OPINION

The cost of delusions

the-cost-of-delusions

We really need to find a way to talk to one another. We need to find a way for debates not to always degenerate into heated exchanges of barbs and accusations. Can we do that? It’s obviously very hard – perhaps impossible even.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated an already tense situation at home as well as across the globe. A large chunk of society feels frustration, insecurity and anger. It is not just one thing, but rather a combination of pressing factors: the continuing isolation imposed by lockdowns, the fear of contracting the virus, the new wave of financial crisis which is already being felt by almost everyone, and concerns about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Virtually everyone is on edge. People that you would never expect to express themselves like soccer hooligans in a heated stadium. Meanwhile, individuals that used to take comfort in the anonymity of the internet as they were busy consuming all sorts of crazy ideas and conspiracy theories have now moved to a whole new level.

The age of authorities is no more. There are many good things about this, but there are also many dangers. Take health, for example, where US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, or any leading Greek epidemiologist for that matter, has to compete against “George’s first cousin who is a doctor in the UK and saw the vaccine turn one of his patients into a monster.”

It’s not a battle between equals. In the arena of social media, the irrational and the absurd are unmatched. Even more so among people who never read newspapers or watched the news bulletins on TV, but rather tried to enter “the gates of the unknown.”

The worst thing that a country’s leadership can do in order to tackle this phenomenon is to treat it with contempt.

An even worse reaction would be to not take it seriously. It’s very easy to be misled by one’s echo chamber. And regrettably delusions come at a hefty price.

That said, there are no easy solutions. People are not easily fooled these days by those that pretend to understand their suffering. Perhaps it’s because, after two major crises, people out there feel they’ve got nothing to lose.