“We are all in this together” – well, not really. The part “this” differs quite a lot depending on your luck and the place you live. Under the luck I consider the employment, possibility to work from home, housing, and mostly having all people you care about healthy and safe. Another important differentiating factor is the country where you are.
Here is a brief comparison between the Netherlands and my country, Serbia. While my country was declaring state of emergency, Dutch people were enjoying life to the fullest. Then, when the Serbian government declared police hours and send military to the streets, people here were gathering in front of coffee shops, walking freely around, mostly chasing toilet paper. Then, when Serbian people above 65 were all imprisoned in their home without rights to step outside for 24h, me and my dog were here, labyrinthing our way through people catching sun in the middle of the pedestrian road. And then, Dutchy officials recommended distance and stay-at-home solution, people here started worrying about boredom and their mental health. At the same time, Serbia’s president said that we do not have enough graveyards for everyone that will die if his commands are not followed. SMS messages were being sent to everyone that the “Italian scenario” is coming. Not even walking a dog was allowed. By the time Dutchies seriously devoted themselves to mindfulness and yoga, in Serbia the police hours extended from every day after 17h to full 3-day weekend periods.
Based on the difference in measures mentioned above, one would think that corona has taken many more lives in Serbia than here, but that is not true. Since the beginning, the total number of dead people is 150. The same number Netherlands had for just yesterday. The situation here is quite worse. So, what is actually happening in Serbia? There is no “Italian” scenario, corona numbers have kept the same trend since the first case, and we usually have 8000 dead people a month as we are the sixth country in the world by mortality rate. Serbia is a poor country in which many people rely on daily jobs in the fields. Those people are currently not afraid of dying of corona as they are of dying from hunger. The measures Serbian government and its fierce leader implemented are not actually motivated by protecting people, but rather by winning the approaching elections. The current situation in Serbia is just theater with a perfectly realistic catastrophic background in which politicians get to play the “heroes” hoping that the old folks (a.k.a. their main supporters) would fall for it. So, in all of this mess, Serbian government is taking an opportunity to reuse their old communistic rhetoric just to spread fear and to silence anyone who wants to stop them from further leading Serbia.
Right now, precautionary health measures are necessary everywhere, but fear and threats have nothing to do with that. Thus, the real reason behind such big differences in measures here and in Serbia, is not the current health crisis, but a political one. This current situation presents a great platform for those seeking dictatorship (like in Hungary too). In this comparison here, only one country is democratic and leaves freedom of choice to their citizens, and that is not Serbia. Yes, Dutchies’ choices often suck, but at least they have them and I wish the same for Serbian people.
Irena Boskovic, PhD Assistant Professor Erasmus University Rotterdam