Column | While everything falls apart, we keep dancing

Anyway, I grabbed my abacus: inflation, war in Ukraine and tensions elsewhere, climate crisis, famine, energy shortages, a looming recession and European monetary crisis. And oh yes, corona. Those eight or nine crises are all serious in themselves, but they can also reinforce each other and coalesce into an existential system crisis. The economist Adam Tooze, who is widely present in the international media, calls it a ‘polycrisis’: a situation in which the whole is more dangerous than the sum of its parts.

It is not just a question of what if Russia turns off the gas tap or if ‘Omikron’ develops into a more dangerous variant. The point is: what if one crisis (war) reinforces another (hunger), and with it a third (migration) and a fourth (authoritarian populism)? That is not inevitable, writes Tooze. Nor is it a prophecy of doom. The correlation of risks does help to understand this time.

Not for a while, I hear you think, I don’t feel like this for a while. After all, this is the carefree summer, the hot girl summer the after any delay began from th roaring twenties heralds. Both can be true: in Sebastian Haffner’s Story of a German, 1914-1933 it always strikes me how the dancing went on while everything around it first wavered and then collapsed.

When I walk through the exuberant city to the pub on a Saturday evening, I think: only with such indifference can you defy this time. Sitting in front of my screen I think: but by being involved we might do something about it.

‘Corona’ would change everything, and this time of crisis can also be a turning point towards something better. But the fact that the promise of a better society that sounded two and a half years ago is difficult to fulfill is partly due to the continuing lack of meaningful political alternatives.

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The era where politics was a choice between Pepsi and Coca Cola is over (there is too much at stake). But politics as an organized conflict of interest between clashing -Weltanschauungen is also not there. For that, there is a lack of mass organization that made such struggles possible earlier, as the Belgian political philosopher Anton Jäger wrote earlier this year. After all, political parties are on the brink of death. There is not yet anything new that transcends the private call for politics (wappieism, #BLM).

In the absence of such politics, the individual remains. Be different, screams commerce. Be the change you want to be, shouts the Instagram post. Fly less and don’t water the garden, says the politician. And it is precisely this relationship between the individual and the system that makes this age so complex. It all matters. But in my head sounds the voice of singer Froukje: the world is on fire/And I would like to put it out/But the fire is bigger than me.

Mark Lievisse Adriaanse ([email protected]) is editor of NRC.



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