The leading topic of this year’s edition of Freedom Games is “A Post-Pandemic World”. The COVID-19 pandemic has become a planet-wide event of an unprecedented scale. In just a few months, the coronavirus killed hundreds of thousands of people, millions have been infected. The majority of global economies have been shut down. The lockdown has affected almost 2.7 billion of employees, which constitutes approximately 81% of global workforce. Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 40 million Americans applied for the unemployment benefit. This is situation worse than even in the case of Great Depression.
This is why it is worth using these strange times to reflect and talk things over, in an attempt to set a new course for the “new normal” in a post-pandemic world. COVID-19 acts as a global stress-test. On how well do states and their institutions pass depends not only their global standing, but also whether citizens will trust them. The time for evaluation is yet to come – after the first peak incidence decreases, the governments should be able to confront the unprecedented economic crisis. How will our everyday lives change (work, leisure, entertainment, private life)? What will move permanently online, and what will still be considered worth appearing in person for?
In the age of big data, will democracy fall short of an efficient and ruthless Chinese model, as predicted by Yuval Harari, among others? COVID-19 has shown how important transparency is when it comes to the information that authorities have and how valuable trust of citizens in official statements is. Data reliability of Chinese statistics is questionable. Meanwhile, autocracies of the likes of Iran or Russia are doing as badly as the United Kingdom or the United States – the oldest democracies in the world.
Burdening the working youth with the cost of pandemic only to save the elderly, who in the “old” West have already managed to make for themselves a comfortable life, would be yet another injustice on top of the already existing ones. Labor market regulation and high taxation favor those who have already been operating on it. The youth, a group that now includes also people around 40, will likely struggle with the uncertainty of precarisation, impending debt, and the need to take risks – which many of them cannot afford. Next social rebellions in the countries with a growing unemployment rate among the youth are just a matter of time.
Will the challenges the humanity is now facing attract the youth and other individuals to be more involved in the public life? Is it possible that the current situation reveals a leadership that we need, and one which would be capable of creating an emotion that might show the link between a diagnosis and bold solutions? Are we humble enough to seek answers to the new questions and to take our fate into our own hands?