020. This prediction is now in the dustbin. Rabobank ventured a new prediction last Friday: 0.2 percent contraction. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde fears that the economy in euro countries could shrink as much as five percent this year. Goldman Sachs calculated last Tuesday that the Chinese economy contracted 9% in the first quarter, while the business bank had previously assumed growth of 2.5% (figures vs. Q1 2019).
Only in radical dependence can we solve problems and crises that transcend nation and a people….
The solidarity in Europe is strong and the European Commission has already let it be known that the euro countries can stretch the European budget standards considerably for the time being, especially to keep the economy afloat. This is desperately needed to be able to finance the ‘Emergency Measures for Bridging Employment’ (NOW) and to absorb the tax setbacks. Companies make less turnover and profit, so the government receives less VAT and Corporate Income Tax. A critical reflection is also in order here to the recent past, when the same government wanted to abolish the dividend tax for a few large companies.
We are now very much missing out on the five to ten billion euros that Shell, Unilever, Akzo Nobel and Philips avoid paying in taxes each year….
Or further back, when politicians sent a gift to Shell, Unilever, Akzo and Philips allowing them to (still) compensate foreign losses in the Netherlands. Involves five to ten billion a year (for just these four companies) and money that the government now has to borrow. Insane and nobody we hear about this. But an emergency bill is so the second chamber made and by the first chamber “rushed”, so we can fix this immoral error immediately and even more damage to society. Especially under the present circumstances and in the general interest towards the future. Furthermore, it is to be hoped that populists such as Wilders, Baudet, Haider and Le Pen, including their intellectually lazy supporters, will realize that we desperately need Europe in order to be able to cope with the current and upcoming crises. Only in radical dependence can we solve problems and crises that transcend the nation and the people.
It’s not all really new, is it?
Epidemics are not of all times, but they have plagued humanity before and more than once. Long ago, when there was no flying and no cruise ships, the “Black Death” spread from East Asia to Western Europe in less than a decade. It took the lives of seventy-five to two hundred million people. More than a quarter of the population in Eurasia. In England four out of ten people died and in Florence even half. In 1520 the same thing happened when Francisco de Eguía landed in Mexico. In 1918, the world was beset by a flu that manifested itself in three months in all corners of the globe and infected a quarter of the world’s population. More people died from this flu than during World War I due to brutal warfare.
According to Yuval Harari, many people think that the Coronavirus and the epidemic is the fault of globalization. They think, according to Harari, that de-globalization is the only way to prevent such pandemics in the future. By building walls, erecting fences, restricting travel and reducing international trade. While quarantine is crucial in the short term to stop the corona crisis, isolationism will lead to a much greater economic collapse in the long term. Without any real protection against any epidemic or pandemic. The only real cure and effective antidote to any epidemic is not segregation, but cooperation. Something that “sufferers” like Netanyahu, Bolsenaro and consorts just don’t want to understand and learn.
What did we learn-a lot?
Over the past century, scientists and medics around the world have pooled and shared information. As a result, together they have discovered the riddle and mechanism behind epidemics and developed the means to counter them. The theory of evolution explained why and how new diseases erupt. And how old diseases become virulent. Genetics enabled scientists to analyze the pathogens’ own manual. While in the Middle Ages we never discovered what caused the Black Death, now it took scientists only a few weeks to identify the new coronavirus, sequence its genome and develop a reliable test to identify infected people. As a result, a cure will hopefully be available soon.
So way before the globalizing world and open borders, humanity could not protect itself from epidemics either. So going back to the Middle Ages is not a cure-all. Possibly stepping back to the Stone Age is a solution, but who wants that?
We now know that the best possible protection comes from sharing reliable scientific information and through global solidarity and humanity. When a pandemic arrives, it is the moral obligation of a country and its leaders to make the situation transparent and share all information honestly. Without fear of economic recession and other catastrophes. Other countries must be able and dare to trust the information and immediately provide appropriate emergency assistance. A fascinating question now is whether Europe and Trump are willing to learn from China. To also take international relations and cooperation sustainably, to the next level.
We know that the best possible protection against an epidemic comes from sharing reliable scientific information and through global solidarity and humanity…
What we see now is a fragmented approach that varies from region to region. And if countries don’t trust each other or have the impression that they won’t get help if the situation escalates internally, then the tendency is logical to take half measures and that leaders hesitate to do what is really needed. And this is not only an undesirable but also a very dangerous development, with potentially major consequences. Because modern viruses like Corona not only replicate in humans, but also mutate on our bodies. This makes them more contagious and resistant to the human immune system, allowing them to spread faster. By adapting to humans, the virus becomes stronger and stronger. As a result, a human becomes a kind of gambling machine, with billions of tickets and a high chance of winning the “grand prize”: a winning ticket to a deadly virus.
If you think this scenario is fiction then you should read the book by Richard Preston ‘Crisis in the Red Zone’. The book describes the horrific 2013 and 2014 Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which killed nearly 30,000 people. Through just a small mutation of the virus in the human body, it changed from a relatively rare disease into a rampant epidemic.
It’s about life-and-death importance: trust and cooperation are the only workable cure against a virus that mutates and amplifies itself in our own bodies.
And in this very science there lies for every person and every country the awareness, necessity and above all moral obligation to work together. To share information and knowledge and trust each other. It is the only and by far the best cure against any epidemic. Especially against viruses that can mutate and amplify themselves in our bodies. All over the world we share a common interest, And just to make it clear how important this is we must call it a “life-and-death interest. Only then will the essence penetrate, hopefully even to those who think a Brexit is wise. Or to those who dream of a boreal state, with closed borders and without multicultural influences. So, in short, life also consists of protecting people and nations from pandemics and not only from economic calamity, geopolitical incidents and high-tech giants like Amazon who consider market share and profit more important than the common good and well-being of people.
The fight against viruses, then, is not a fight about guarding our national borders, but a war between our human world, the virus sphere, and who we will really be. The boundary that separates the virus sphere from our human world is thus in every human body. In recent decades, we have incredibly strengthened this boundary in our bodies. Modern science and health systems have built a thick wall around the viruses inside and outside our bodies.
The fight against viruses is not about guarding our national borders, but it is a war between our human world, the virus sphere and who we really want to be.
But with the crumbling of our health systems and the destruction of our habitat, biodiversity and other parts of ecosystems, with these boundaries our resilience to pandemics is also fading. Hundreds of millions of people around the world lack access to basic health care, and that puts us all at risk. Partly for this reason, there will be many more victims in the United States this year than in China, Europe and elsewhere in the world. This simple truth should encourage every country and person to help every other country and person; if only to protect yourself! Unfortunately, this eludes most and the most important people in the world.
The power of leadership becomes truly visible only when it is absent
Of course, the corona crisis is a major human problem and major risk to our health and economy. But at the same time, we are at a historical crossroads in our history. Because, of course, there is much more to it than just a corona crisis and the inevitable economic recession. The World Ecomic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020 describes the ten greatest challenges and risks to our prosperity, well-being and even survival.
At number one is the inability of people to do anything about the coming – and greatest crisis of all time: climate change. Loss of biodiversity, extreme weather, involuntary migration and water scarcity are also in the top ten.
The biggest crisis is our inability to do anything about crisis. We can change, but we don’t want to be changed. By nothing and no one.
Eight of the ten risks identified are ecological in nature. A unique feat in the Forum’s 50-year history. And all eight are problems caused by people. By their unbridled drive for economic growth, more prosperity and addiction to oil. We have made the planet and humanity subservient to the economy. Instead of the other way around. And we have come to believe that this is normal, courtesy of the market that is only too happy to see us ‘consume’.
Our problems and challenges, even in these dire times, are far greater than the Coronavirus itself. Despite all the mercy and togetherness we find in our society.
Who cares about the 23,000 refugees in the Moria camp on Lesbos at the moment. They have no home to shelter from the virus. According to the NRC of March 16, the coronavirus is also knocking on every door in the refugee camp and its residents, mostly babies and young children, are hopeless. According to our government, the refugee crisis has been solved with a donation of billions to Turkey and Greece.
We have not yet thought of a name for this virus in the mind, but it has been proliferating for many years. In the church this used to be called indulgence. The redemption of your sins, so you can secretly watch TV again on Sunday night. Future generations will look at the photos and videos of millions of refugees on the Internet with utter amazement and disbelief. Just as we still do when we look at images of the camps in Germany. Full of disgust, at such a huge lack of humanity and its acceptance among millions of people.
Who thinks of the nearly 15,000 children – under the age of five – who die of starvation every day? Almost sixmillion a year! It is really very difficult to think of others when the water is at our own lips. But who thinks of us, when we ourselves are in danger of going “head over heels”?
Sure, we are making great strides. But let’s keep each other on our toes and continue to challenge each other in interpreting the reality that lies beyond us. Because there is a lot, but still not enough trust between people. Between citizens and governments. Between countries and continents. In recent years, politicians, media, companies, lobbyists have irresponsibly eroded trust in science, government and international cooperation. As a result, we are now facing a global crisis. An all-pervasive virus. Without world leaders who can inspire, organize and fund a global response. What say you and honestly: how many people are now left behind? Not only in the Netherlands, but also far beyond. And as stated earlier, the weak and therefore those who stay behind are the greatest (health) risks for humanity and its survival.
After “America First,” the U.S. lost its role model
The United States was a model of conscious leadership and humanity in 2014 when the Ebola epidemic broke out. A similar role – with obvious parallels to the Marshall aid right after World War II – was played by George W. Bush as world leader during the financial crisis in 2008. He ensured that enough countries signed on to a plan to prevent a global economic crisis.
But since the presidency of Donald Trump and his “America First,” Americans have abandoned their role as world leaders. In recent years, the US government has withdrawn from many international organizations and treaties. They are no longer a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), the trade treaty with China has been cancelled, and the nuclear agreement with Iran has gone through the shredder. America has also withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and at the same time a Space Act has been formulated that implicitly declares the country the owner of all resources in space. It is clear why the United States has almost no friends left. Remarkable, because they will soon need them very badly. That is, when the Coronavirus hits the country, its economy and inhabitants mercilessly hard. Why should other countries help the U.S. when it has become clear that the country and its leaders cannot be trusted? And stayed aloof when the crisis broke out elsewhere. And they pointed an accusing finger at China and Europe.
And should Trump, perhaps driven by his own self-interest, try to resume the role of world leader, why should the world follow? Who wants to follow a leader with the motto, “Me first”?
Vacuum of leadership yet to be filled
The vacuum left by the US in terms of world leadership and as a steward of freedom and peace has not been claimed, let alone filled, by anyone to date. On the contrary. Polarization, increasing distrust, xenophobia, isolationism and closed borders characterize the great distrust of the international system and our societies. Without trust and global solidarity, we can neither solve nor prevent the Coronavirus and every other upcoming crisis. A repeat of history seems once again inevitable, regardless of the enormous price we are now paying in human lives and hard cash.
But every crisis is also an unprecedented opportunity, and the corona crisis is a heartfelt invitation to our leaders and ourselves to help humanity and the planet deal with the greatest epidemic; namely, that of global division and inequality.
The current corona crisis and the impending economic recession are a golden opportunity for the EU to regain the support lost in recent years.
If the British are wise they will send Johnsen and his cabinet home immediately to join Europe and the rest of the world in doing what is inevitable. Namely work together, in radical dependence. For the sake of humanity and everything else that lives on our planet. Or for that which is otherwise crucial to our ecosystem and survival. Let Europe take the lead and use the coronavirus and the coming economic recession to fill the power vacuum in the world. By leading again and more consciously.
The current corona crisis and the impending economic recession are a golden opportunity for the EU to regain the support that has crumbled in recent years.
As Europe has done before, but this time for the good of the world. Let’s send even more money, medical personnel and equipment to the hardest hit areas and societies, including refugee camps around the world.
Let’s share even more of our knowledge and data with those who need it most. Because this proves the European ideal and our humanity better than any fancy speech or story.
If, on the other hand, we drown in the crisis and our own lament and continue to watch repetitive news broadcasts daily, we will know what happened today, but we will not understand what happens every day and tomorrow. At the risk of the curfew being quickly drowned out by the bells of the “announced end.
In the present moment and especially in the coming economic recession, the real struggle takes place within ourselves. If we continue to feed the virus of division and mistrust, this virus overcomes our humanity and with it ourselves. With every argument, with every conflict, the virus of misunderstanding, distrust and hatred doubles and all we are left with is endless fear and chaos.
However, if we can neutralize and even prevent the essential and most dangerous viruses, it is not only a victory over these viruses, but also the best cure against everything that is yet to come.
Thus, the upcoming economic recession will prove to be a blessing for humanity. Of course, not for all those well-meaning entrepreneurs who see their businesses go under. Or for single mothers who have to raise their children in poverty.
But an economic recession and a climate crisis are a blessing for humanity. It offers a chance to stop doing that which is harmful to the whole, in order to start anew. So that we can continue to mobilize and utilize our humanity to the maximum to help others. Not just in times of crisis, as we are doing now, but just always. Because it is fun and logical. And above all because we are people and want to remain people. Not a homo economicus, but a homo verus; a true human being.
The government’s appeal to our togetherness and humanity has opened the door to a new era. A new renaissance, within which we live and coexist better together. Working and collaborating better together. Within the confines of the planet.
For the common good and more from intention than purpose. Once Upon A Future…