Changing society, changing politics
If all goes well, the Greek government should be able to start lifting restrictions on commercial activity and public movement aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus next month. This will allow us to slowly come out of isolation and to get back fundamental liberties like the freedom of movement – on the condition that our actions don’t put lives at risk.
What kind of people, though, will we be when we re-emerge? How different will “coronavirus man” be to the man we left behind after closing ourselves up in our homes, homes that over the weeks have been the setting of sundry transformations? The DiaNEOsis think-tank is expected on Monday to publish the results of a new nationwide survey titled “How Greeks Live During the Pandemic.” The announcement of that report is what inspired the thoughts that follow.
The pandemic resulted in us cultivating certain common traits and habits. We learned how to protect ourselves, how to sanitize, how to maintain safe distances and how to live by the rules. We learned how to trust the state a lot more and feel proud of the praise we’ve received from the international community for our response to the crisis so far. We found ways to cut red tape by demonstrating a surprising acumen for digital tools and electronic governance.
When we come to assess the post-coronavirus period, we will need to weigh our gains against our losses. We will need to strengthen the convergence of disparate political leanings that seems to be transpiring in the face of a common fear of death. Criticism and confrontation, though necessary components of democracy, need to be mindful of the fact that we are in a state of war. In the face of this new global challenge, political differences appear to be waning, but the political system is still responsible for curbing polarization and ensuring that the focus of our national priorities is not lost. And we do not mean the kooks in every party who feed on spreading nonsense on social media.
The day after augers not just social shifts, but political ones too. Strong leaders with quick reflexes, with the ability to own up to their mistakes and weaknesses, with real concern for citizens, and who are able to take their cue from science and the experts so that the unpredictable becomes predictable, are what will earn the trust and support of the citizens.
The new “coronavirus man” is not just being shaped in society, but also in the halls of politics.