Apart from their epidemiological effects, the new virus variants are reinforcing a collective psychological process that began years ago with climate change and was accelerated by the onset of the pandemic a year ago.
For decades, liberal democracy and the market economy have promised, at least conceptually, the freedom to act individually, each as an agent of our individual progress; or in individual communities—call them families, guilds, cities or countries.
A year ago we realized that the air we breathe is not separate from the air exhaled by others. Unless we distance ourselves and wear masks.
Vaccines announced, or received, created a sense, also conceptual at least, of a coming return to normality—in which we would “once again” be able to take care of ourselves individually, even if individual care still meant some distancing, etc.
How perverse it seems then, that now the distance to be considered, until we find “normality,” expands to the opposite end of wherever we stand in our planet.
In the spaceship we can call planet Earth, we all share the same air, and the passengers who do not receive the vaccine are the breeding ground for the mutation of the virus, and its survival, returning to attack those of us who felt safe in first class.
Vaccines will certainly improve the outlook, but new outbreaks, from new mutations, with complicated trade-offs (more confinement?), are now expected for years to come.
A global process is required. The air circulating in every corner of the planet must be improved–as is the case with climate change. So the solution of two problems (at least) is now in the global to do list. Mark it “urgent.”
Even if it is painfully slow and costly, will this process result in a shift from the individualistic paradigm, in which well-being and progress are the responsibility of each individual, to a new one, collective in nature?