Columns The pandemic deepens political and international cooperation crises

Science would know how to defeat the virus, but historian Yuval Noah Harari speculates that we are not prepared to pay the price required for victory.

Pandemic change societies as radically as wars. Admittedly in a completely different way. The global health crisis will not, in principle, confront states or send huge masses of people to flee. A pandemic shuts people apart.

Survivors become pandemic veterans united by the experience of the unpredictable. There will be concerns about the following crises. The need to prepare for threats affects how the world will take shape after a pandemic.

Pandemic to teach. The most obvious conclusion is to invest in public health. The second is the need to strengthen structures that ensure that the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy work even in a crisis. There is a huge renovation ahead.

For the start of the second year of the pandemic, interim financial statements from last year have been consulted. One of the summers is Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, whose article in the Financial Times (February 26) provided feeds to reflect on humanity’s ability to solve a common crisis together.

Harari’s first lesson in a pandemic is positive: science works. There will be even more deaths, but far fewer than in previous pandemics. Thanks to advances in science, humanity’s ability to defeat a pandemic is quite different from, for example, a hundred years ago in Spanish disease. Epidemics are no longer uncontrollable forces of nature, but science has made them manageable.

Another Harar doctrine shows how online we live.

If homes had been closed a hundred years ago, they would have starved to death. But humanity became automated and digitalized. People might stop moving, but goods and information pass. Cows are milked by a robot. Money is moving.

The pandemic can be stopped because the movement of people can be stopped.

However, the digital world is very vulnerable. Harari in particular warns against data monopolies and digital dictatorships. Now, under the guise of security, one should not swallow the hook of surveillance and opening privacy without conditions.

If one were to bet on what is the next covid-19, the collapse of the internet would be a valid answer, Harari says.

Coronavirus year produced the achievements of biotechnology and demonstrated the power of digitalization. Harar’s third lesson, however, is that science and technology are no substitute for politics.

The pandemic quickly changed from a problem of science and technology to a political problem.

One could assume that a global pandemic would bring about global cooperation, but that was not the case. The game of China, the United States and Russia has already crippled the UN system and will no longer be a unifying force for countries. While cooperation is needed, corona nationalism is intensifying.

Technology knows no borders, and science communicates across borders, but political decision-making does not go beyond the national interest. Mankind has failed to contain the pandemic or even devise a global plan to defeat the virus.

Science knows how to defeat the virus, but humanity is not willing to pay the price required to win, Harari writes. Poor political decisions kill people and allow new viruses to emerge.

Pandemic change what we consider good policy and good governance. We demand that politicians find a balance between medical, economic and social aspects, even if the task is impossible. Perceptions of security also changed. The institutions were disappointing, and the frustration with the collapse of international cooperation is overwhelming.

At the same time, the perception of what is everyone’s own responsibility in a good society is changing. The change can be drastic.

The author is the editorial editor of HS.

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