The consequences of the Coronavirus as a modern myth of Daedalus and Icarus


Since the World War II, we are experiencing the most difficult and ambiguous condition of state power worldwide, and especially in western democracies, which have been altered, only within a very short period of time, since the Covid-19 pandemic, hit the world.

The core of the western democracies, that was based on believers of a limited state and an open market economy, started to tremble and to fade. An enormously strong state, and powerful governments, willing to impose fines, or threatening civilians with prison, in case that they disobey the rules, are needed to overcome this pandemic, that health care systems alone cannot deal with. The governments, must act decisively, and take measures that limitate crucially the freedom of people, who are obliged to stay home, as a way to avoid social gatherings, that can spread the virus fast.

But what history proves until now, is that after dealing with  a crisis of an extent like this one, no government is giving up the power it gathered, or the ground it gained. And that might be really dangerous for the future, and the way the democracies around the world will eventually be transformed, as the consequencies will affect not only the economy of the countries, but also social and political parameters. The surveillance of ordinary people, following for example what happened in South Korea and Singapore, where medical and electronic privacy have been totally left aside, can be a really dramatic projection of state power, for the future to come.

The example of Great Britain, that tried to interfere as less as possible, and keep the government out of decisions, which would demand a more "totalitarian" profile, and the announcement (at first), of herd immunity, as a way to deal with that crisis, led to accusing Great Britain as a state doing too little, for its own people and for the world prospectively. Soon, Great Britain got in line with the rest of the european states, by taking measures, and enforcing lock-downs.

Business closures and massive lock-downs, led and will further lead to an economic bankruptcy, which states try to avoid temporarily, by promising trillions of dollars to keep the economy in life. Those money mostly cover welfare, and health care, two areas that were never prioritised, or popular for western democracies to spend money.

People all around the world are being monitored, following the examples of China and Hong Kong, by using data of individuals and apps on mobile phones, that make it easier to track down the exact location of people. South Korea, announced that by using mobile technology it became much more effective to find the contacts of those who have been freshly infected, thus, getting into results only within 10 minutes, instead of needing 24 hours for that. 

This dissemination of surveillance, as an effective policy, might have longstanding social effects for individuals, not expected to be over as soon as the pandemic will. An other quite dangerous condition, is that governments might be indulged to pursue an endless state of crisis management, thus becoming closer to autarky, and that can also prove to be a chance for corrupted governments, to skip from justice.

The social and political map of the world, may change furthermore, as a result of the impact that the covid-19 virus will have on poor countries. The spread of the virus in poor countries, might mean total disaster. Most important, is that social distancing is not a practical solution for people living in crowded slums, or countries where there is no running water for hand washing. Lock downs in poor countries, will lead to social riot, as people will continue to go to work, if they have no money to ensure their families will have food to eat.

If the rich countries deny to see this reality, as a means of protecting their own safety in the future, there is going to be a global turmoil because of this. Medical equipment should be sent to poor countries with devastated economies. If that never happens, then except for the complete damage of those countries, there is also going to be a wave of destruction for the rich countries also, which need the developing ones and the poor ones, in order to ensure their financial status, into a predicted and well prescribed map of global economies. An imbalance in the poor countries will lead eventually to imbalance in rich countires and ofcourse an even bigger spread of the virus globally.

The current situation we go through, brings in mind the Daedalus and Icarus myth. In ancient Greece Daedalus (father of Icarus), made wings out of wax for Icarus, so that they could both escape Crete island and the disfavour of king Minoas of Crete. Unfortunately, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and the sun burned his wings made of wax. Icarus dropped down immediately and fell into the sea, which from then on, was named Icarian sea. His father was left in sorrow, mourning his son...Metaphorically, Daedalus can be the governments that put money in welfare and health care, in order to prevent the total collapse of the economies, Icarus can be the civilians who trusted the governments as a means to get through this, and the fall in the Icarus sea, after the wings of Icarus being burnt by the sun, can be the future of the states, that unwilling to leave behind the power they gained, will "burn" the social state as we know it, leading it to a "fall in the sea", exactly as it happened in the myth...

                                                     written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science

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