Xenia Kounalaki XENIA KOUNALAKI

The irrationality of fear

COMMENT

Demonstrators gather during a protest rally against coronavirus restrictions in Munich, Germany, on September 12. [EPA]

TAGS: Coronavirus, Society, Protest

When I was young and woke up abruptly in the middle of the night – during that transitionary phase between dream and reality – I used to see shadows and shapes that were not really there. For example, I would connect the shape of my cupboard with that of my chair and would see a monster.

The frames on the wall would serve as the monster’s hat and the white fluorescent cupboarddoor handles would serve as the eyes. As much as I tried to reason with my fear, saying that these are only normal harmless objects, the monster was still there in front of me, alive and abominable, until I was too tired and fell back to sleep.

These thoughts returned to my mind when I saw the groups of German protesters who created similar nonsensical monsters in the name of fighting against the coronavirus protective measures. Fear is foremost irrational, it is hard to persuade someone who is scared of the virus, sickness, death, economic uncertainty, unemployment and marginalization of the reasoning behind the measures using sensible, scientific arguments. If the protesters in Berlin were only far-right or neo-Nazis, their marginalization would be easy.

However, things are not that simple. The era when these “activists” were discernible through their shaved heads and their dress code has passed. Among them there are anti-capitalist groups who believe that pharmaceutical firms are waiting to get rich off the Covid-19 vaccine, along with alternative therapists, and vegan chefs etc. The challenge for politicians is to refuse their irrationality without alienating them and without normalizing their far-right “allies.”

It is a tough calculation, which German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described by expressing his understanding toward their right to voice their objections to the measures while also warning them that neo-Nazis are part of the movement.

Maybe one of the reasons why we did not see the rise of such a trend was the daily updates by Sotiris Tsiodras: a voice of reason and science which does not lack empathy and has a comforting tone against the fear which these unprecedented times have brought, and at the same time a modest presence who does not pretend to be an expert but learns alongside us.

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