I will not apologise for the title because it is the most honest and brutally frank way to describe the world, our world, in 2021 so far. We all wailed about how awful 2020 was without all our familiar comforts – movement, interaction, travel, parties, dates, shopping, working with colleagues, etc. and on New Year’s Eve we were blindly convinced that 2021 was going to be much better, full of hope and positivity because the vaccine was on it’s way. Bullshit.
One world leader after another is failing miserably at the ultimate test of public administration, with the exception of Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand who is so far the only world leader to show grace under pressure and is not taking any nonsense from squabbling politicians who think they know better than the virologists and doctors. Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines are prime examples of how to really screw things up without even trying. The moment they tried to do something they simply made matters worse, leaving the citizens of their respective countries in the dismal situation, the majority of whom are unable to fend for themselves.
Then you have Canada’s Justine Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron who are more concerned about preserving their youthful good looks in front of the cameras in order to cover up the mess they are standing in front of. They have become masters at training the cameras on their noses and cheekbones, smiling coquettishly so that you don’t look closer at the roller coaster of indecision trailing behind them. Under non-crisis or pandemic situations they would have stood a sliver of a chance to shine and lead their countries into a dynamic era, bringing charm and elegance back to diplomacy. Instead they have lost both control and respect on civil and political fronts, proving that they lack the experience and qualities of being strong leaders during a crisis.
Then we have the bullheaded leaders on either side of the Atlantic who summarily refuse to play ball with the rest of the world and risked everything to go against the flow. On the Eastern coast of the Atlantic Pond we have Boris Johnson, who has to clean up the Brexit mess, and on the other side stands Joe Biden, who inherited the disgraceful goulash of a racist, misogynist nincompoop predecessor. Neither one of them has the full confidence and backing of Congress / Parliament, and they still have to prove their housekeeping skills to their constituents. However, credit must be given where credit is due and both men have managed to turn around the vaccination dilemma in their respective countries before the rest of of Europe could even spell it. Neither situation is ideal, and like the rest of the world, they are at the mercy of the vaccine suppliers, but I must admit to feeling positively green with envy upon reading the headlines this morning about the pubs, fitness studios and hair salons re-opening today across the UK. Both Biden and Johnson delivered against all odds in their respective playgrounds! The question is now how sustainable these measures will be.
Then we have Germany. Where do I even begin without running the risk of getting shut (shot) down? For a country so technologically advanced and sticklers for justice, peace and order, the German government has steered the country into a corner and rammed the ship into the wall in the process. Federalism has become its own worst enemy during the pandemic. Nobody is in control and hence, not a single person can take the reigns and navigate everything and everyone to safety. Politics in Germany has gotten in the way of healthcare, and instead of acting swiftly and working with the virologists, doctors and hospitals from the very start, they have put every possible bureaucratic speed bump on the road to recovery.
The percentage of people vaccinated in Germany is an embarrassment that will haunt Angela Merkel for the rest of her life. Instead of bowing out with all the laureates at the end of her 16-year term this coming September, she will be forever be remembered for letting the country get out of control and divest itself from the famed German order. We are still floundering about here, and nobody has a clue what is next or what rules will apply on the morning you get out of bed. The rules of the game keep changing on weekly basis and quite frankly, you can’t really blame the protesters anymore because it is truly infuriating and frustrating.
What has gone wrong? Germany, like Switzerland and Japan, operates on order, well planned operating systems and matching technological advances that function like clockwork. It is all about precision, punctuality, automatisation, respect, formality, and proprietary distance. Everything must be quantifiable in order to design the right social, political or economic mechanism and project the trajectory for medium and long-term governance and management. There is no room for emotion or sentimentality, as that would go against the very grain of mechanical engineering and and the basic laws of physics, which allow only the minimal margin of error. The people and cultures in these countries have precision and quantifiable paradigms so deeply ingrained in them that if something derails it is tantamount to a crisis – personal, social or political.
This is where the virus has messed with the German system – it is not quantifiable in advance and therefore any reliable calculation is rendered impossible. A virus does whatever it pleases and multiplies at such a staggering rate that nobody can keep up with, least of all the politicians who still find time to squabble about varying degrees of lockdowns instead of implementing it. The wishy-washy attempts thus far have had little or no results, and it is only now that talk of a hard and complete lockdown is being considered. Acting on impulse and implementing disaster management within its own borders while still remaining true to the democratic institutions and values is something post-WWII Germany has never faced, and there is no precedence for it. Bottom line: they are winging it, and the entire nation is suffering the consequences as a result.