Sunday, 31 May 2020

E Editorial

The Behavior of the Public During an Epidemic

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All the problems in the world have been pushed to the background, even wars have stopped.  The deep economic crisis is ahead, the consequences of which are likely to be more serious than the epidemic itself, although this topic is not yet in the mainstream news columns; the epidemic is still in the forefront.

In such conditions, everyone is interested in the epidemic statistics, measures taken by governments, food, the question of security, as well as how to adapt to the new reality.

And what? The reality is unprecedented.  Humanity has not yet seen a situation when megacities with millions of people find themselves effectively under house arrest.  It wasn't even possible to imagine it.  Under such circumstances comes the question of how we should behave.  In an emergency, adequate social behavior becomes one of the major issues, if not the most important.

Are Artsakh elections a priority now, when becoming the number one official carries with it, if not a great risk, at least the highest responsibility with the attendant consequences?

Is government-opposition power struggle in Armenia a vital issue right now? Being in power is something like political suicide in today's crisis.  These are questions that we do not understand very well, and perhaps unawareness is the result of psychological self-defense.  The instinct of psychological self-defense dictates that we try to live a former life, to preserve former habits, to immerse ourselves in past discourses.  It certainly is self-deception, and at the same time it is understandable.

In fact, everything has changed and everything that was very important now is losing its meaning, and finding new meanings is difficult.  We try to avoid the reality around us.

The era of political populism is also at its end.  Expectations are very clear: bread, work, some predictability of the future.  And old-fashioned dichotomies between current and former authorities, and “new” and “old” Armenias and other clichés will not succeed anymore to capture the public’s sympathy and support.  They are no longer relevant, even uninteresting.  

A divided society cannot withstand crises; it cannot unite people to fight common dangers around.  Dividing lines are from now on extremely dangerous.  But there is a sense that few are understanding.  The incumbent authorities should be able to speak to the public, to each citizen individually, but how many people in the government and in the majority in the National Assembly have the authority, abilities, and public confidence to be able to do so when required?

The true word unites, clarifies the situation and, most importantly, organizes and assembles.  This is the main mission of a political and state figure.  Now the biggest shortage is probably not masks or artificial respirators, but the much-awaited and needed Word, which does not exist today.  But that is what is so vital for all of us.

Because on its tone, tenor, and substance will be based the comportment of the public during the social catastrophe that is inevitably to come.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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Yerevan, Armenia


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