Saturday, April 25, 2020


The Covid-19 situation challenges politicians and scientists. They are trying to come to terms with these dramatic developments, with respect and concern. Governments start to understand that this emergency is also an existential one. It is becoming clear that the post-Corona world will be different. The former fundamentals and norms--social fabric, health care, communication, international structures--will have to be reviewed and corrected. For Europeans, the EU in this was,  sadly, an almost-absent partner. 

Existing governance models failed. It remains an uphill battle to control the progress of this new plague, let alone to find adequate therapies and logistics. Never was the need for a new multilateral strategy greater. Never was the opposition to a global approach more strident. 

Nation states saw their devolution apparatus defaulting. They need to re-calibrate power so that the management of urgencies and priorities don't get lost in petty quarrels over who does what or who is best. A certain former philosophy of power sharing might have met an inglorious end. After all, the many 2020  priorities (climate, health, redistribution, A.I., Technologies versus labor) require a more centralized power structure. The Belgian situation (Snow White and 7 Dwarfs) is the perfect but absurd illustration for how things should not be done. True, the prime minister tries to correct and steer the better way forward, but at what cost?  The southern European countries were badly hit. Italy and Spain are nevertheless living up to a message that is both one of enlightened determination and existential depth.

Indeed, many countries have taken courageous, often creative measures to deal with situations that looked as being out of control. The economic and financial consequences will be enormous. These will put pressure on the governments to get their act together and face a different post-Corona quest for a coherent management of the future. As much as support was organised to alleviate the post-World War II trauma, a new set of even larger guidelines must be arrived at. The world faces a new grand depression. Too many will never recover from financial loss. A perverse perception is also creating a generational conflict, by stealth. The pandemic reignited hidden class and habitat frustrations that need to be addressed.

Elsewhere, the current American president cannot be counted on to be party to a common management of the future. He is just not interested. He has made the US a "dispensable nation"(Vali Nasr). Unfortunately he has also made it unpleasant. He started his term with the infamous carnage speech. He will end his first term with his reputation in tatters. Many think this term does not need to be repeated.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Jusqu'a present la Belgique a assez bien maitrise la pandemie. Ce score devient plus aleatoire si l'on y regarde de plus pres. La Premiere ministre est impressionnante. D'autres dans le gouvernement federal sont moins convaincants. La responsable du portefeuille Sante ne verra sans doute pas renouveler son mandat. Elle est nulle en communication et apparait souvent irresolue dans la gestion. 

Le nombre de deces dans les maisons de repos est trop eleve. Tout relachement des mesures de confinement devra etre murement reflechi. Au demeurant, l'auto-discipline des Belges semble aussi moins affirmee que dans les semaines anterieures. L'habitude est l'ennemie de la peur. Il reste important de ne rien faire qui risquerait de porter ombrage au succes (modeste) anterieur. Or les pressions en vue de revenir au normal vont s'amplifier, en premier lieu dans le secteur economique.

Cette situation a amplifie les critiques envers le type de gouvernance que s'est choisi le pays. Les regions apparaissent depassees par les evenements. Le Federal doit manager leurs susceptibilites, tout en essayant de favoriser un message "evident". Cela est d'autant plus necessaire depuis que le vide Europeen favorise  le "chacun pour soi".

Il y aura des consequences politiques. Deja il y a des gagnants (MR et SP) et des perdants (N-VA, PS, CD&V) . La relance de la machine mobilisera les energies et les intelligences. L'apres Corona sera difficile. Elle exigera des decisions"nouvelle generation". Il conviendra de donner au Federal les moyens et les personnalites dont il aura besoin pour mener a bien un projet mobilisateur . En marge de cette crise on a vu apparaitre des personnalites politiques "regionales" dont la vision et le vocabulaire sont consternants. A contrario d'autres ont su occuper le terrain des idees.

Il ne  faut pas exclure de nouvelles elections. Il reste aberrant que dans un systeme democratique, l'electeur belge est penalise , ne pouvant se prononcer sur la gestion de membres du gouvernement pour la simple raison qu'ils appartiennent a l'autre region. Pourquoi l'electeur ne pourrait-il pas voter en faveur de telle ou telle personnalite, independamment des facteurs linguistique et regional. On peut parier que Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) ferait un malheur en Flandre...ce qui donne des frissons aux "usual suspects". Les Belges ont ceci en commun avec les Etats-Unis, a savoir que leur vote est pris en otage. Corriger cette situation de democratie boiteuse est aussi difficile que de vouloir abolir le College electoral aux Etats-Unis. C'est peu dire...

Monday, April 13, 2020


Great dramas require great actors. 

In this Corona crisis, many see themselves as saviors. There is no vade mecum outlining the ways to console, support or bring together. Politicians and concerned laymen try to become what they were not ready to be, with uneven results. This coming to  terms with the new realities of the Black Jack of life and death is painful to watch. There is a large amount of good will and little talent. The road ahead looks risky.

Countries follow their instincts and deal with trauma in their own, more familiar ways. They often look lost but overall they act with dignity. International organisations such as the UN and the WHO do what they can, which is not that much, given that countries are reluctant to be seen as helpless morticians. The EU looks strangely absent, an accountant lost in an unruly storm. NATO is on leave while it could have given a signal that it was open to coming to the rescue. 

The pandemic will have consequences. Countries will have a hard time coming to terms with the aftermath.  Lives will be mortgaged, economies will need intervention, health care will claim revision, leaders will be made accountable. In its deranged logic the Corona virus focuses on the elderly who disappear in some form of Gogol logbook, as if the "new normal" wanted to clear the room from the burden of caring for them.

The banality of death by numbers is infiltrating minds and souls. The use of mass graves or cooling trucks, the repetitive showcase of persons in distress, linked to machines, are slowly depriving us from the closure that comes with respect, grief and dignity.

Few countries do well when challenged in such existential ways. They look cheap, if not exchanging heartbreak for heartless.  No country has suffered the indignities this US president is throwing at what America is often best at-science, generosity, coming together -.  Trump started his presidency with his vitriolic carnage speech. We did not know then that he was  announcing the coming of what he knows best: the death of truth.  He is a man of his word!

Saturday, April 4, 2020


The Black Death in the 14th Century and the Spanish Flu in the early 20th Century obliged Europe to face unprecedented situations. Both events accelerated the appearance of sudden priorities which had been dormant for too long.

The Corona virus is becoming, after AIDS, the second global plague, such as the world has not seen. This pandemic is hitting all the pieces of the world puzzle, one by one. 

There might be an other Decameron being written as we speak, about yet another group of men and women incarcerated  for the duration of this new plague...who knows? Or is Sartre's Huis Clos more appropriate?

Reactions to this pandemic vary from restraint to farcical (Trump again). Most actors (states, medics, societies, individuals...) act in a responsible way. By sheer intuition people appear to be conscious that this is not an ordinary situation. Indeed we might find ourselves in momentous crossroads, wherein customary believes and habits need to be revisited . AIDS laid bare the murmur of the heart. Corona uncovers the bluff of society's complacence.

The Gresham law pretends that the bad money drives out the good. One cannot allow now for half-baked, ill conceived placebos to substitute for the difficult alternative. It is self- evident that after this crisis will be "solved" there is no way one can just return to the past. The economy will be on life-support, social praxis will need reviewing and health care will top every agenda. The role of central governments versus states and regional entities etc., will have to be reexamined at the light of experiences gained (the hard way). An appropriate balance of power must correct the absurdities of past devolution. Last but not least, China, Trump & Co. will have lots of explaining and apologizing to do.

The post-World War II Contrat Social was an extraordinary achievenent for the world "then". The world today is in need of a new Bretton Woods and of an architecture wherein equal rights balance different assets. The ugly spin in the current crisis is the direct outcome of the selfish hubris of some (USA, China) and of the adverse distortions of others.  In between, the opportunistic liars (Brazil, Hungary and Co.) think they have a free ride.

It is going to be difficult to write a new chapter after the crisis. There is no longer a ghost writer-in-chief, while the intentions of the usual suspects remain dubious. The UN looks like the only place wherein an ambitious agenda might get a chance, on condition that the permanent members of the Security Council could leave their veto at the doorway for once. This might be too much to ask, but if they don't heed the alert they might get the sanction. 

The coming social/economic stress will fundamentally affect individuals and their habitat, wherein commerce, welfare and commonly accepted creeds could grow, albeit with uneven success. Now the need for reconstruction, or better, reform, will require more sharing, better empathy and redistribution. Last but not least, leaders have to concede once and forever primacy to science and to liberation from religious or political inheritances. The former were responsible for the rise of the AIDS death toll. These aberrations are again being recycled to avoid having to come to terms with climate change. The Trump hordes are dressed up accordingly, in the evangelical cloth.

It will be hard to find the individuals and to engineer the framework to brave a challenge, which is a multiple. Versailles, Yalta or even the UN in its current format, are things of the past. If leaders don't get it, the electorate will be unforgiving. The populist movements have been largely ignored in the pandemic. They are looking for every opportunity to get back in the spotlight. If there is no action now to prepare for the post-Corona times, shortsighted leaders will only have themselves to blame.

Francis Fukuyama had the guts to return to his former contentions and to correct them. The uni-polar world is dead. The multi-polar "happy family" is in tatters. One can hope he will take hold of a new, revised argument, propose an overdue correction and arrive at a new model:  a brilliant Hegelian exercise for the 21st century!

We witness the coming of the "new state". After the rise of internationalism  and regionalism, states are reclaiming the clout they had lost. The next challenge will be how to calibrate the increased role of the states without jeopardizing the existing, often messy search for consensus. The need for clear injunctions inside shouldn't be arrived at at the cost of overlapping wider solidarity. Quite the opposite, they should benefit from it. The "how" is for the new post-Corona generation to suggest. There might be another Robert Schuman for these new age in waiting after all...