Everything changes

Corona measures: The virus changes everything, but nothing changes


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The author was part of the working group of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which made recommendations to the federal government on how to cope with the corona pandemic. Nassehi is currently a member of the "Expert Council Corona" of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease has changed everything in a very short time. We have succeeded in introducing drastic measures to go to the limit of restricting rights, to rule into all areas of everyday life and to shut down the country like other countries. You don't have to explain it, it has now been described hundreds of times, probably also to rub your eyes and make sure that it really did happen. It was and is an unusual situation, so unusual that people already believed in a fundamental change in society, some want to see a change of epochs approaching, there were many epochal descriptions. Their common tenor: the virus changes everything.

And it's true: the virus has changed many social routines and also put a stop to protests, discourses, concerns and counter-speech - not because someone would have forbidden such things, but because it appeared plausible under the impression of the images from Wuhan and Bergamo, later New York City and was also well explained. But that seems to be over. Recently, the warnings of virologists and medical professionals have hardly been heard, and even mocked.

At the latest after Easter, when the strict measures initially expired and had to be extended or modified, the social engine started up again. Since then we have known: The virus has indeed changed everything, but it has not changed the way a complex society reacts to such an exceptional situation. You could say: She does it quite routinely. We see that all actors act exactly as they usually do.

Of course, it is a concern of business associations to finally close the value chains again and to mitigate the catastrophic economic consequences, what else should they demand? Of course, employees have an existential interest in keeping their jobs. Of course, lawyers and courts are concerned about the legality of measures. And of course the media coverage is now becoming more polyphonic and critical of the measures. And of course there are increasing voices from the psychosocial, educational and therapeutic areas, which unbelievable consequences the lockdown have for families, for children and adolescents, for partnerships, for gender relations, for already precarious living situations and for the level of violence in close areas.

All actors play the roles they have always played. This is of course not a reproach, but ultimately depicts the structure of society, which reacts in this way with its own means. After the social motor has jumped again, the virological question in the narrower sense fades into the background. It is therefore not surprising that more cautious measures are primarily still advocated by those whose jobs are secure or whose economic livelihood is not in jeopardy.

This is not intended to be a mockery, just to point out that society has no other means than its own routines and structures to react to such challenges in a fairly predictable manner. And these resources don't just seem to be limited, they obviously follow stable patterns that can hardly be confused. People do what they always do.