Managing fear in the pandemic, which can legitimize abuses or create a climate of cooperation – 22/05/2021 – Latinoamérica21

Fear is one of the main feelings that paralyzes people. Human history cannot be understood without its presence, both in the private sphere of individuals and in their group relations. In the first, it is configured as the structure that supports the different religions or the different ways of confronting existence itself; through the second, he articulates human coexistence, from the simplest to the most complex social forms, from tribe to state.

Historically, wars, revolutions and pandemics have been a breeding ground for fear, so that it flourished there, becoming such a relevant actor that it was sometimes final. Uneven in tone and intensity, it was also present in the daily coexistence of each era through patterns linked to various expressions of injustice, such as insecurity and inequality.

For all these reasons, among the resources at the disposal of authority, in its maximum expression is the management of fear. Thanks to his administration, it is possible to legitimize everything, from the total abuse of power to the achievement of a social climate based on serene cooperation between people. Both totalitarianism and democracy govern with this in mind, and although their assumptions are clearly diametrically different, the future of both, to a large extent, is closely tied to it.

In this sense, the Covid-19 pandemic translates into an excellent evidence base to show the situation in Latin America. Fifteen months after its eruption in a region where fear circulates mixed with the effects of exclusion, the main and predominant form of inequality, and certain forms of violence, such as preventive measures dictated by the authorities, can affect an initial scenario from home to the street, every day, is it vital for survival?

Scenes with queues of patients in the corridors and entrances of hospitals or with corpses in the streets, as was the case with Guayaquil, caused panic which resulted in the massive use of masks and the imposition of sanctions on those who did not use them. . Later, the implementation of different forms of exceptionality, such as states of siege or alert, recalled Carl Schmitt’s maxim on the definition of the sovereign. The populations have broken down the various measures according to the country, but also according to their personal situation, according to economic, social or cultural prejudices. From those who accept whatever is established by power to those who do whatever they want, the series is multi-colored.

At the same time, fear has fueled a wide range of official speeches: some are obsessively present, as is the historically unusual case of Colombian Iván Duque who visits his country daily for an hour; others, accompanied by more or less successful political decisions, range from the negation of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or of the Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the start, to the more obsessive of the prevention protocols that characterized the responsible liberalism of the Uruguayan Luis Alberto Lacalle. The actions of Pou or Carlos Alvarado in Costa Rica, passing through the purest and simplest inhibition of those who look away, like Alejandro Giammattei in Guatemala, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua or Abdo Benítez in Paraguay.

All this took place within a framework of unreliable and largely inconsistent data, sometimes the result of a weakness in the institutions responsible for capturing them (Honduras or El Salvador are two paradigmatic cases) and, in other cases, of official madness (Venezuela and Nicaragua are the two most important countries) which contrast with Chilean efficiency, perhaps because of the importance that its College of Physicians has had since the start of the pandemic. In any case, the absence of a single model of behavior, which is not only the Latin American heritage, has led to the emergence of several books and reports on the state of the matter, so that the degree of knowledge we have of the situation today is remarkable.

However, between the two opposite scenarios that could result from it, that is to say that of a government which whips the pandemic fear as a mechanism of control and legitimation against another which is a negationist or negligent action, the region transits both. On the political level, the issue was barely raised during the elections held last month in three Andean countries (Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru) and did not frame either the Chilean and Mexican electoral campaigns, nor the Peruvian second round. It is true that none of the main political leaders have been or will be subjected to their validation, because they are not re-elected or do not compete directly in the elections, but the question does not appear in good place.

In the absence of public opinion polls for all countries that could reveal comparative behavior, the effects of fear are thus diluted or, better yet, are only a hypothesis. They assume an input which, apparently, is limited to the strictly individual level in terms of whether or not the vital expectations of each person are altered.

Moreover, if we take into account the fact that any pandemic, as the father of pathological anatomy, Rudolf Virchow, underlines it, is “a social phenomenon which involves certain medical aspects”, one can wonder about its impact on deeply unequal and impoverished liquid societies, where the digital transition, in turn, creates all kinds of dilemmas and more gaps.

For all these reasons, the risk is that its management will end up being deeply disturbing at very fragmented levels that can have a huge impact on tired democracies, whose future is more uncertain than it was five years ago. years. The leap from a policy of fear to a policy of care, as Franco Berardi and Byung Chul Han point out, is an imperative that few people react to today.

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