Sense(less) and (In)Sensibility in 2020

Divided they stand ©FrogDiva Photography

Here are the two most sensible articles I have come across this week:
The Secret to Germany’s COVID-19 Success: Angela Merkel Is a Scientist
New Zealand’s Prime Minister May Be the Most Effective Leader on the Planet
and I share them in reaction to the most recent press conference of the US President suggesting that disinfectant be injected into the bodies and sunlight be used to fight the corona virus.

As Uri Friedman writes in the second article,

The coronavirus pandemic may be the largest test of political leadership the world has ever witnessed. Every leader on the planet is facing the same potential threat. Every leader is reacting differently, in his or her own style. And every leader will be judged by the results.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel embraces science. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejects it. U.S. President Donald Trump’s daily briefings are a circuslike spectacle, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds no regular briefings at all, even as he locks down 1.3 billion people.

I never thought I would live to see the day when Lysol, Clorox and Dettol all have to warn the public not to ingest or inject their products as suggested by Donald Trump. My landlord is a medical doctor and he was spewing with sarcasm when we spoke the other day, in utter disbelief of the latest … well, the words fail me, let me rephrase that – the polite words fail me.

Indeed, these are historic times for many leaders, but hysterical for others. Berlin political leadership, for example, leaves much to be desired. One day they say one thing, the next day you wake up to something completely different, or the issue drags on and on ad nauseam. Case in point: the not-so-new airport anymore that is 11 years (!) overdue. Same thing is happening with Corona regulations: masks are mandatory in all public transportation effective tomorrow, but not for shopping. Wait, maybe they want to reconsider after all and make masks mandatory in supermarkets and small grocery shops. Hang on, they want all commuters to wear masks, OK, I can deal with that, but where do you buy them? Try asking any drugstore here in Berlin or even a pharmacy, and you will draw a blank.

Kindergartens are to remain closed, but playgrounds may re-open. No obligatory masks for the children but they should maintain their distance from one another. Have you tried keeping two and three-year-olds apart in a playground? Especially after such a long confinement!

I was on my way home from the office on the first day of relaxed lockdown, and much to my horror the area around Wittenbergplatz was full of people sitting out in the sun in groups of threes and fours, young groups walking together should-to-shoulder, hugging and laughing. No sense of social distancing or even wearing any form of protective gear. This is what the virologists are warning us about: a second wave of Corona is imminent if we are not careful, and it could be more deadlier than the first.

Fragility is a dangerous thing with such an explosive situation, and this is certainly not the time to be wishy-washy in the administration and organisation of the nation’s capital. If anything, Berlin should set the example for the rest of Germany, but instead it is the laughing stock, with the political parties unable to concur with one another on the most basic matters. Schools to reopen gradually yes, no clue when, no advise on adjusted semesters for university students, but no concepts for protective gear for the students or teachers.

I get it, none of this has any precedence, so everyone is winging it. Some were told home office for three weeks, other for three months, and still others until the end of the year. Where is the consistency in that? Furlough or short-term contracts? Unemployment or resignation? Bankruptcy or financial aid without knowing how on earth repay the loan?

Berliners are known to be rebellious in nature as it is, and this is manifested in the politics and form of governance of the city. We have reached the crossroad between sense and stupidity, carelessness and insensitivity, putting everything we know on the line. The bureaucracy has self-transformed into bureau-crazy, and if you happen to be among the unfortunate ones who needs something from city hall at the moment, tough luck. My citizenship application, for example, first got caught in the flu wave before Christmas with only half the government employees reporting to work, then by the general holiday pandemonium, immediately followed by the Corona-induced standstill. So instead of being sworn in last November, I just received a letter requesting I re-submit a long list documents again, which I already handed in last July 2019. So forgive me if I entertain malicious and violent thoughts at the moment.

Speaking as a resident non-native Berliner, I can just vouch for the fact that people react to the way they are governed.If the government chooses to dish out confusion and inconsistency, can you blame the residents for behaving equally confused and inconsistent?

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