I’m a “greater good” kind of guy. I believe in paying taxes for superior government services and infrastructure. I was relieved to get vaccinated and am waiting for the booster. I wear my mask in stores per Dutch rules in our headquarters city of Eindhoven because I know healthcare givers are overwhelmed. But I also know going back into lockdowns is going to kill Europe’s economies.
All of them.
And that’s exactly what the anti-vaxxers and extremists want.
The retail sector can’t take another lockdown. Stores will go out of business en masse and people will lose their jobs.
The restaurant sector can’t take another lockdown. People will lose their businesses.
Big corporations and small businesses alike will suffer because sometimes there have to be in-person collaborations on strategic planning, engineering and marketing. People will lose their careers.
Students can’t take another lockdown, particularly at universities. I know because the pandemic has already cheated my daughter out of a year and a half of her three-year undergraduate experience.
The travel and hospitality industries can’t take another lockdown.
Airlines can’t take another lockdown.
The New York Times reports this week how lockdowns across Europe in the early months of the pandemic slashed economic output by about 15 percent. Even before non-essential shops closed for a brief lockdown, the retail sector in Austria was already down 25 percent for the calendar year. If Germany goes into lockdown, it will plunge the continent back into recession, according to Carl B. Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, an independent economic research firm based outside of New York City.
But it’s more than just about economics. Socializing is the glue that holds everything together. Lose that, and you’ve lost the essence of what it means to live in a high-functioning society.
No one wants another lockdown except the Far Right, because government-imposed lockdowns – and the alienation, psychological and physical isolation and financial hardships that follow – are their best recruiting tool.
So, what should you do, European Union leaders? As Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told the BBC, “You don’t only have rights, you have obligations.” We must remind the militant anti-vaxxers that they have obligations to their fellow citizens and the society as a whole.
The more effective and rational course of action would be to:
• lockdown the unvaccinated and institute new laws making vaccinations mandatory with serious penalties for people who don’t comply.
• keep everything open, but institute QR code readers everywhere in public spaces to verify vaccine passports.
• start a new round of vaccinations and increase research to determine how we stamp out COVID-19 breakthrough infections with the mRNA vaccines like we stamped out polio, smallpox, measles and other viral infections.
In the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, the United States had a polio crisis. No one was immune from this virus including President Franklin Roosevelt, who spent his four terms in office pretending he could walk. Many of my parents’ friends were affected, left with varying degrees of paralysis and immobility.
When the polio vaccine came to market, kids of the ‘60s like me were required by law to get it to start school, no exceptions. It was a matter of life and death, not just my life but the lives of my classmates, and we all had the distinctive polio scar on our left arms. Later, we got polio boosters administered by school nurses. Over the years, I’ve gotten every inoculation from smallpox to very painful gamma-globulin shots – again against polio – when I deployed to Iraq in 1991. And guess what … after 65 years, I’m still here.
The COVID vaccine issue is a very political issue. Haaretz has a post examining the intersection of antivaxxers and anti-Semites in Germany. And it’s no coincidence that German states with the highest infection rates are also the states such as Saxony where the ultra-right wing, anti-Semitic Alternative für Deutschland is strongest.
Interestingly, the Haaretz post points out that early in the pandemic, the AfD favored lockdowns and criticized the government for not doing enough. But then as the Merkel government ramped up its efforts to fight COVID, the AfD switch positions … in order to criticize the government for infringing on individual rights.
For the extreme right, it’s always about weakening liberal democracies … nothing else.
Another lockdown will play into the hands of the far right by increasing support for them and by weakening the economies of the liberal democracies. A lockdown earlier this year revived an otherwise moribund Far Right here in the Netherlands, and led to riots.
In the United States, the anti-vaxxers – infected with nihilism – are resisting for the sake of resisting. No matter what they say about “we don’t know what’s in it” or “the vaccines are too new and unproven,” they know the science isn’t on their side. Yes, there are breakthrough infections, but being vaccinated lessens COVID severity. (See the chart above.) The anti-vaxxers’ resistance, which is costing lives, is all about destroying the republic and replacing it with a strongman fantasy.
Please don’t let that happen here.
About the author:
Terry Boyd is co-founder of Dispatches Media, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Boyd has been a military reporter, business reporter and an entrepreneur, selling Insider Louisville, a pure-play digital news platform, in 2013.
Boyd & Family are long-time expats and have lived in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.