From a wet market came to us ‘bad news wrapped up in proteins,’ and Wuhan was set to become China’s Chernobyl. But the mass confinement there was a success story, and the new Silk Route brought face masks and equipment to Europe. In the ideological and geopolitical battlefield, the Beijing consensus is way ahead of Washington’s, and Confucian discipline is pitted against liberal democracy, for in times of tribulation, fear makes us prefer safety to freedom.
Europe was historically shaped by crises, but the viral emergency has opened cracks between Calvinist ants and Catholic grasshoppers, surely in the long run less important than the clamorous return to the Nation State. The mutualization of risks may in fact call for the vigilance of men in black; nevertheless, the poor showings of solidarity in the continent have transferred the focus to individual countries’ independent efforts to fight the pandemic and be more self-sufficient.
The authoritarian solution that tempts many leaders has raised fears of a resurgence of the philanthropic ogre, a Leviathan that protects you subjecting you to its absolute power. The exceptional nature of sanitary states of emergency, however, goes back not so much to Hobbes as to Carl Schmitt, and to the dangerous window of opportunity that opens for those who admire totalitarian regimes when governments know they have the power to declare states of exception.
The war rhetoric used on submissive populations, stressed by the smiling unanimity of applause, nonetheless conceals the dramatic fragility of States, manifested in the absence of prevention, the slowness of response, and the precarity of available material means. For the inevitable next epidemic, we do not need more healthcare heroes as those on the frontline today, but more science and better administration, and that will be our best tribute to those who have perished.
Avoiding coronapessimism, we ought to push for a ‘green digital deal’ that uses the pandemic as a stimulus for forging a social and generational pact against that dinosaur which, when we wake up, will still be there: climate change. The slump of activity has been good for the planet, but Urban Spain needs to use renewable energies, Empty Spain has to go digital, and Tourist Spain must move from Florida to California to face a future that will be green or will not be.