Sars-CoV-2. Covid-19. Novel coronavirus. Many terms but all describing essentially the same: the root cause of the current global situation. A pandemic that in line with its various side effects frightens many and affects us all. While some people in the sectors of elderly care, food supply, and healthcare now get the attention and praise they deserve all along, other people use the newly acquired time to take stock of themselves. Some familiarize their grandparents with modern techniques of video calls (yep gran, this was possible before corona already, I must have just forgotten to mention it). Others retrieve and, dear me!, actually read books covered in dust since schooltime. Still others muse about the future of humankind – Aristotle and Kant would be proud!
As many reasonably predict a flattening of the curve of seemingly ever-growing, everlasting globalization, we should start thinking about how this might materialize and, perhaps more importantly so, which risks deglobalization bears.
Globalization will not suddenly turn into a mere subject of our children’s history books. But it appears indeed quite likely that, as so many things these days, the process of constant global intertwining takes a deep breath and pauses for a (little) while. This opens the stage for alternatives to prove themselves in reality.
Now, the logic counterpart to the global is the local and regional.
Closed borders and partly interrupted intercontinental supply chains remind us of being able to easily survive with the eggs of our neighbor’s chickens and the potatoes growing in our own garden instead of mussels and herbs coming from the other end of the world and, for the sake of being presented in some fancy packaging to the solvent client from the Global North, shipped around the world three more times. If you are not sure about how a re-regionalization on that score is supposed to work, you might ask your grandparents in the next video call.
This, granted, overly simple example points to myriads of possibilities of how the local sphere can regain its very meaningful status in our societies. Such an approach, almost in passing, would probably go towards flattening the climate curve as well and bring us closer to achieving long overdue climate change mitigation targets.
By the way, for those who want to go one step further and regionalize political decision-making in general, respective tools exist already. What the EU had in mind when introducing its roundabout principle of subsidiarity, in essence, is just that.
You might now think, well, problem solved. There it is, the purpose of the whole corona mess. Finally. But let us think that through. Things are not as easy as they sound. Approaches to existing problems like the globalized world getting out of our hands bear ambivalences.
Concretely, (re-)regionalization is not only part of the agendas of mostly open-minded political parties. It also finds its way into the manifestos of the (far) right who themselves prove not to be so much of pioneers in open-mindedness.
The local, for many, is inherently linked to ethnic and national purity. In seeing the positive aspects of our current crisis, we should not forget about the wet dreams of ultranationalists and political stick-in-the-muds coming true these days. As soon as the situation is only slightly back to normal, they will make use of the corona measures in showing the public that, despite decision-makers of other political stripes’ arguments, it is very possible to live without open borders, to only welcome foreigners for touristic purposes (if at all) and allocate jobs exclusively to compatriots.
Times of ultimate crises are not the times of the opposition. Yet, the crisis will dissolve. Short-sighted populism will not.
We may not like that. But no matter how much we wish to only focus on the positive things that put us in an upbeat mood amidst all the bad news these days, in thinking about the future we do well to stay realistic and prepare thoroughly for the deglobalized corona afterlife.
Diverging political perspectives will not fade out like the number of covid-19 patients. And as we currently learn to appreciate democracy with all its amenities again instead of simply taking it for granted let us not forget about different people’s opinions, regardless of how much we agree or disagree to them.
The meaning of terms, after all, is not the same to everyone. Corona will not change this.