Fragility

  • Frames

It is October 13, 2020. Yesterday the British government announced a new national approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Four different levels in daily new infections are defined and linked to measures such as maximum size for meetings and limited opening hours / general closure of pubs and restaurants. Just like in the Netherlands, the numbers of infections and hospitalizations are growing exponentially again.

BBC radio reports on mutiny in the North, against the determination by the national government of levels to regions. Some districts / boroughs are taking matters into their own hands, mainly on the ground that damage to the economy (whatever is meant by it) should be proportional to health risk and is best evaluated by local government.

The organization of local British political democracy seems chaotic to outsiders. What shines through is that a period of roughly 75 years of administrative stability and relative economic prosperity has made governance structure fragile and stripped of many functions that together could have formed an effective political immune system.

In the wake of this, the ubiquitous communication capabilities of the internet have reversed the initially associated expectations. Not the individualization of publication potential but the generic submission to social media is what seems to have crystallized. Influencers with millions of followers become propaganda machines that, for a small fee, get entire popular movements off the ground, while the indirect democracy loses its grip.

Tonight the Dutch Prime Minister will announce the Dutch measures. It is predictable that the economy will suffer and that the young will have to refrain from mass parties. It is difficult to predict how this will turn out in the short term, other than that in the Netherlands too the fragility of our democracy-under-pressure becomes acutely visible.