This issue of the magazine, just like the previous one, focuses on the pandemic we are experiencing. We are now in the second wave, with much higher rates of infection and, although the mortality rate is proportionally lower, the absolute number of deaths is greater. The second wave is especially severe in our region, where the first passed relatively easily, as it arrived here a little later than elsewhere and the authorities had time to prepare. In fact, the measures taken in some Balkan countries were too drastic, typical of authoritarian regimes: contrary to official statements or media reports, the total quarantine of the population in advanced western democracies has been an exception. The right to life and the right to health are human rights equal to other rights such as freedom of movement or assembly, though it is a right that the state should guarantee for its citizens with quality public health care, not by imposing society-wide measures resembling house arrest. One of the lessons of this pandemic has been the discrediting of the pseudo-liberal dogma according to which “the state is the problem” – the argument that it is necessary to shrink the size of public services, thus, reducing the state’s means to provide care, but not the state’s means of coercion. It remains to be seen how long this lesson will last in the future.
Besides the severe and direct health consequences of the pandemic, there are other serious consequences, requiring a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary approach. The pandemic duration is bringing about what the World Health Organization calls “pandemic fatigue”. This is a serious psychological problem among young people in particular, as well as other age groups, where short-term life prospects become blurry and obscure, and there is no sense of what will happen tomorrow. It seems this problem will grow more serious the longer the pandemic lasts. Equally severe are the economic difficulties that arise. Moreover, they have an impact on many aspects of society and of the lives of citizens.
Nonetheless, the disaster we are experiencing should not make us forget other major issues that require urgent solutions. For example, all eyes are on the recent US presidential election, and the victory of president elect Joe Biden, or rather the defeat of President Trump, but this was also welcomed because of what it means for protecting the environment where we live, and the necessity of stopping global warming. There is a risk, however, that this issue will be forgotten again after the US presidential election is no longer in the headlines and public attention concentrates only on the Covid-19 pandemic. Another significant challenge, barely mentioned now, are the successive waves of refugees, a phenomenon in our home, in the Balkans, and one that will recur at various entry points into the European continent.
Whatever happens, the pandemic and its direct and indirect consequences and its management, will be with us for some time. The creation of vaccines is hopeful news: we can see, at least, “a light at the end of the tunnel”, an expression that has gone viral in this period. In the meantime, we will continue to talk and reflect on this experience. But what next? Will we forget it like the Spanish flu, which only one hundred years ago infected a third of humanity, and killed as many people as died in both world wars, and is only now remembered?
Translated by Alexandra Channer
This publication was made possible by the financial support of AMSHC. Its conent is responsibility of the authors, and does not reflect necessarily the opinion of AMSHC.
It was also supported by a grant from the European Cultural Foundation