Not all evils come to harm: Lessons from the political test of the “3 months of March”
Written by Dosti Banushi
The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than five hundred thousand people and killed twenty-three thousand worldwide (last updated on March 26, 20:39). Suddenly, the industrial smoke covering the globe has been replaced by an uncomfortable mist of uncertainty. Nobody knows anything: neither where this virus came from, nor where it will go, nor how long it will last, nor even if it will ever end. Blinded by insecurity, humankind made the safest move: Hide! Isolated at home, in a month of March that will last for 90 days, everyone witnesses the socio-political foundations dissolve into the virus’ attack.
Small and large countries are suffering from the pandemic alike. Superior governments like the US or Northern Italy are being afflicted just as much as Iran. This means that the coronavirus, more than about the economy or health sector, is about management. Countries like South Korea fought against the virus without taking extreme isolation measures, but only by well-managing the infection-tracking system and breaking the conduit chain. This, then, is a crisis that is not solved by power but by ingenuity. Since the coronavirus is challenging our ability to manage and think, it can be said with little to no doubt that this crisis is a political test. As a unit of managerial activities aimed at achieving predetermined objectives, policymaking is under this virus’s attack more than anything else.
Flexing the thin line that separates humour from the truth, it can be said that this virus is a right-wing liberal. It kills the elderly, a social category that weighs heavily on the state budget due to social security schemes which are not very popular within the right. As history has always shown us, this right-wing liberal virus is opposed by the left and the strong interventionist state it favours. All the governments, led by the US that a few days ago introduced its biggest stimulus ever of 2 trillion dollars, have rushed to save the economy. This is the first lesson this pandemic has taught us: although capitalism is the best alternative we have, state intervention in the economy remains necessary. Nowadays, even the most prominent capitalists are praying to the state as devout socialists. This is because the state is an entity that aims to maintain a good state of affairs, although some still do not want to accept it. Albania is not left behind in this finding since it has presented an economic aid package of 70 million dollars that comes to the help of businesses, employees, and the needy.
To stay on the subject of presentations, something missing was also presented in Albania during these difficult times: political sangfroid. Thus, the head of state Ilir Meta, the head of the government Edi Rama and the leader of the opposition Lulzim Basha, separated in the distance but united in their mindset, gathered in the Security Council to prove to even the most devoted of militants that party divisions benefit the negative aspects of power only. For political power to design a functional state in obedience to its citizens’ well-being, it must necessarily be consensual. This is the second political lesson that Albania received from COVID-19.
Amid the chaos it has prompted, coronavirus has also found some time for irony. For many years, the Albanians’ most precious dream was to depart the country. This time of the year, everyone desired to come home. The only European country on the list of asylum seekers in Europe, ranked in the eleventh place by EUROSTAT, is now persistently seeking to repatriate its citizens. This led the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to change its focus, from sending Albanians to Europe to assuring their homecoming.
In times like these, individuals understand that even though one may be better off somewhere else, one can only be safe in its own country, especially when the latter is at peace. On the other hand, this time reminds governments that citizens are essential and must be a priority. This is the third lesson we have learned from this pandemic. Doctors, today’s silent heroes, work by the principle that preventing is better than curing. This principle must also be applied by the political class, which must finally understand that immigration should come as a choice, but not as the solution to the problems they cause.
Regarding solutions, they are either the product of planning or the imposition of hard times. Today, the Albanian education system’s relocation to online platforms is undoubtedly a forced solution that has caught everyone unprepared, with only Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan lagging behind Albania in terms of technological development, according to a UN report on the Sustainable Objectives Assessment.
Up to three weeks ago, if caught using smartphones, students were invited to leave the classroom. Today the whole class is on a mobile phone. This is a radical transformation of the mentality but also the teaching practice. A change that has caused harmful stress and can develop a generation of poorly educated professionals who, if previously unable to compete with their European peers, will soon have a hard time matching Albania’s previous generations.
INSTAT data report that in 2019 Albania had 139,043 students who, instead of being at the forefront of innovative development, have become prey to its inexistence. Thus, the fourth lesson this virus teaches us is that education must be a priority today and at all times. It benefits both the present and the future, therefore it should not be the mainspring of problems, but instead a solution-provider system.
If one diverts the attention from politics and turn it to affairs of the heart, one cannot fail to mention that the outbreak of the pandemic in Albania prompted people to embrace some things they no longer remembered they loved.
When cars were banned in the early days of this pandemic, bicycle dealers reported that the demand had doubled. Apart from being an urban issue, Tirana’s traffic and smog are also a matter of mentality. In recent days we have learned that some distances can be covered on foot, or by bike. The parks filled with people when the cafés were closed, and we realized that we could also socialize outdoors! In general, this drastic change of life restored the idea that, after all, it is within our power to create a healthier and cleaner community.
Concerning the community, we have learned that society’s successful people and heroes are not just the wealthy who drive expensive cars. The heroes are not the snooty ones we see from below, but the ones we encounter every day in our neighbourhoods: doctors, nurses, drivers, teachers, vendors, traders. The coronavirus has taught us that each individual has a vital role in society and that no one should be looked upon with adoration nor contempt. Everyone is essential!
In the end, the challenge that COVID-19 brought to Albania has taught us that a lot has to do with policymaking. It has merged our minds with the old truth that politics is not just about words, but about actions. Measures taken to stop the spread of the virus, markets regulation to ensure continuity of supply, the strengthening of internet lines, the continuation of the learning process on online platforms, financial packages addressed to those affected, the call on volunteers to help medical staff, pension deliveries to nursing homes, along with caring for the lonely, and all the rest are policies. A good policy results from good thinking, just as a bad policy results from bad thinking. Thoughts rather than words make the difference in politics. Therefore, every effort should be made to create a better policymaking system in post-coronavirus Albania. Thus, we can show that we have learned the lessons this pandemic has taught us. After all, not all evils come to harm.
*Material i përgatitur nga portali SCAN. Ripublikimi mund të bëhet vetëm kundrejt citimit të autorësisë dhe burimit origjinal.