Don't panic. Solidarity. Read.
Coronavirus How we take the epidemic seriously and still make the best of it
by Timo Feldhaus
[This article published in March 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/keine-panik-solidaritaet-lesen.]
Corona forces us into an experiment in which the whole world participates. Perhaps the greatest social experiment of the last few hundred years. The initial question is, of course, will we get out alive? But just a few questions further on: Are we actually still able to cope with ourselves?
The facts about the virus, as the German government is now also saying clearly, paint a worrying picture. We are not yet immune, the mortality rate is high, the spread is rapid, and the peak is far from being reached. The goal now is to slow down the transmission, because otherwise the health system will collapse and an ever increasing number of the sick will no longer be able to be treated. Some experts are sure that the only thing that will stop the virus permanently is for everyone to stay at home for a few weeks. Model China.
And now also: Model Italy. The Italian Prime Minister has made the whole country a restricted zone overnight. No one is allowed to go back and forth until April 3rd. No weddings and funerals are celebrated, cinemas are closed, with the exception of pharmacies and grocery stores, shops remain closed, as do restaurants - nobody goes there anyway. Life is being pushed back out of life. On Youtube there are videos from the dark city of Wuhan, skyscrapers in deserted cities, screams come from the apartments. One has hardly ever seen or heard anything more dystopian. On the other hand: The drastic quarantine has obviously worked; if you believe the Chinese government, the number of infected people is decreasing.
For almost all people currently living in Germany, the crisis situation is an absolute novelty. Habits and behavior must be changed. Isolation is advisable, perhaps soon to be prescribed by law. Many believe that we will not manage this. We need exchange. Above all, we must go to work! But maybe that's not true. Maybe in a few weeks we will have understood that the world will not end if we don't always manage to do our best. Maybe after a few weeks of quarantine we will abandon the work ethic we have practiced for decades and in the future we will voluntarily want to spend much more time with our children.
It's already clear: What the return to barbarism means for some, others can gain new possibilities: Air travel is at a standstill, the environment is allowed to breathe, markets are paralysed, the economic system is questioned. Perhaps even finally changed?
The coronavirus is undoubtedly extremely dangerous, but it also offers opportunities. The virus is forcing us abruptly and as a matter of urgency to take a stand on two crucial issues for the future of Western countries: the unemployed society and the ageing society. All those people who will soon be out of work because of artificial intelligence and whose future is currently only being theoretically dealt with by think tanks: What new stimuli, ideas and life models are we establishing so that they do not feel left behind and become aggressive?
Most of us will not die from the virus, at least not according to the current status. They will have a lot of time. Retreat. And perhaps for the first time practically deal with a huge problem, which the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal already recognized in the 17th century: "All the misfortune of mankind stems solely from the fact that he is not able to stay quietly in one room."
Staying quietly in the room, that does not mean becoming provincial, not looking beyond the edge of your plate. It also means taking advantage of the possibilities of the digital. You can hold lessons digitally, you can have a reasonable conversation on the Internet. Stay calm in your room: That's also a metaphor for how we deal with children. Pascal's misfortune must become our happiness. Stay calm in the room: It's a metaphor for the way we deal with the family. With grandma and grandpa, of course, who have to be separated from us in the near future.
Scientists are currently convinced that the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions are particularly at risk. The virologist Christian Drosten of the Berlin Charité University Hospital recently said: "The bottom line is that grandparents protect. "If this is not taken seriously, one must assume that there will be mortality rates in the range of 20 to 25 percent among these risk groups". People understand in this moment what solidarity means.
I do not wash my hands for myself. I disinfect myself for others, for the elderly, the sick. The writer and artist Ingo Niermann, who lives in Basel, demanded on Facebook: "The probability of dying of #Covid_19 is 50 times higher if you are over 70 than if you are under 40. Should we offer elderly people not only a seat, but free taxis and free first class train rides so that they are safe?"
The metaphors of this disease still offer great filling possibilities. But an ethic of the state of emergency and the quiet room is also establishing itself. The filmmaker Alexander Kluge, who is interviewed in this issue of Freitag, made a film in 1974 entitled In danger and great hardship, the middle way brings death. The task now is to remain calm. But we can also do something. Sit in our quiet rooms and think about what we actually want to do with ourselves.
Perhaps we can mentally stray from the middle way. And maybe even say goodbye to the old way of thinking, after everything has to become more and more. The "post-material values" were a slogan for a long time, now they could become existential. Bye, growth mania. More freedom, more money for everyone, more work. It is incredibly difficult to understand that the diminishing of the number of people is the new big step, both socially and evolutionarily. Right now, hopefully very briefly and in a concentrated way, the best conditions have been created for this.
What the coronavirus means for speculators
Finances This economy cannot afford interruptions in production to protect people. The capital is subject to growth compulsion
by Stephan Kaufmann
What the coronavirus means to speculators
Just don't bring the virus to market
[This article published in March 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/was-das-coronavirus-fuer-spekulanten-bedeutet.]
Der Spiegel recently twittered a caricature on the subject of Corona. On it you can see a heap of rubble, called "world economy". Next to it is a crane with a huge wrecking ball. The crane operator says: "Okay, that's it. Did we kill it, this corona virus?" The message is meant to be good: The anti-virus measures are ruining the global economy.
This is an interpretation of the situation that is as common as it is peculiar. After all, you could look at it that way: The world is richer than ever before. For example, global industrial production has increased by more than 50 percent since 2002, so there are more ways to fight the virus and cushion its effects. But instead of seeing the "global economy" as a resource in the fight against the virus, it is portrayed as its victim. The reason for this is that we have all got used to the fact that "the economy" has to do one thing above all: grow.
The economic damage feared by Corona consists less in a shortage, empty shelves or queues in front of shops. It is a weakening of growth. This growth should be as strong as possible, and therefore the speed at which it is achieved counts. The turnover of capital must be continuous, without interruption. Because time is money. Interruptions delay the multiplication of the invested sums and thus endanger the wealth that exists only to be multiplied and for as long as it is multiplied. If this does not happen, economic output will stagnate and we will simply not have produced as much as in the previous period. Then there is crisis, devaluation.
This becomes clear on the financial markets. Here, the expected growth has always been anticipated. The trillions of shares, bonds and other securities are based on the anticipation of rising sales and profits, which have yet to be achieved, but which are already available in real terms in the form of securities. The financial markets are both a speculation on future growth and a claim to it. If the economy stagnates or takes a break due to illness, the stock market is bound to crash. "Coronavirus crisis destroys ten trillion euros on the stock markets", reports the world.
The situation is explained to us as follows: production stops lead to loss of income and thus to falling profits, which hits the stock markets. In reality, the reverse is true. Because securities are based on expected growth, they fall as soon as there is even the prospect of revenue losses. The stock market crash then leads to a financial crisis that hits back at the real economy, even though it is not yet in crisis. In this way, the markets make the world liable for the fulfillment of their speculation.
This is a message that the corona crisis sends to those who criticize the compulsion to grow. It is indeed visible that the production stops are reducing emissions from, for example, CO₂. But at the same time it is clear that this economy obviously cannot afford to protect people from infection, for example through production stoppages. Not because man is an insatiable being. But because capital has its whole purpose in growth.
Stephan Kaufmann writes articles and books on economics