5 April 2020, Sunday, 3:41
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Renaissance of Democracy Awaits Us

Renaissance of Democracy Awaits Us
Leonid Nevzlin
PHOTOGRAPH: RFE/RL

People will get tired of numerous speeches, statements, populist politicians.

Coronavirus and Putin have a lot in common. Both seem to stay long. Both are ready for a new term after zeroing in. But sooner or later both will leave mankind in peace. What happens next, in the post-Covid era? The Covid-19s phenomenon has all the features of a black swan according to the concept of Nassim Taleb. That is, it is an abnormal event because nothing has foretold it. Secondly, it has an enormous effect. Thirdly, human nature makes us come up with explanations for events that happened, turning the event initially taken as a surprise, into an explainable and predictable one.

We cannot predict them, but with hindsight, we can predict what the future will be like. Since Putin is not a black swan but a pale moth, it is not about him.

What happened before the world was infected? Populism seized political space in many countries. Beautiful words and promises, vivid gestures and deeds took a modern voter's fancy. The image of coronavirus in the mass consciousness also has populist features. The more the virus comes to our lives, the more political statements will be made about it. The more Donald Trump or Binyamin Netanyahu will make bold statements. What effect would that have? Let us remember the fate of Winston Churchill.

World War II. Churchill regularly visits bombing sites, meets with victims, from May 1940 to December 1941 he spoke on the radio 21 times. Churchill's popularity as Prime Minister was unprecedented until the end of the war. On 8 May 1945, he gave a short speech from the Ministry of Health Balcony in Whitehall: "God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tired. Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the independent resolve of the British nation. God bless you all." The crowd shouted back, "No, it's your victory!", there were mutual unity and enthusiasm.

But what happens next? On 5 July 1945, the Conservatives were defeated in the elections. As soon as results were announced on 26 July, Churchill resigned. The failure can be explained by the lack of a clear economic programme and the unsuccessful steps during the election campaign. But it's not the only reason.

There was too much of him all that time. Everyone got tired with speeches of a popular politician, though it looks like a paradox. If one focuses on psychology, it comes under the Yerkes-Dodson law. There is a certain limit which brings further motivation to deterioration of results. An analogy from the medicine will be indicative - an overdose causes feeling unwell.

That's what is about to happen now. People will get tired of the excess of speeches, statements, populist-politicians. Authoritarian models will not become a role model either; no matter how much China, which stopped (according to official Chinese data) the Covid-19 epidemic, is set as an example.

For the very fact that the secrecy and fear of responsibility typical of all levels of government in an authoritarian society were the main reasons why the disease was not stopped at an early stage but turned into a pandemic.

Thus, the renewal and renaissance of classic democracy await us. After total isolation and the threat of an economic catastrophe (I want to believe that it is only a threat), people will be able to truly appreciate the value of freedom, mutual trust and responsibility, all those values that real democracy provides.

Leonid Nevzlin, Facebook