Athens (Brussels Morning) We have gone through – and still confront – a crisis that has changed everything around us, from our daily life and our basic habits to our social activity, our human relations, our priorities. It has put us at odds, it has tested us.
And along with its obstacles, it has radically changed our perception of politics. Not only by setting new dividing lines between utility and demagogy, rationality and populism, but much more; by shaping, in the new era unfolding before us, crucial ideological and political dilemmas. Dilemmas whose answers will determine whether the crisis we are still experiencing can also have the implications of an important opportunity.
The first crucial point is science and technology, which has now decisively entered our everyday life. Not only with the remote fulfilment of everyday functions and habits, but even more so with automation, artificial intelligence, the new features of the so-called 4th industrial revolution, prescribing radical changes in the map of professions, employment and the existing training of the workforce, introducing new sectors and abolishing previously dominant ones.
But also in the working environment itself, balancing on the one hand the possibility for the worker to work not only from home, but also from wherever he or she chooses, with more space to improve the quality of life and daily life, but on the other hand, the risk of a new “normality” of flexible forms of work and wage degradation in relation to working and overtime hours.
The pandemic has brought the role of the public sector back into the spotlight. And it did so primarily with the public health system, especially in Greece. With the now self-evident admission, even by its opponents, that without its required centralisation and central coordination, but also without its horizontal structures, its specialised, experienced and competent staff, the picture today would be completely different.
Making it clear that the need to strengthen and regenerate it, is a one-way street. And along with this, that the social infrastructure, the welfare state, the welfare structures, but also the wider public sector, through its modernisation, its organised and coordinated operation, its priorities for the benefit of man and society as a whole, far from dogmatisms, can make a critical and useful contribution to all sectors of operation and development of the economy and society.
It has brought new challenges to the role of Europe. Especially in the face of the current dilemma – advocated by a growing Euroscepticism – between further integration and deepening, or national isolationism. The horizontal nature of the covid crisis imposed on Europe the necessity of a more unified function in order to deal with it. Seeing for the first time, even partially, the concept of mutualisation of obligations, with financial support from the European Recovery Fund to all the Union member states. And with that, an effort to collectively manage the covid crisis, the vaccines and other challenges that accompany it.
It significantly changed the role and function of the individuals within society. Creating a new concept of collectivity, capable of giving impetus to a social function that prioritises ‘together’ over ‘I’. And with this conception, the challenge of re-structuring institutions that are able to politically reflect this collective function. Institutions that are based on transparency, that are non-partisan, above all and for all. Institutions that are credible and inspire confidence. Inspire the necessary feeling of trust that we all sought during the crisis. And when we lost it, we realised its value. A challenge for society and our political system.
So the pandemic changed a lot around us, made us think, rethink and plan. Instead of reading the fatalistic view of our 15 “lost” months, let us look at the opportunity that this new blank page sets before us. Let’s give it direction and progressive characteristics, so that the book we start writing is about the many. In terms of justice, equity and sustainability.