COVID-19 | An analysis from a bird's eye view
The behaviour of people only changes when they suffer
The so-called corona crisis is forcing mankind to make an emergency stop, a standstill. It is perhaps the greatest crisis of our generation that we will overcome. There are many questions - and answers. Why now? What is to be expected and learned?
With answers to ...
- Why is the corona crisis occurring now?
- In addition to the disregard for nature comes the hubris
- When will this nightmare end?
- Shall we continue like this?
- Security's faltering
- Society will be different than before
- Why the surveillance would remain
- China and the biggest losers
- The signs of the times
On the one hand, the crisis has caused stock market prices to plummet, forcing governments to take financial support measures to support the economy on credit; via budget deficits on a gigantic scale not seen since the post-war period or even ever before. Some people see similarities to war-like conditions, only the weapons are missing, a war without a war. The aggressor is tiny and not outside, but inside us. No building damaged and yet an economic building with deep cracks right down to the foundations. No bomb alarm and yet a time of fear and worry. That sounds bad.
Mankind, as an "absolutist ruler", thought that everything was safe, everything was politically, scientifically, technically and morally under control. And now we face a situation showing us how limited our power is. It puts our sense of security to the test.
On the other hand: COVID-19 managed to achieve, in the shortest time possible, what all international negotiations to reduce the climate impact, did not achieve in 30 years. The environment and nature "have a little vacation now" - thanks to the widespread cessation of traffic on land, in the air and at sea and the forced closure of many polluters in industry and other sectors.
At the same time, uncertainty is growing: not only through constant media coverage, but also through numerous fake news items.
These are three elementary points: The crisis certainly has disadvantages; It has unexpected advantages and people are experiencing a mood in which anything seems possible.
So why not reflect on some fundamental points now?
Why is the corona crisis occurring now?
The corona crisis shows how fallible futurology is (read my second article in the light of the coronavirus "Futurology is nonsense, as it's impossible“)
COVID-19 and how it caught us cold. Frequently the question has been asked why the phenomenon occurs now of all times, whether COVID-19 escaped from a virus laboratory - intentionally or unintentionally? However, this virus is not one of those that would be subsumed under biological weapons.
According to virologists from the Medical University of Vienna and a study published in the scientific journal, "Nature - Identifying SARS-CoV-2 related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins", by scientists from the University of Hong Kong, the family tree of SARS-CoV-2, as it is scientifically called, has now been clarified with 99 per cent certainty. Before the coronavirus attacked humans, it was already living in bats, which do not get sick as a result. The intermediate host, and thus origin of COVID-19, were most likely illegally smuggled and endangered pangolins or snakes, which were offered at a seafood market in Wuhan, China, along with other wild animals. Pangolins, like so many other exotic animals and plants, are considered a delicacy in China. Their scales are also processed into traditional medical products.
As it currently looks, this virus has chosen humans as its host not as a result of some evil conspiracy, but for cultural reasons, because people in China eat animals that carry the virus - just as chicken eggs carry salmonella.
Interestingly, there is an almost prophetic TED talk by Bill Gates from the year 2015. Gates warned that the next global disaster with millions of victims is much more likely to be caused by a virus than by nuclear war - and we would not be prepared for it. Bill Gates also added that it was very fortunate for the rest of the world that the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa was confined to that region. Ebola, one of the most dangerous pathogens in the world, usually causes a very severe infection, frequently with a fatal outcome. It should also not be forgotten that the Spanish flu, an influenza pandemic that raged from 1918 to 1920, swept away over 30, and some guess even 50, million people.
The "why now?" question is wrong in my eyes.
We should ask it the other way around: Why didn't the catastrophe happen for so many years and decades? Because if we think about the fact that about half a million different viruses surround us, then we should actually consider ourselves lucky that nature has treated us so well for so long.
Even some quantum physicists are slowly beginning to understand that our universe consists of only 5 per cent matter. So something else seems to apply, other than just the purely materialistic view. The topic also necessarily includes the disrespect and encroachment of humans towards other species and nature. Animals also have a right to their habitat, to their environment, to species-appropriate husbandry, to boundaries that are not violated. But humanity, almost everywhere, is in this respect not squeamish. And the Chinese in particular, are known for their lack of taboos, limits, decency and respect for nature and animals. We must speak out against this violation and change it. The bad habit of crossing all boundaries, because it somehow serves you. At some point, nature will no longer accept this either.
As several studies of the University of California (UC Davis) or The Royal Society (Global shifts in mammalian population trends reveal key predictors of virus spillover risk) among others, suggest, the threat to wild animals and the destruction of habitats have led to the fact that zoonotic pandemics become more and more probable. For example, viruses are transmitted from bats to humans, especially when the animals are exposed to significant stress. It was also noted that very severely decimated species, due to human exploitation such as hunting and wildlife trade, carry about twice as many viruses. Besides, the close contact between hunters and wildlife, but also consumers, increases the likelihood of such a virus crossing the species barrier. The same applies to species whose habitats have been considerably destroyed or altered by humans, as such animals also carry a large number of zoonotic germs. It presents us the consequences of a life in peace without peace for all. Nature strikes back and retaliates.
So the question is not why the disaster is happening now - it had to happen at some point, even if the probability calculations of futurologists statistically put it at a very low level, reality goes its own way, now the pandemic is 100% here and real and not just somehow probable.. Of course, every death and serious illness is one too many. But instead of lamenting the crisis with a doomsday mood, we should be glad that COVID-19 is still halfway peaceful, it usually only kills people whose health is already severely impaired and whose life was already hanging by a thread, which is nevertheless tragic. COVID-19, for example, is far from being as aggressive as the Ebola virus. As long as humanity does not change its basic attitude towards nature and is better prepared and protects itself, COVID-19 will hardly be the last virus to catch us or future generations cold.
In addition to the disregard for nature comes the hubris
Another point is people's ignorance of the problem. It is the hubris of believing that we are in control of world events. But we are not.
Numerous man-made grievances can explain the fact that the corona crisis, for example, has hit Italy so hard. On the one hand, Italy, like China, is one of the most polluted countries and polluters in terms of air pollution, which also puts a strain on the lungs. Then the Italian health system is more comparable to the American health system than, for example, the German, Swiss or Austrian system: Although it is also state-run, it is corrupted in many places, exists on paper for the general population, but is hardly usable in real life - as is the waste collection system, as well as many other authorities in Italy. These are all human and political failures.
Also, Italy is simply one of the most popular destinations for Asian tourists. Precisely because China reacted far too late with regard to COVID-19, and at first tried to sweep the problems under the carpet, many Chinese, a high proportion of whom obviously infected, were still allowed and able to travel there. This paved the way for the pandemic. Thus, tourism travel has become a problem, especially against the background of globalisation that has become a matter of course. In general, this will not be possible anymore for a long time.
However, other EU countries cannot weigh themselves in safely either: Even a comparatively decent health system fails at COVID-19 if politicians and authorities do not take preventive measures in good time and react too slowly.
In China, the hubris that people are in control is particularly evident. Here it is the faith in the state, typical of communist systems, that is doing the damage. Is there a problem? Then, the state will fix it, because the state can do everything, knows everything, says everything and determines everything, allows and forbids everything; thinking for oneself is evil. There is no such thing as free individualism. And what must not be, therefore cannot be - simply does not exist.
Consequently, hardly anyone dares to report dangers, mistakes or problems. If a doctor now suddenly names the problem, he is immediately subject to state sanctions - like the physician Li Wenliang, whom the Chinese police warned about the "spreading of rumours" and "disturbance of social peace", after he revealed similarities with the symptoms of the SARS pathogen. Meanwhile, Li allegedly died of COVID-19 at the age of 34. The normative power of the factual finally forced the Chinese regime to admit a mistake.
The man-made causes of the corona crisis are therefore clearly visible.
When will this nightmare end?
When will it all be over? When will our life roughly be as we knew it again?
The chance of eradicating the COVID-19 virus is extremely low. We may succeed one day, but certainly not now. At the moment, the only important thing is to aim for the "blunt course", i.e. to slow down and minimise the effects of what is inevitable anyway. The primary goal is not to overburden hospitals - and the contact ban should enable COVID-19 to harm as few people as possible. The virus itself is unlikely to be defeated: The oft-mentioned "basic infestation" (herd immunity) of the population with about 70 percent infected, will inevitably be reached, the only question is when. These people, once infected and recovered, should then be immune, thanks to their antibodies - at least that is the current assumption. It is by no means certain: In Wuhan, apparently, a few isolated people who had already been cured and theoretically immunised, were later reinfected, tested positive again.
To this day, it is not known how long this immunity to the coronavirus lasts. Theoretically, depending on age and state of health, this could be a few years or even a few months. In the case of influenza, for example, it is only a few months. If people who have managed to overcome COVID-19 were immune for just a few months, the herd immunity would not be achievable without a vaccine, and the spread could start again. As in Wuhan, China, some coronavirus patients were treated in the polyclinic of the Lombard city of Pavia with the blood of people who were cured of Covid-19 and therefore developed antibodies (passive immunity). The result of the treatment was considered positive by the experts, but details have not yet been published.
Although it is still unclear whether this immunity issue is a serious problem, this is one of the reasons why we need the vaccine and also medicines all the more urgently. The vaccine and medicines are the next objectives, along with slowing down the spread of the disease. Not the eradication of the disease. We will not succeed in that. But in the end, we could live with COVID-19 as we do with another flu virus.
There is no doubt that we will overcome this severe crisis one day. Despite all the drama, the medal has two sides. A senior medical researcher whom I know was also able to see another positive aspect. It could help us to learn and prepare against worse, more aggressive pandemics. In fact, this is what Bill Gates called for as early as 2015 in his TED Talk. Because to that extent, forced by COVID-19, you would never be able to do an exercise or simulation in practice.
Shall we continue like this?
The fact that COVID-19 has been transferred from animals to humans has to do with our interaction with nature. The fact that COVID-19 spread so quickly from China to Europe and now affects the whole world, has to do with our mobility. So there seem to be two levers by which we might be able to reduce such a danger in the future: We should think about how we deal with nature and the environment and also about slowing down. We should rethink our over-the-top lifestyle and we should make our economic model and our coexistence more sustainable and more compatible.
That it is possible for us to live more decelerated, simpler, more modest and even more humanely; we are currently experiencing this in the crisis. The economic damage is enormous, but at the same time, many people and companies realise that it doesn't have to be a plane trip, but that an online meeting often does the trick. And when yeast is no longer available in the supermarket, recipes for growing fungus yourself are circulating on the Internet. The crisis forces us to think more simply again.
The conviction that the world has long since become a tennis ball without borders, and that everyone is very close together, is likely to be cracked. The now exaggerated idea of globalisation will in future be joined by the concept of regionalisation that is at least as strong. The pendulum swings back. Let us remember: before industrialisation, mankind operated on a purely regional basis. With industrialisation and increasing mobility, we have become fond of the global - those who still operated regionally either worked on organic products or were considered old-fashioned. Now the trend will be reversed again because from now on, nobody knows whether everything will be different sometime next month - again. Trusting that is too risky - many will, therefore, do well to at least try a 50:50 solution between global and regional. And there could be a reflection on the value of "home".
This new century and the millennium is now, for the third time, confronting us with the idea of home, the protection of borders and the sovereignty of states. First, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 shook the whole world. As a result, many places came to a standstill - security checks and protective measures are still in place today. In 2015, the refugee crisis was boiling over, we all remember the famous words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 31 August 2015: "We can do it!” Many citizens were outraged, rejected the fact that too many refugees with completely different cultural backgrounds and religions were coming to the country; even some Schengen states closed themselves off, thus contradicting one of the central basic values of the EU, freedom of travel without internal borders.
And now COVID-19 intensifies this development immensely. Countries closed their borders completely, brought back their citizens from abroad, warned against travelling to other countries and imposed curfews. At present, one-third of humanity is de facto banned from moving in public spaces.
These three events - 9/11, the refugee crisis and Corona - are all about home. Who has his home where? Whose home is being threatened or destroyed? Who therefore has to leave their homeland? Where do people fight for the same water or for houses and apartments? COVID-19 challenges politicians to answer these questions - how to secure home, which borders to close, which places and locations to close, who has to stay at home to protect others, and so on. The idea of home, together with a border surrounding it, as well as that of the family, is experiencing a renaissance. And with it the concept of orientation in the regional. A regional reflection could possibly answer many of these questions and solve some problems.
It is no different from the issue of the Community, as almost everyone is currently affected by this too, in quarantine and curfew. Instead of personal networking and social contacts, which previously gave us a sense of security, we have the order of social distancing to almost zero. And suddenly, the person who can deal with himself is the winner. Of course, it still makes sense to maintain your closest contacts. Still, these are primarily in the family and the smallest community nucleus, often limited to a handful or two.
COVID-19 holds up the mirror to us and shows us what we have let happen to us. Because now, suddenly, football ghost games, without spectators, are only half as exciting. Why? Because we allowed ourselves to be degraded to spectators of our lives in too many things. The modern media have only accelerated this. It is fatal, because watching is not a real requirement for leading an active and fulfilled life, even with the best perspective. It is all about, as much as possible, doing things yourself! Humans are born as doers, not as spectators! Admittedly also to listen, but then to learn, for example.
Security is something that feels good and has been sold to us as the highest good, the most important thing. Security, they say, is the foundation of everything - for freedom, happiness, satisfaction, success and development. It has become fashionable. And as a precaution, we were offered insurance for everything.
But COVID-19 shows us that this is not the case! We will not be able to control the world, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. The only thing we can control is our fear. We are now forced to become normal again, COVID-19 downgrades us to the normal level of the life-threatening danger of life.
With this, we find our way back to a real attitude towards life that is in line with reality. Because one thing is for sure: this will not be the last crisis. It will become apparent to us how grateful we should be for every year, every decade without a crisis or only with mini-crises. We can intercept our personal crisis by not letting ourselves slide into this crisis mood by hysteria, panic and conspiracy theory. On the contrary, we should still enjoy life and all the possible adventures, the unknown - looking forward with confidence, because in the end this makes life valuable and we know that we will master life.
Society will be different than before
This development will, of course, affect all industries that have so far thrived on globalisation. All the usual excesses will not be able to be rebuilt so quickly for the time being, except for a few from the billionaire and over privileged rich and famous, trend setting society, the tax evaders, As the nouveau riche of the world will at least make every effort not to sit at home for six to eighteen months and spare us having to see yet another selfie photo on a Venetian channel or on the Great Wall of China. But they will also no longer continue to be viewed in that way; no one wants to hear or see them anymore. On a broad scale, people will probably tend to be modest and grateful and prefer to stay in a domestic milieu. The majority, especially this year, 2020, will because of a general concern and traumatisation, hardly want to celebrate with glittering parties in luxury hotels, the usual holiday regions, or at the other end of the world. Anyone who does so will soon no longer be considered a star, but immoral.
In the long run, for the sake of the economy - within the bounds of reason - one can just hope that consumers will not have long memories of these COVID-19 horrors, than of previous perils to travel, hence producing an unusually protracted recovery for the tourism and hospitality sectors. On the other hand we have seen incredibly ugly outcomes aboard giant cruise ships, over and over again due to such things as Nora-viruses, and yet people just keep on taking them. Fear of terrorism and hijacking of aircraft keeps passenger volumes down for a very short time.
As long as there is no vaccine and no medication, the task of containing the spread of COVID-19, as far as possible, remains a permanent one. In principle, most governments - at least in the EU - have finally, although late, drawn the right conclusions, surprisingly quickly, after the Italian nightmare.
However, states will most likely resort to the "digital policeman" and "artificial intelligence (AI)": As has already been started in many places, the movement profiles of citizens will be monitored using their smartphones and thus it will be possible to track who met whom, when and where. In addition, states will be able to monitor the state of health of each individual to prevent re-infection. Recently, for example, Singapore announced that it would make the source code of the government tracking app, "TraceTogether" available as open-source - others will follow.
Even the EU Commission now considers it possible under data protection law to use sensitive, personal data in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus - although this is prohibited per se under EU data protection regulations, as this is an extremely exceptional situation.
If this monitoring comes, and it is likely that it will, the question remains to what extent and for how long? Governments could argue that all this is nothing new and nothing to worry about. The fact is however, that in recent years governments have increasingly used "artificial intelligence" (AI) to monitor citizens - and not only in China - precisely because of ever more powerful digital tools and ever closer online networking. Surveillance could increase further as a result of the corona crisis on the grounds that we need it to protect the population and the economy. This would sell us total surveillance for security reasons, but would still of course be and remain total surveillance.
If we don't pay attention now, the barn door will open to the most powerful surveillance technologies that most people don't think are possible today. That is why we should "keep our governments in check" to allow surveillance only on a limited scale and for a limited time. Otherwise, we will soon really have a new normality and will probably not be able to get rid of it.
Why the surveillance would remain
Why would the surveillance stay? Already in the coming months, regional differences are likely to develop in a dynamic way. Wherever in a village, a city, a district or a federal-state, there are really significant drops in the number of infections and no new infections for weeks, one can again carefully and gradually open some shops and businesses, relax or lift curfews, later reopen schools and universities. Nevertheless, it will still be necessary to take precautions for public encounters, such as protective masks and constant testing. Authorities will continue to monitor the situation meticulously in order to have full and real-time transparency and to be able to take immediate countermeasures in case of doubt or backlashes. This can be imagined, from region to region, like a breathing system. Because governments will constantly weigh the virus and the economy again, this is going to be a delicate balancing act. Until the very last doubts are completely removed, surveillance will remain - and we will get used to it. Resistance to it will decrease accordingly.
The consequences of COVID-19 for the world economy are drastic and will point in the direction of regionalisation: Governments will only allow people into and out of countries and regions if they know for certain that no significant new contagion will be imported or exported. There is too much at stake - health and the economy as a whole. To that extent, until the crisis is over, the Schengen area will also control its internal borders. Ironically, from the end of March 2020, even China, which was the source of the COVID-19 virus, refused entry to most foreigners, even those with valid visas or permanent residence permits, for fear of another wave of infection.
All in all, this means quite soberly that the situation will not calm down as quickly as many hope, even if in probably just a few months - of course only with good discipline - the brakes will be loosened here and there, as in Wuhan, and everyday life will seem closer again. And even then, the next challenge is already lurking: Everyone in such a region would try to get back on track immediately. But on the one hand, this will hardly work in practice so quickly, it will still take months; and it can also lead to setbacks if, for example, too many tourists or businesspeople from all over the world enter the country too early without meticulous control and monitoring. A lack of discipline, hygiene and common sense to avoid the risks as far as possible, very quickly leads to new infections, and then the governments would immediately step on the brakes again. And again we are forced to have more regional economies.
All in all, we should not fool ourselves, the COVID-19 problem and the precautions that go along with it, unless a miracle happens, will drag on for a few years, probably at least two to three years, until a vaccine, as well as appropriate medication and a high level of infection, hence antibodies, will free us from this nightmare at the earliest. Until then, this situation can be best imagined like a sea: At sea, there are parts with a mirror-smooth surface or a rather calm sea with a lukewarm wind, but somewhere out there, a storm field or thunderstorm comes up and discharges. Over time, one will be able to handle this situation better and better. But to do that we have to get used to the fact that we are dealing with an open-close system, in which the status can and will change constantly.
China and the biggest losers
As always, unfortunately, the poorest will be the biggest losers of this corona crisis, both health wise and economically. Especially when COVID-19 is spreading in some of the poorest countries of Asia, Africa and South America, where health systems are abandoned or non-existent, where there is a lack of money and sufficiently professionally trained medical staff, let alone an institutional infrastructure to be able to carry out sufficient tests at all. It is too early to draw any conclusions, but with regard to the medical situation of critical patients, the widespread fear of an adequate number of ventilators could be more political theatre than a legitimate worry. Little is published yet about the outcome of those COVID-19 victims whose clinical course required intubation and ventilator support, but the Wuhan, China, Seattle and Washington experience is not encouraging.
As in Wuhan, according to an article on "thelancet.com" by Caicun Zhou et al, fully 97% of intubated patients died, and the New England Journal of Medicine report (nejm.org) by Pavan K. Bhatraju et al showed 67% mortality among the intubated in Seattle. The reason for these poor numbers may be that the patients who deteriorate to the point of requiring ventilator support are already on an irreversible slide into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) or the multi-organ failure condition set off by this virus that is referred to as "cytokine storm".
If medical care from the finest ICUs produce few successful results when ventilators are available, we may find that the experience with COVID-19 in the emerging nations of Africa and South America does not differ dramatically from the developed world. We only can hope that there, with at least more primitive means, a tank of oxygen and a plastic face mask to deliver it, plus suctioning of phlegm and some intravenous fluid, (which seemed to be available to treat the Ebola patients) may be all the care that is needed for the vast majority of cases.
China will, in any case, suffer a dent, including a considerable loss of trust. Not only because of the way in which freedom of speech, human rights, fairness and truth have been dealt with in the past, but it is to be suspected, that even now, the extent of the corona crisis is being concealed. There are indications that far more urns were used than there were official deaths. Also, the news agency Bloomberg wrote that the U.S. intelligence community told the White House that the Chinese government had deliberately underreported both the total number of cases and deaths of corona viruses in the country. Some Big Data analysts now believe, based on the published data material and the development curve from China and the conclusions of the experience curves in the western world with Covid-19, that there must have been ten times more cases in China.
There will even be questions, both inside and outside China, as to whether this form of government can be continued at all. But whether China will really lose in the end remains to be seen. Because that depends on how China reacts. If the Chinese really do make verifiable concessions and treat their people, nature and the truth significantly better in future, they would be soon welcomed colleagues and business partners again.
The chances of achieving this necessary factual transparency for the international state community from China are probably not bad - as are the chances of China loosening the reins for its people. This is because the Chinese could also afford to do so in the meantime, since they are already in the process of introducing comprehensive "smart", almost total surveillance throughout the country by means of digitalisation and AI. This way, one can be generous when other states call for resilient transparency, because the most modern surveillance technologies allow one to deal with all reactions immediately. Then no information, news or novelty will pose a threat to the regime any more, because one says to oneself and one is sure: whatever happens - in any case, we have the people, our citizens, entirely under control.
The signs of the times
COVID-19 fits our time perfectly. It shows us the great wounds and stress factors of this overly hectic civilisation on the verge of a burnout. Many everyday questions fade into the background. Are we going to the sea, to the mountains or halfway around the world? The idea of "just getting away from here and into the distance" only seems to have something to do with freedom and luxury, as it is more likely an escape from the stressful everyday life. In the end, this attitude is destructive, and COVID-19 shows us that. We suddenly ask ourselves: Where are we protected and safe? The answer is: at home, with the family. That's why this crisis reinforces the idea of home and also the idea of a more regional economy - and that will definitely come into play again as a result of Corona.
And the question arises: What right do we actually have to put such a strain on the environment and nature? What right do we have to fly around the world? Home office, modern media and networks clearly show us that there are other ways of doing things, even in business. Presumably, the international meeting or training of the automotive supplier Webasto, which brought the virus for the first time by Chinese colleagues to Germany, would likely have been possible online.
Of course, you will still have to travel for essential missions. But is this really necessary for any kind of negotiation, for any sort of meeting or exchange of views? Is it all so sensible and purposeful in terms of the environment and in responsibility for our world, for our quality of life and that for future generations? Or would it not be more reasonable to question things sometimes? So: Is this congress visit really important now? Will the planned journey really result in something? And if I fly anyway, will I still have to take an entourage of 20 people with me?
In the future it will be a matter of the right sense of proportion. We should consider the value of any travelling much higher. It cannot be about getting as many days as possible, as far away as possible, for as little money as possible. Rather, it is about travelling with a little ambition and responsibility, and about enhancing the value of the homeland, the home, the family and the personal environment. This is something we should all do - whether as consumers, citizens, employees, managers, decision-makers, scientists, entrepreneurs or politicians.
We will chew on the traces of this crisis, which will inevitably hit the economy, the state and national wealth hard, for a long time to come. The outcome will hardly be a happy ending like in a fairy tale. There will be many hard hit people, enterprises or industry sectors for some, such as tourism, it will be particularly hard and long. Others will experience a great upswing afterwards, at least everything to do with the setup of the regionality and certainly also, in the broadest sense of the term, areas with and around agriculture, nature and crafts.
The more undisciplined we are, the longer and more painful it will be. It will affect many things, not only the stock markets and national budgets, even if everything is not yet visible. In the economy, in the financial and valuation system, everything is closely intertwined; the crisis will not even stop at property prices. It would not be surprising if, over time, and probably within a generation, we were to realise that the concept of ever-increasing debt, a life on credit, will eventually catch up with you, will exceed everything that can be regulated. Perhaps we will then return to a "stretching to the ceiling" - then at some point, there will be a global debt cut, where, for example, three zeros would be stripped off, like at the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
That should then make even the credit and stock market system new and much more sensible. Then the few super-rich, who snatched half of the world's wealth, will also have to suffer. Because many people will no longer accept this elite class and likely socially excommunicate them.
It will also become clear once again, as I have often said, that it was a cardinal fault to create only one euro area. After all, the various EU member states have different economic performance levels - they will and can probably never be equally strong, which would be the prerequisite for a common currency. In the current situation - with only one type of euro instead of at least three different entangled euro versions with different values, (divided into Northern, Central and Southern Europe, for example) despite all the necessary solidarity to a certain tolerable degree, one takes away any room for manoeuvre for different inflation options, which are now all the more urgently needed.
A word about nature and environmental protection: sustainability, self-protection, is all wonderful. But the pompous terms - climate protection, environmental protection and conservation are in themselves, pronounced by us, a mockery. I think we overestimate ourselves. The climate is not under our control, nor is a volcano or an earthquake or a solar wind - and neither are viruses. Only our air pollution, waste and the handling of our most important element of life - water, and flora and fauna are aspects that we could seriously globally manage better. Also, water is not there to cool highly radioactive contaminated ruins of our arrogance. We must realise and accept that our power just has - enormous - limits! Who do we think we are?
Besides, an interesting approach to think about is, what would be the reasons for the earth and nature to classify us as welcome in the first place? We have not given anything to the earth, to nature on the whole, with our previous behaviour. We only help ourselves like in a self-service shop; ruthlessly, we take far more than we need, we take far more than is generally and for the coming generations decent, far more than we are entitled to, we litter and destroy nature. Nature itself does not produce any garbage, it has not, unlike everybody else in the universe, ever had a holiday, except maybe now in the times of the coronavirus.
What we can influence and also should finally change, as the younger generations reproach us, is our behaviour.
The behaviour of people in the present only changes if they experience suffering in the present. This is now the case. Only very few change something prophylactically. In this respect, this pandemic is also a great opportunity for us to change things for the better, to come to our senses again.
In general, it is in the times of crisis, when the present stands on wobbly legs, turns upside down, and therefore when the future is the most discussed, that the main question is: what will it be like? And there is plenty of time to think about that right now. Also, what does one ideally wants to tackle with 80 percent in the future as a doer, and only 20 percent as a spectator? As well as to discover how one can actually live with few simple things, within a pleasant and decelerated way, but with far more quality of life.
We should also use and understand the current standstill as a standstill of modernity, of being internationally networked, accessible but also visible and verifiable. It is the chance to return to what we truly are! We are born with a vital heart and brain, but without a smartphone in our hands. This is also the way to cultivate the realisation that security is good, but freedom is better!
Let us use this present situation together to see that things do not get completely out of balance. Let us create an appropriate win-win situation for now and in the future, by together acting responsibly, for the world and the following generation. Then, we all can only win in the future! In the hope and spirit of: "Some falls the means are happier to rise." (by William Shakespeare - Lucius, Cymbeline, IV, 2)
With best wishes
Reinhold M. Karner
(Chairman RMK Think-Tank)
© 23rd of March 2020 - last minor updated 8th of April 2020
Update: In a video published on 27th of March 2020, Professor Kim Woo-Joo of Korea University Guro Hospital explains how and why Korea handled the COVID-19 crisis in an exemplary manner. And he assesses the further situation (which, by the way, is quite consistent with the assessments in this article). This also makes soberingly clear that in the Western world, unlike in Asia, we were not at all prepared for a virus epidemic, let alone a pandemic: Video COVID-19
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