That we come out of a strange year is obvious: it rarely happens that governments lock up their citizens by decree. An experience from which citizens do not go unpunished, by far, that according to the adaptive capacity of humans, they have endured with dignity. There is an interesting first lesson from this experience: humans move more and more between continuity and rupture, without the forces that seek to leave the past behind being radically imposed.
The unease has come to verify the fragility of a society trusting in the power of technology and science
What happened when the big alarm sounded? What seemed unthinkable: that in the face of doubts, in the face of ignorance, they acted as other times throughout history in the face of pandemic phenomena: locking up the staff. That is to say, in the face of ignorance, opt for the usual, something human, enormously human. And yet we were far better equipped than in the past pandemics, and the investigators were on the fast track, with resources being added from everywhere. And again the unexpected arrived: the vaccines found the technical acceleration necessary to break all the calendar forecasts: and they are here. Once again, a look back and a step forward. A logic that has proven to be alive even in times of great acceleration.
Memory counts and confusion has been especially strong in those countries and generations that were not inhabited by the immediate memory of massive infections. In Spain, the border goes through the 1950s, when vaccines and antibiotics became widespread and we were forgetting the threats of the time (from measles to leprosy, from smallpox to tuberculosis or polio) . Hence, the confusion has been very different between generations. But beyond the surprise, the uneasiness has come to verify the fragility of a society that lived trusting in the powers of technology and science.
Just when some were preaching post-humanism, fabulating with the species taking off towards a future without limits, the virus has reminded us of our elementary condition: precarious beings that far from being fully autonomous we are perfectly anchored in nature. And so the pandemic offers us a good opportunity to rebuild our relationship with the environment based on the ways of interpreting it, starting with knowledge. Etienne Klein is right to advise us to learn the difference between science – established knowledge – and research – in a permanent process of trial and error.
In other words, the pandemic has darkened the world, but it can also serve to offer clues if it is confirmed that it is in the difficulties that humanity progresses. But the paths are not decided and the struggle to trace them will be enormous in the coming years, as the pandemic erupts into a crisis that was already underway: who will rule the future? What will be the decision-making framework? Far from a global community, is there an alternative to the old nation states? Emmanuel Macron represents in a way this contradiction. On the one hand, he goes back to his old ways: “To be French is to inhabit a language and a history, that is, to enroll in a collective destiny.” And, on the other, as Olivier Faye points out, the European ideal is pointed out as a way to regain control of our economic, technological, military and cultural destiny. It is not a contradiction. It is a confirmation of the difficulty that politics has today to frame the citizenship.
Who will rule the future? What will be the decision-making framework? Is there an alternative to the old nation states?
This crisis comes when liberal democracies live in a sea of doubts. The pandemic affects life, which puts the public on guard that if there is one thing they are willing to accept everything, it is for health. Are we moving towards a society that seeks protection above any other value? Is there a democratic way to do this if we know how to distinguish between the risk value of patriarchy and the values of cure and care that bear the mark of the feminist revolution? In any case, the danger that challenges us all is that fear paves the way for the acceptance of authoritarianism. The French jurist Mireille Delmas-Marty puts it in a very graphic way: are we going to go from “freedom, equality, fraternity” to “security, efficiency and predictability”? Putting a political face on this latest triad scares me. And that is why policies that “in the face of the pandemic choose to immobilize humans and destabilize societies” are disturbing.