The Covid-19 Petition
One of the key questions summarizing the dramatic challenges raised by the COVID19 crisis is: “Once we reach the bottom, to whom should the last ventilator be given: a young woman or an old man?” This question has two wrong, and devastating, hidden assumptions. First, the binary logic of the question misleads you to believe that you must pick one option. And yet, doctors found the way to connect two people to the same ventilator in some hospitals. And yet, snorkeling masks were adapted becoming lifesaving equipment. And yet. . . Doctors, engineers, researchers, managers, workers, volunteers are working collectively, without borders, sharing knowledge, best practices, problems, to develop new ideas and find common solutions to a transnational challenge, COVID19. Second, the question of who to save inherently accepts that life and death will be decided adopting ‘principles’ to help us discriminating between people. You can start discriminating based on age or gender. Nothing would prevent that a further shortage of ventilators might oblige to start discriminating according to other ‘principles’: “Who should we save the rich or the poor?”. The rich have more potential of living as they might be in better shape with less underlying conditions. You could go on and on. What a fantastic opportunity would COVID19 represent for fans of eugenics.
Another alarming question circulating worldwide is: “Who should we save, the economy or the people?”. To be sure, you cannot have an economy without people, nor people without an economy. We must escape the wealth versus health binary logic, we can save both and maybe end being better humans. To this end we must innovate, think in original ways, and merge our efforts to find new solutions.
The most important question, the answer to which will determine the global impact of COVID19, is: “Can the government of a country save itself and wait for the storm to pass and competing countries to collapse?”. Globalization and integration have their benefits and costs. The countries that promoted global integration processes and enjoyed the benefits seem to think they can now escape, or contain, the domino effects in virtue of their strength, wealth, regime, exceptionalism, culture. In times of crisis resorting to economic nationalism has proven, time after time, both more dangerous and expensive than any other coordinated effort or cooperative option. Still today governments are free riding and competing one with the other instead of coordinating their strategies, using the international fora and institutions that are already in place. Institutions that were created for times of crisis. COVID19 is a global transnational pandemic, it cannot be defeated with national answers. COVID19 will not determine whether this pandemic will create economic and political devastation. The responsibility of whether the consequences will be ruin and struggle between people and countries or cooperation and harmony between them is entirely on governments – that is, whether governments will find/not the strength to negotiate common responses, support the creation of common resources and promote coordinated efforts.
Among those left in their binary world of right and wrong judgments, black and white thoughts, yes or no answers, are some politicians trapped in national boxes and nationalist worldviews. With these old tools the best that can be done is to pass a law saying that COVID19 cannot cross borders without a visa. Governments are letting a virus act as if it has its own divide and conquer strategy. To be sure, COVID19 does not have a strategy. If humans do not demonstrate that they can act collectively, the virus will not only destabilize health, economic and political systems, but will undermine the deepest sense of human intelligence, which manifests itself in cooperation and collaboration efforts.
We, the people living in the European Union come from the 27 members of the EU, from the UK, the US and Iraq, Thailand and South Africa, Egypt and Peru, Russia and Vietnam, Turkey and Iran, China and Nigeria, the Philippines and Brazil, Australia and Canada, Japan and Colombia, India and Morocco. . .
We identify as Greek, Spanish, French, Italians. . .
We identify as half-German/half-French, half-English/half-Italian, half-American/half-Spanish. . .
We were born the Netherlands, but our parents are Russian. . .
We are third generation of Turkish living in Germany. . .
We are refugees living in Portugal. . .
We are world students, studying in the countries of the Union.
We are American students and we are still here, in the EU.
We are international Erasmus students and we are still here, in the EU.
We are European students studying in a country of the EU that is not the one where we were born.
We are European students, studying in our country of origin.
We are European students studying and living in China.
We are European students studying and living in the US.
We are European students studying and living in Turkey.
We are. . .
We are world workers, thinkers, cashiers, actors, cleaners, judges, writers, teachers, journalists, singers, lawyers, filmmakers, policemen, firefighters. . . transgender, women, men, young and old people representing different languages, ethnic and religious minorities and majorities. . . we have different income level and political ideologies.
We are all of us.
We have overlapping identities that are not mutually exclusive but rather cross some or all the definitions above. In times of crisis people are brought to think they must select the best identity (e.g. citizenship, gender, religion, ethnicity) that will help them to survive in what eventually becomes a Darwinian national selection mechanism. This would be the traditional answer to a conventional binary question. National natural selection: not in our name, please. We, the global and European citizens living in the European Union, believe that we all have more in common compared to the differences we can create, and we believe that we can find common solutions.
We grew in an evolving and incomplete European dream. The signatories of EU treaties pledged to integrate societies as well as economies, and to spread welfare alongside wealth. A common market and a common currency were created, people were free to move across the Union and so did goods and services. And yet, a common language (free of stereotypes and rivalries), a common vision (free of competition and distrust) must still be built. Across time the institutions of the EU evolved and grew, but we still have a long way ahead to create a strong Union for the people and in the name of the people. COVID19 prompts us to rethink European integration in a way that prioritizes a common citizenship and social solidarity over economic and political nationalism. As women and men in hospitals, in the civil society, in the market, found the energy, the generosity, the courage to promote new ideas to save many lives, We expect the women and men in Politics and Economics to do the same.
We, the citizens of the European Union, ask the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the governments of EU member states to make a step forward in the future. We ask European institutions and governments to live up to their duties, our expectations, and dreams. We ask for new solutions and common instruments to fight the historical challenge posed by COVID19 breaking the chains of old nationalist patterns for an open and collective response. We ask for European action, solidarity, and responsibility inside and outside EU borders.
We ask EU leaders to agree on the following statement:
We, the leaders of the European Union, agree to set aside national disagreements and to support jointly in proportion to the possibilities of each country:
I) the immediate health challenges posed by COVID19;
II) the deep social, economic and financial consequences of COVID19;
We will take combined action to support:
I) cooperative solutions in the EU with a European perspective;
II) coordination mechanisms in competent international fora and institutions;
III) international solidarity schemes for countries in need – in the global North and South.
We believe that the fight against COVID19 must take place simultaneously inside and outside EU borders.