Return to normality or everything else?
Dear friend. First of all, thank you very much for your interest in an integral view of the Corona crisis. Our overview article, which we published five weeks ago, probably hit the nerve of many integrally interested people. The great interest and your feedback have strengthened our belief that the integral approach can effectively help to provide clarity and orientation for such a complex topic as the Corona crisis. Thank you for that!
While our overview article should primarily enable you to get to know the integral approach – the integral glasses – using the concrete example of the corona crisis, today we want to look primarily at the latest developments on the corona crisis through these glasses. In other words, less to describe the spectacles and how they work and more to look through the spectacles. In doing so, we will again focus on selected phenomena in Germany from three different angles:
- How can the weeks of the lockdown be interpreted integrally? We will explain some of the spotlights of the last time integrally. (Spoiler alert: toilet paper manufacturers complain of massive sales decline.)
- How will the current easing of measures be dealt with from an integral perspective? We will examine selected current situations and discourses from an integral perspective.
- How will things probably continue? We will look into our integral glass ball and look a little into the future.
This update is based on our article „The Corona Crisis – An Integral View“ from 23.03.2020, which presents the integral approach very comprehensively using the example of the corona crisis. You do not need to read it for this update. However, it is helpful to understand the integral basic concepts. You can find a compact introduction to it on our website (in German language) and in the blog article „Die Integrale Landkarte“ (also German).
The last weeks – progress, setbacks and notable things
A good starting point for understanding and evaluating what happened in the weeks during the so-called lockdown is an appreciation of the empirical data and facts on the corona crisis, which come from reliable, peer-reviewed and recognised sources and follow scientific standards. Integrally speaking, we first look at what happened in the right objective quadrants (behaviour and systems).
Just over five weeks ago, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) counted around 22,670 confirmed corona infections in Germany, including around 90 deaths. Today there are 181,482 confirmed corona cases with 8,500 deaths (as of 31.05.2020). This represents an increase of about 700 percent more confirmed infections and about 934 percent more deaths in only five weeks. Approximately one in twenty infected people die as a result of their corona infection. Since not every corona infected person visits a doctor, the estimated number of unknown corona infections and unregistered corona deaths in Germany is three to eleven times higher than the number of registered cases, according to expert estimates.
According to statista.com, Germany is still in a comparatively good position in the global fight against the corona virus Sars-CoV-2 with a lethality of 4.6 percent – even in view of the differences in the data situation, collection and health care of the countries, which make a direct comparison of countries difficult. In other European countries the lethality rate is significantly higher: 11.4 percent in Spain, 14.1 percent in England, 14.3 percent in Italy, 15.6 percent in France and with 16.3 percent Belgium sadly occupies first place in the world ranking.
And the lethality rate of Covid-19 is far above that of seasonal flu (2017/2018: 0.5 percent). By way of comparison, in the exceptionally strong flu wave of 2017/18 there were around 334,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases, of which 1,674 were fatal.
So what is the truth in the widespread claim that influenza is much more deadly than the current Covid 19 pandemic?
On closer examination, it proves to be untenable. It is based on an unintentional or intentional confusion of mortality and lethality, in which the deaths confirmed by laboratory diagnosis – lethality – are inadmissibly compared with the statistically determined deaths of a whole population – mortality (apples and pears). The mortality of the influenza wave 2017/2018 was estimatedstatistically with 25,100 deaths, and this was relating to the whole of Germany. If we compare this inadmissibly with the current lethality of currently 8,500 Covid-19 deaths proven in laboratory diagnostics – without taking into account the number of unreported cases – the flu naturally appears much more threatening than Covid-19. Only that this mathematical comparison of apples with pears is simply not permissible, and accordingly produces misleading distortions and causes considerable confusion in the German population.
So much for some important facts of the last weeks.
What do we learn from this?
- In an international comparison Germany still stands comparatively well in terms of the lethality of Covid-19. Somehow we seem to be very lucky at the moment and/or have done some things right in the past and/or present. We can be grateful for this – and those who have contributed to our current comparatively good situation can also be proud of themselves, their colleagues and what they have achieved, even if this may be a comparatively unaccustomed feeling.
- In the heat of the moment, proponents and opponents of measures to contain the Covid 19 pandemic like to throw a lot of numbers, data and factsaround quickly, without really knowing their origin and meaning, to check or even understand them. Unfortunately, this leads time and again to the comparison of apples with pears – as in the comparison between flu mortality and Covid-19 lethality. The consequences of such unlucky misinformation for society and the individual are serious. Fellow human beings are thus completely unsettled and frightened and no longer understand the world in the face of the glaring contradictions presented to them by the media and fellow human beings.
- The current Covid 19 pandemic is much more serious than the influenza epidemic 2017/2018, which according to Prof. Lothar Wieler of the RKI is considered the most severe flu wave with the „highest number of deaths in the past 30 years“. This justifies and requires government measures to contain the corona crisis, which go far beyond the level we are used to from seasonal flu waves. The extent to which these measures are in line with the German Grundgesetz and constitution is a central aspect of the social discourse that is currently still open and will probably occupy the courts, politics and society for a long time to come.
Forces, stress and discipline during the last weeks
The Covid 19 pandemic puts Germany to an extraordinary test. The measures adopted by the Federal Government and the States to contain the corona pandemic are unique in German post-war history. The Federal Government is pursuing three objectives:
- Protect the health of the population.
- Mitigate consequences for citizens, employees and companies.
- Manage the pandemic together with European and international partners.
The measures adopted range from the obligation to register, to require each individual to keep a minimum distance of 1.5 to 2 metres and to keep social contacts to a minimum, to the recommendation to cancel major events, and later also small events (e.g. family celebrations, theatre performances and cinema visits).
From restrictions on outdoor activities and the wearing of masks on public transport and in shops, to the closure of restaurants, shops and service outlets where physical proximity is essential, as well as schools, daycare centres, universities and other public institutions, to restrictions on visits to nursing homes.
From an entry ban for third-country nationals, a worldwide travel warning, restrictions on cross-border passenger traffic, temporary border controls, travel restrictions, the ordering of a two-week domestic quarantine for immigrants, to the state-coordinated repatriation of German citizens stranded abroad from their holiday destinations.
From increasing staff in health offices, hospitals and in essential care sectors, to expanding testing capacities, developing a contact tracing app, extending the Infection Protection Act, expanding intensive care, procuring personal protective equipment, postponing plannable medical interventions and providing financial support for the development of therapies, drugs and vaccines.
From improvements to the short-time allowance, simplifications to the basic security, modifications to the protection against dismissal, deferral of payments for electricity, gas, telephone, consumer loans and taxes, aid programmes, simple granting of loans and emergency aid for companies and the self-employed, to the support of the federal states and local authorities by the Bundeswehr etc.
To name but a few of the many measures taken by the federal and state governments.
Even if, in retrospect, one or the other measure that has been decided upon can and must be critically examined – after all, we are usually smarter than before – from an integral perspective, the federal and state governments have on the whole reacted to the corona pandemic comparatively quickly, comparatively coherently and decisively and comparatively effectively – measured against the usual time-consuming administrative and political processes in our parliamentary democracy. Especially at the beginning of the crisis, when little was known about the spread, infection pathways and courses of corona disease. In our view, it was also good and helpful, in the course of the loosening up, to strengthen the States’ scope for decision-making, so that they could better respond to regional differences and local peculiarities.
The measures were aimed at effects in all four quadrants: individual understanding and insight (upper left) and individual behaviour (upper right), observance of systemic contexts and orchestrated institutional action (lower right) and emphasis and discussion of cultural aspects (lower left). And they were effective overall when combined – ultimately because almost all citizens actively contributed or participated in the implementation of many of these measures in everyday life. Be it as actors in „systemically relevant“ and all other areas of life or simply through awareness, respect and solidarity in interpersonal interaction.
However, the sheer mass and force of the measures adopted within only a few weeks and expected of the population had an extremely unexpected and surprising – shocking – effect on many citizens. Apart from a few experts, no one had seen such a situation coming – neither the outbreak of such a pandemic nor such comprehensive measures that strongly intervene in the personal life situation of each individual.
The shock of this sudden and unexpected new reality, which seems like a jumping jack-in-the-box, has caught many people in a cold sweat and left deep traces in the social fabric. Central mythical, rational and pluralistic value systems, on which our coexistence is based, were suddenly called into question. Existing rules and roles of public order as well as the sense of belonging of many fellow human beings were considerably irritated by, among other things, the strict official regulations, restrictions and prohibitions for the protection of the population and especially of risk groups. The free exercise of one’s own profession, numerous economic activities and also self-determined actions were severely restricted in many areas. And the principles of the diversity of different opinions, ideas, values and world views, which are so essential to our pluralistic society, suddenly seemed „as if suspended“ in view of the measures decided on by the Federal Government and the States, as well as the convictions spread by vociferous opinion-makers, which made a serious, necessary and sober social discourse beyond recognition difficult.
In this respect, the population reacted to this shock with a spectrum of the most varied reactions, which are fully understandable from the relevant (mythical, rational and pluralistic) perspectives, and which range from powerlessness and existential fear to insecurity and disorientation, anger, frustration and the fear of a corona dictatorship, as well as unswerving convictions about conspiratorial plots, to a positive mood, calmness and confidence to be found among relatively many fellow human beings. Many of the pressures and reactions to the Corona crisis and the measures that have been decided upon, as outlined in our overview article, have become clearly evident in recent weeks.
With a high degree of acceptance and discipline – and at great personal sacrifice – most of the measures decided upon were actively implemented and supported by most of the fellow human beings during the weeks of the lockdown, so that in the meantime a reduction in daily new infections and lamentable corona deaths could be achieved. This level of constructive and critical participation of large parts of the German population was not necessarily foreseeable and has contributed all the more pleasingly to the fact that we can now make some loosening up. And we can also be proud of ourselves and our fellow men and women in this respect – in the certainty that we have made a healing and effective contribution to something „whole“.
Language creates reality – so which reality do we want and desire?
As social beings, we humans need stories. With our narratives we determine our affiliation to other people, we connect with the heroes of our stories, we want to be like them and thus build our communities and whole societies on these stories. Language creates reality and we want to take a brief integral look at which reality(ies) are currently being created.
Particularly at the beginning of the crisis, but also today, warlike (magical-mythical) terms appear again and again in social discourse. There is talk of the „war against the corona virus“, the virus Sars-CoV-2 is our „common enemy“ and supermarkets and hospitals are accordingly declared to be „fronts“ in this war. People who have already experienced wars or who follow them in the media as worried fellow human beings react extremely alarmed to such rhetoric and a whole „arsenal“ of traumatic experiences is immediately reactivated in them. Wars are associated with martial state intervention, inhuman attacks and unspeakable suffering. Accordingly, the affected and understandably frightened people defend themselves against such forms of aggression, „fighting for their lives“. However, such war rhetoric obscures more than it contributes to orientation and a clear (rational) understanding of the Corona Crisis, as it is accompanied by a whole set of predefined roles (enemy, victim, dead, injured, freedom fighters, prisoners of war etc.) and warlike actions considered legitimate or illegitimate (e.g. violence, attack, ambush, resistance, capture, torture, injury, abuse etc.). These attributions cannot simply be discursively faded out and are suitable as excellent projection surfaces and amplifiers for our primal fears. They are specifically instrumentalized by manipulators (e.g. trolls). In the worst case, we all feel even more fear and powerlessness than the fact of the crisis and the measures that have already been taken. And fear and powerlessness do not necessarily lead to considered, clever and above all sovereign actions, but unfortunately promote rather ill-considered, hectic reactions motivated by fear. We know from psychology that people make bad decisions when and because they are in a bad state of mind, which in view of their predicament blocks their access to their own sovereign potential. At the same time, such war rhetoric obscures what is really important and helpful: rational reason and pluralistic mindfulness, care, compassion, healing and encouragement – aspects of a positive psychology that can make people stronger, more resilient and flourish despite the ongoing crisis.
Of course, numerous English or new German terms associated with the crisis are also catching the ear or eye, e.g. „social distancing“, „lockdown“, „homeschooling“ and „infodemia“, to name but a few. The meaning of such terms is not at all or very difficult to grasp for non-English-speaking citizens – and statistically this is estimated to be about one third of the population, more the older than the younger ones. And even for English-speaking people their meaning remains vague, if at all, and leaves a lot of room for questions and interpretations. Should I really socially distance myself from my fellow human beings? Isn’t a spatial distance to them enough?
The English term „lockdown“ means translated: „lockout, curfew“, the alternatively used term „shutdown“ means „immobilisation, switch-off“. The use of these terms in public discourse suggests the image that Germany, previously open to the world, has been sealed off, immobilized and shut down by the government, that the economy, public life and private spheres of life have been turned off and thus come to a standstill. In fact, the effect of the measures on the economy, society, the numerous communities and each and every one of us – as already mentioned – was considerable and involved high sacrifices and often painful privations (e.g. contact ban, loss of jobs, short-time work, loss of orders, plant closures in many industries and much more).
But did we have nationwide curfews where – as happened in France, for example – you were only allowed to travel with a permit and were regularly checked by police? Only very locally limited in a handful of districts. Was the economy really completely switched off and shut down, as these terms suggest? In some sectors yes, in other sectors only partially – at least not in food retailing, which at times could not escape from turnover. Has public life really come to a standstill? We could only observe this in parts, e.g. in the cultural sector, in gastronomy and tourism (to name a few areas). Has the country or a place even been quarantined and sealed off by the military as in the film „Outbreak“ by the German director Wolfgang Petersen? Not known to us.
And did we obey the instructions of the government, for example out of fear of state repression (magical-mythical), out of obedience and a sense of duty (mythical) or rather out of reason (rational) or compassion (pluralistic)? What role and responsibility has been and is our responsibility as mature citizens?
Anyone who has been out on the streets, in parks or anywhere else outside their own four walls in the last few weeks, or who has been asking around their circle of friends and acquaintances, could only rub their eyes in amazement at how busy, active and lively many – but by no means all – of their fellow human beings were during and despite these shutdowns, closures and switch-offs.
The term „homeschooling“ also contains a set of subtle messages that suggest that school is done at home. Are the parents, who are perhaps already stressed out anyway, suddenly becoming educators of their own children? How do I explain Pythagoras’ theorem to my child? Do I even have good or rather bad memories of math during my own school time? Do I not now more or less well take over a task for which otherwise our taxes paid, studied and competent pedagogues are responsible?
And what do the teachers actually do during the lockdown? If you are really interested in this, we recommend that you talk to a teacher or school principal. Trapped between daily new guidelines of the school authorities, limited possibilities and resources at the schools and stressed and sometimes overstrained parents – and the pupils who should be the centre of all their efforts – they do not suffer from boredom or inactivity.
The neologism „infodemia“ created in the course of the Corona crisis describes more or less aptly the epidemic-like and highly contagious spread of false reports of various origins, types and motivations, which we can hardly escape from in the social media or in public protests. Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the extent of these alternative truths – so-called fake news – which are deliberately spread in the world and continue to be circulated unquestioningly. And many are currently asking themselves what they can believe even in the face of the flood of accurate and misleading information vying for their attention. Welcome to the postfactual world, where rational reason has been overcome and where especially people with a mythical or pluralistic structural focus are very receptive to storytelling and alternative world explanations.
From an integral point of view, we come to three really delicate terms: „systemically relevant“ (rational), „corona hero“ (magic-mythical) and „risk group“ (rational). Why delicate? All three suggest a supposedly clear distinction between persons and institutions that belong and those that do not. It is obvious that doctors and nurses, hospitals and emergency services are systemically relevant, as are core tasks of public administration and the maintenance of public supply and disposal infrastructures (just think of all the toilet paper).
But does this mean – asked pluralistically – in the reverse conclusion that persons and institutions that are not on the list of systemically relevant areas of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs are less important, less significant, less „worth“? Doesn’t the single mother who works in the home office of her cramped apartment and at the same time organises and has to carry out home schooling for her children not also have a certain systemic relevance? At least for her children? Or the son, who before the crisis was able to visit his demented father daily in the nursing home? Aren’t we all somehow systemically relevant? In one way or another even unsung and unapplauded Corona heroes? Or don’t we all belong to a risk group in some way? And – do we as a cosmopolitan, pluralistic society as a whole want to and can we as a whole afford such a division between more and less systemically relevant fellow human beings culturally, ethically, morally and socially? Do we not stigmatize fellow human beings in one way or another? In any case, we personally are very glad that the intolerably inhuman and socially destructive idea of providing people with appropriate identification documents who have recovered from a corona infection and are now considered more immune (keyword „herd immunity“) has disappeared from public discourse as quickly as it appeared.
Scientific knowledge process is controversial
Many fellow human beings are surprised by the public controversies, contradictory statements and constantly changing recommendations of the virologists, researchers and other scientific experts present in the media on talk shows, in the press, in interviews and podcasts.
For people who do not have a direct insight into the rational culture and practice of scientific research, these appearances and statements of controversial „arguing“ scientists, which often do not lead to any recognizable agreement, often have a rather disturbing effect and sometimes leave the interested audience with more questions than satisfactory answers. What then? Are children just as infectious or less infectious than adults? Corona spreads as a droplet infection – and now aerosols are suddenly supposed to be infectious? What does this mean for the use of masks?
The factual and argumentative debate is part of the essence of science and progress in knowledge. Among the established practices of scientific work are that articles for publication in scientific journals are subjected to rigorous peer review and that doctoral students must publicly „defend“ their work in the context of the disputation. And it is natural practice among researchers to discuss a topic controversially but rationally – that is exactly how scientific progress works.
The decisive factor here is rather what contributions the experts concerned have made to the scientific peer community. Thus, many proven experts adhere to Wittgenstein’s principle: „What you cannot speak of, you must keep silent about“ and avoid speaking publicly about matters of which they have little or no expertise.
This is how the virologist Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten from the Berlin Charité expressed himself in the NDR’s corona podcast (episode 40) about the infodemia and the many more or less self-appointed corona experts:
„I would never dare to give out any things to the public, no matter how much opinion there is, for example about bacteria. I am a virologist and I would never comment on a bacteriological topic. And this is almost the same for the normal viewer, viruses and bacteria, but not for a scientist. In fact, it goes much further. I would also not dare to express myself within virology in this breadth and strength of opinion on a different virus than the one I am working on here. You cannot know the literature and you cannot know the expertise in this field unless you are an absolute specialist. And that is the only reason why I am here in public at all as a person, not because I am particularly clever or because I can talk particularly well or anything – but because I am working as a specialist on exactly these viruses. And what I hear, in part also from apparent experts, who are certainly also experts in their own field of research or were experts while they were still working, is simply without any foundation. These are generalities that do not go beyond a superficial knowledge of student textbook knowledge. And with this knowledge base, they then trot out videos to the public and strengthen the really dangerous conspiracy theorists, some of whom also have political agendas.“– Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, Berlin Charité
Loosening up since end of April
On 15 April 2020, the Federal Government and the States adopted a first package of measures to relax some of the measures that had been in force since 23 March and which characterised the lockdown. Two further packages of measures with the same objective followed by 6 May. These relaxations include:
- Gradual opening of schools and day-care centres from the end of May.
- Recommendation to wear so-called everyday masks in public transport and retail trade.
- Opening of retail shops with a sales area of up to 800 square metres, from 6 May all shops subject to conditions.
- A 14-day review of the currently valid measures for effectiveness and necessity.
- Meetings for the practice of religion may take place again.
- Opening of playgrounds, museums, exhibitions and galleries, memorial sites, zoological and botanical gardens under certain conditions.
- Relaxation of restrictions on visits to clinics, nursing homes and institutions for the disabled.
- States are largely given the responsibility for further relaxation, but should adopt and implement necessary restrictions if the upper limit is exceeded.
Some folks overdo it…
Many people react to the relaxation with euphoria and exuberance, finally meet up with friends again, stand together in groups in streets and squares and go out as if nothing had happened. Since the beginning of May, some German city centres have been reminding people of the pre-Christmas period – only without Christmas decorations. And in parks and other places, too, there is a hustle and bustle.
Other citizens deliberately stay at home and view this activity with suspicion, fearing setbacks. And of course they do not take long in coming. Since then, there have been increasing local outbreaks of corona infections, in which gatherings of several people and the violation of reasonable corona measures (distance, mask) play an important role.
On 10 May, for example, more than 200 people became infected during a service in a Frankfurt parish. Nose and mouth masks were apparently not worn.
When a restaurant reopened on 15 May in Moormerland, a total of 34 people became infected and more than 200 people were quarantined. How could this happen? Hands were shaken, minimum distance and masks were not observed.
Also in Bremerhaven there is a corona outbreak at the end of May in a religious community with currently at least 49 infected and more than 140 people under quarantine according to first findings.
We will probably have to get used to such local outbreaks as long as there is no vaccine against the corona virus and human carelessness. And we can only hope that such outbreaks will be detected as quickly as possible and that the affected people will be quarantined and, if necessary, given medical care. Since the virus takes on average 5 to 6 days (in some cases up to 14 days) to show the first symptoms and the risk of infection is already present two days before the symptoms begin, we can all only hope that those affected and involved draw the right conclusions as quickly and responsibly as possible.
Corona protests – polyphonic choirs
Due to the restriction of numerous basic rights, thousands of people protested in many major German cities in May against government measures to contain the corona pandemic, for example in Stuttgart, Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, accompanied in many places by numerous counterdemonstrations.
The protest was held under strict conditions to prevent the corona virus from spreading and was largely peaceful at most rallies. However, official requirements, e.g. a minimum distance as well as the obligation to wear a mask were not observed by many demonstrators: „Corona dictatorship“, „Freedom instead of coercion“, „Duty to wear a mask is modern slavery“, „Corona is fake“, „We are the people“ and „Don’t give Gates a chance“ were statements that could be read and heard again and again.
At many rallies a very heterogeneous mixture of demonstrators came together. From citizens who are seriously worried about the constitutionality of the corona measures adopted by the federal and state governments or about the future of their jobs, to right-wing extremists, esoterics, anti-vaccination activists, conspiracy believers and numerous self-appointed experts who know what’s what anyway and are spreading „the truth“. Some celebrities also used the protests to win new followers and to present themselves as „saviours“ in a media-effective way. The spectrum of projections and images of the enemy was correspondingly broad and varied, which became obvious during the protests. It ranged from „Bill Gates“ to „the ones up there“, optionally „the lie press“ or the „system press“, „capitalism“, „the virologists“, „5G“, „the Chinese“, „vaccinations“, „chemtrails“ and even „the Merkel regime“.
At many rallies, a phenomenon that has long been of concern to the security authorities has become apparent, namely the seizure of legitimate protests and the instrumentalisation of demonstrations and protesters by left and right-wing extremists, conspiracy ideologues and manipulators, who in this way try to advance their own agendas. They take advantage of the insecurity that many citizens feel as a result of the global corona pandemic and make them mentally hostages of their crude ideas. And these ordinary citizens then often allow themselves to be drawn into it unreflectively and build up a positive relationship with their hostage-takers – without really realizing how they are being manipulated at the moment. If we are then enlightened by participants in a demonstration about how important it is to finally „open our eyes“ and finally „think for ourselves“ instead of just consuming bluntly and believing everything the system press says without reflection – we can roughly guess how much educational work still needs to be done in democratic and social discourse.
How will it probably go on?
What will our future be after Corona?
What conclusions do I personally draw for myself and my loved ones from the experiences I have made? What is really important to me – and what is dispensable for me? How do I approach future challenges and what solutions will I find? How do I deal with my fears and traumas in the future? Will I be more shy or open towards people in the future? Will I avoid situations and places in the future for fear of infection, e.g. visits to the doctor?
In what way will I behave differently in the future? Will I continue to wear mouthguards in public, follow the rules of distance and disinfect my hands regularly? Am I now unknowingly immune to the Corona virus or not yet? Will I get tested to clarify this for myself? How do the late effects of a severe corona disease change my options, e.g. to do endurance sports?
What changes can we expect in our social contexts, systems, institutions and infrastructures? Will there be another wave? How will we deal with local corona outbreaks in the future? Will there be annually recurring corona seasons comparable to seasonal flu outbreaks? When will there be a vaccine? How will we protect risk groups until then? How will we cope with the considerable costs of the corona crisis and its aftermath? How will public institutions and the economy change to better cope with future epidemics?
How will we shape our cultural interaction? Will we return to our accustomed normality? How will we deal with a second wave? How will we regain a good feeling for our togetherness, which allows for proximity? How do we want to meet each other in everyday life in the future, e.g. in the supermarket, in the restaurant, at work, on holiday? How will we deal with the looming job losses and insolvencies as a culture and fellow human beings?
These and many other questions about the further development of the corona crisis currently remain open and will probably remain so for a long time to come. And again, we can only address a few selected questions here.
We’ll return to normal?
Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, many people have been concerned about when the crisis will finally end and we can all return to normality. The subjective assessments range in extremes from „everything will be as before“ to „nothing will remain as it is“. But what does normality mean? Normality refers to the self-evident, the everyday in a society, which no longer needs to be explained or decided upon.
Will we therefore return to our old self-conception and everyday life, which we were still used to, for example, at the end of 2019? No!
Or will nothing remain as it is? Also: No!
How can that be? Well, both positions are right, but only partially. We can be confident that certain self-evident things that we knew before the crisis will continue to apply in the future. And at the same time there will be aspects that will be significantly different than before the crisis. You don’t have to be a futurologist or a crystal ball expert for that, you just have to apply some logic. Our brain prefers to offer us either-or scenarios for such questions out of pure habit of thinking. These cost the brain little energy, but then quickly lead to extreme positions. Especially in our occidental-western culture we are not used to apply other patterns of thinking, which then also consider e.g. „either-also“ scenarios or „neither-nor“ scenarios – we simply do not see these possibilities.
So both will happen.
Cultural interaction, social institutions, the economy, the environment and the laws of nature will continue to function reliably and „normally“ in the sense described above. We will fall in love, some of us will have children and accompany them in their development. We will eat, sleep, meet friends, go to work, do useful and beautiful things. We will rejoice and suffer. We will express ourselves aesthetically, dance, sing, laugh, cry – live our lives „normally“.
At the same time, the corona pandemic has scratched significant scars on the face of our world. The corona pandemic will most likely make history, although perhaps (fortunately) not as prominent as the Spanish flu or the plague. After all, it is already being discussed today whether the economic consequences of the Corona crisis will be worse than those of the Great Depression, which began on 24 October 1929 with a crash of the New York Stock Exchange („Black Thursday“) and continued with its painful consequences well into the 1930s. The consequences of the Corona Crisis do not necessarily have to take a similar painful course as the Great Depression! The world has developed further and learned from its history in many places. Today, international solidarity and care, respect for human rights and pluralistic compassion are much more widespread than in the past, when ethnocentric and nation-state thinking and action dominated events.
From an integral point of view, it would therefore be neither helpful to reject the „old“, accustomed normality as outdated, antiquated or even snow of yesterday and dispose of it on the rubbish heap of history – nor to categorically and vehemently reject or even ignore the upcoming and often still unforeseeable changes of the future.
How do we cope with the consequences of the Corona crisis?
The economic, social, cultural and individual consequences of the crisis are too numerous and far-reaching to provide satisfactory answers. Therefore here are just a few selected aspects.
It is highly probable that the unemployment figures will rise and there will be many insolvencies in Germany and worldwide. Some industries will find it difficult to get back on their feet in the short term. In keeping with the idea of „hoping for the best and preparing for the worst“, it can make sense to prepare for unpleasant times mentally-emotionally and also quite practically. Build up a „reasonable“ stock of food and household items. To critically question and change one’s own hitherto familiar consumption patterns (e.g. cruises or air travel). To continue to cultivate the contacts to neighbours, acquaintances and reliable helpers that have developed well during this time („you always see each other twice“). If possible: to build up a financial reserve for bad times. To try out new forms of being with oneself and unconditional satisfaction. In any case, to build up a closer social network with your fellow human beings and to maintain these relationships (not contacts).
Other sectors and companies will take advantage of the moment to cast off old ballast (e.g. organisational and production methods from the times of industrialisation) and venture an innovative new beginning – with at best more agility, opportunities for individual self-development, self-organised co-working spaces and more eco-social commitment. In any case, the last few weeks of the Corona crisis have shown what we can achieve together with our fellow human beings when it counts. Breweries that are converting their production to disinfectants, lingerie manufacturers who produce masks, bakeries where doctors, nurses and rescue workers are supplied with bread and rolls free of charge. Virtual meetings and evenings with friends via video chat. Companies that are considering making their managers’ home office the rule and the office stay the exception. In which the sense and benefits of business trips are being questioned anew. These are just a few of many considerations and developments.
As a result of the Corona crisis, we will also ask ourselves and our elected representatives more often than usual whether it makes sense to subsidize or „save“ certain companies, industries and economic sectors without tying this to conditions such as climate protection. Some (not all) companies have rather used the last years of prosperity to pay out bonuses for their board members, unimaginable for ordinary people, and hefty dividends for their shareholders, instead of investing in the preservation of their own economic strength, modernisation and innovative ability.
And it may well be that our understanding of „health“ will change. That in the future it will be less a question of individual provision than of creating social, cultural and individual conditions that increase the overall probability of staying healthy and, if ill, of getting well again quickly. This does not mean prohibiting or making it more difficult for smokers to smoke or putting overweight people on a diet and thus forcing them to be healthy. Rather, it means developing intelligent solutions in which all four quadrants – individual experiences, individual actions, systemic and cultural conditions – work together to make it more difficult to fall ill. For example, on the topic of „obesity“: improving the social situation of many families (including the fight against poverty, school meals, etc.), promoting affordable healthy food, introducing taxes (e.g. sugar tax) for verifiable unhealthy food (convenience food) as well as for companies that make big profits from it (e.g. fast-food chains), promoting regional and local products and productions, informing people about what really good food is (and this does not only mean nutrient tables), banning or Restriction of advertising for convenience food, cultivation of cooking, e.g. in the circle of friends, psychotherapeutic work on the individual causes of excessive consumption of unhealthy food (e.g. structural constellations) etc. – we want to say that health is by far not only an individual problem for which the individual is solely responsible – and in case of doubt fights alone against an invisible superiority – but at least as much a social issue. And it should be our concern – not out of misunderstood assault, but out of responsibility for the well-being of our fellow human beings – to continuously create and develop framework conditions that promote our physical, mental and spiritual health.
Must we expect the corona virus to continue in the future?
With high probability: yes.
Apart from the fact that this type of virus has been co-existing with humans for a very long time and will not simply disappear from evolution, we will probably have to learn to deal with the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 or a subsequent generation created by mutation.
It is true that we are enjoying summer temperatures which make it difficult for the corona virus to spread. Nevertheless, many virologists expect an increase in corona diseases in the autumn, when temperatures fall again. It remains to be seen whether this seasonal increase will take on the proportions of a wave that threatens to roll over us all again – or whether it will rather be a series of localized hotspot outbreaks that „only“ affect a limited and localizable population, many of whom may not even notice their infection.
If we all do not become exuberant and carelessly jeopardize the progress made in the Corona crisis, a second lockdown of this kind and power is unlikely at present. Simply because there are many reasons and motives why we do not want to afford this. The spread of the corona virus SARS-CoV-2, which is now under observation, would have to escalate dramatically and within a very short space of time before such comprehensive and far-reaching measures would have to be prescribed and imposed on the public. And this is unlikely at present.
It is unclear when an effective vaccine against this virus will be successfully developed and tested – and then be available in sufficient quantities (not only in Germany, but worldwide). The development of suitable vaccine candidates is complex and costly and the approval processes are very rigid for good reasons in order to exclude potential vaccine-related health damage as far as possible.
Another reason why this virus will probably accompany us permanently is our way of life and the fact that corona viruses particularly like to mutate. We travel unimaginably much around the world, from one continent to another, which favours the spread of such viruses – they simply travel along as stowaways uninvited. We have destroyed many natural ecosystems so extensively or reduced their surface area so drastically that the animal and plant species remaining in them are exposed to an almost unimaginable survival stress – which also promotes the spread of such viruses. Animals displaced by man through urbanisation are then forced to try their luck more and more often in urban environments, which from their perspective could be even worse. Climate change also plays an important role, not to be underestimated, in the spread of viruses and other animal and plant species that will continue to preoccupy us in the future. So it is only a matter of time before we have serious problems with so-called „tropical diseases“ in our mid-latitudes as well.
In this respect, it may well make sense to organize ourselves socially and infrastructurally in such a way that we are better prepared for such future „surprises“ than we were in this crisis. Because – the current corona pandemic was unfortunately no surprise, not in principle unforeseeable, no „black swan“ as many assume. Nassim Taleb coined the term „Black Swan“ to describe practically unpredictable events in a networked world that are largely impossible to plan for and for which no experience exists. None of these three aspects apply to the Corona pandemic: it is not the first pandemic, nor is it the first corona virus epidemic that mankind has ever experienced – and certainly not the last. Leading thinkers, epidemiologists and researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including Bill and Melinda Gates, have been pointing out the dangers of a global pandemic and its effects for decades, and have been advocating preventive measures, pandemic plans etc. ever since, thus making their unsung, unapplauded heroic contribution to improving global health as a whole. We could have listened better or at all. We could have taken this seriously and been prepared – certainly not every individual, but we as a society as a whole could have. So: no excuse.
What can we learn from this so far?
The last weeks were probably very exciting, confusing and exhausting for you too. Perhaps unique in the combination of events for you. And I’m sure none of us need to go through that level of unreasonableness a second time. So what do we learn from this for our future? What conclusions do we draw from our individual and collective experiences – so that such a „surprise“ does not hit us again unprepared and with full force?
There is another „white swan“ – as it were the counterpart of a black swan – which we all already know, whose existence cannot surprise us, with whom we have perhaps already had individual experiences and whose coming is certain and therefore predictable. So we can prepare for it together and apply the individual knowledge and cultural possibilities we have just acquired in the Corona crisis. And we will probably have to do so.
What? Isn’t that a bit too big for us? Certainly not! Because climate change will happen, it’s already happening right before our eyes – and we can’t pretend that everything is „normal“ in this respect. The question is whether we are prepared to help shape it in some intelligent way – after all, we have been responsible for causing it – or not.
But this is a completely new story to which we will (have to) devote special attention in the future.
In this article we have mainly looked through the Integral Glasses, and less described the Integral Glasses. Maybe you have noticed a difference at one point or another to your usual perception of the world. With the Integral Model, you can structure chaotic and complex problems as you wish and thereby obtain new, meaningful orientations for your understanding of confusing situations and for your own actions. You see better and more clearly what is happening around you and are better able to distinguish the sober „truth“ from nonsense. And this ability becomes increasingly important for you personally – as well as for all of us as a society.
In this respect, we cordially invite you to join us with these sharpened senses and your heart in the right place to jointly shape the challenges that lie ahead.
- We are very interested in your opinion on this article and look forward to your feedback.
- If this reflection on the Corona lockdown has helped you, please feel free to share it with other interested people – we are interested in helping as many people as possible to gain more clarity and orientation.
- If you would like to learn more about Ken Wilber’s Integral Approach, please read our blog articles and our introduction „What is integral?“ (German) – and of course our overview article „The Corona Crisis – An Integral View“.
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We wish you and your dearest fellow human beings many good experiences, great encounters with your fellow human beings, sufficient level-headedness – and above all: Stay healthy – and stay active!
Sincerely, Isa & Julian