Misc 25/11/2020

Managing emotions

Promoting optimism ahead of time is almost a guarantee of frustration

Josep Ramoneda
3 min
Mostra de la vacuna de Pfizer

1. Second wave. In the face of the pandemic, Ivan Krastev likes to distinguish between fear and anxiety. The first part of this episode, the impact of the first great lockdown, was played out in a climate of fear. Fear, and more so when it is coupled with guilt, is an invitation to submission and prudence. And what citizens expect and ask for is competence from those who have to manage the problem - scientists and politicians. Despite the fact that social networks have been an important loudspeaker for denialist and conspiracy theories (and that the extreme right has often fed them), there has been confidence in the experts and a certain tendency to retreat with an eye on those in charge, in the hope that the crisis would make them mature. Despite the fact that politics had been discredited before, citizens were looking for reasons to give it credit and, thus, if they did not do too much obvious nonsense, the pandemic tended to be favorable to those who governed and the confrontation was rather irritating. But the second wave is changing things. And the management of emotions is becoming more difficult.

The passage from fear to anxiety is a fact. The conscience of the citizens lives a critical fracture: the ghost of the coronavirus continues to overwhelm our existence and the sensation of a dead end becomes more and more unbearable. At the same time, the indirect effects of the great closure are becoming more explicit: psychopathologies, manifest deterioration of the living conditions of isolated older people with few opportunities to move around, deficits in the relational process of young people, loss of expectations, resentment for a situation that you have not sought, and which leads to loneliness and the feeling of losing one's roots. All this is weighing down on the general feeling. People are beginning to lose their fear of going out into the street to protest, which is positive: it shows the will to become visible, in a world where it seems that we are being asked to be invisible. If we add these states of mind to the critical economic situation in which many sectors find themselves, the concern of those who govern grows and the expectations of the opposition increase. If fear tends towards order and demobilization, anguish can lead to seeking confrontation, if only to record that you exist. Whilst the first confinement seemed to reinforce those in charge and poured cold water on reactionary populisms, in the second wave, if it does not end well, they may find fertile ground again.

2. Optimism. Governments in obvious disarray are clinging on to vaccines. In need of good news, they have begun to cry victory with risky promises. Vaccinations are already being announced for hundreds of thousands and dates are being set that seem difficult to meet. There is no doubt that the advances with the vaccines are great news - an unavoidable step towards final victory - but there is still a long way to go. And promoting optimism ahead of time is almost a guarantee of frustration.

President Sánchez has announced a vaccination plan with 13,000 potential vaccination sites. But all the specifics are yet to be arranged: the consolidation of the vaccines, still in the testing phase; their distribution, which can be an obstacle course; and their actual implementation. Is this optimism to try and hide the bad news we have yet to come across along the way?

Suddenly President Sánchez is back on the pyramid scheme. He had moved away from the centre of the scene so that the autonomous communities could manage the easing of restrictions. And now he's back to lead the alleged exit. Vaccines and distribution of European aid under control. If it is opportunism, it is a little childish because there is still enough of a long way to go to allow for despair. The applause will be long in coming. In any case, it is a clear step backwards with respect to the incorporation of the autonomous communities into governance. And it feeds the suspicion that once again it is the corporate lobbies around the state that will benefit from the distribution of money. Will new initiatives, small or medium-sized companies, non-aligned economic actors, be able to benefit from the aid? A good distribution would be a sign of optimism, the miracle of a closed regime that is capable of opening up to society.