moisi173_Pierre CromGetty Images_coronaviruspolicehaguemarket Pierre Crom/Getty Images

The West’s Pandemic of Fear

The COVID-19 pandemic is heightening an already existing culture of fear in the West and revealing deeper fractures, both within Europe and between Europe and the United States. But future historians may regard the coronavirus crisis as a game-changing episode that arrested the West's decline.

PARIS – Emotions are not easily contained. They control us much more than we control them. And during a pandemic, the dominant emotion is naturally fear.

Confronted with a world that feels (and is) more dangerous, complex, and unpredictable by the day, people want to be protected and reassured at all costs. But there is a fine line between a healthy return to the notion of a protective state and a dangerous evolution toward Big Brother – whereby we end up abandoning our cherished freedoms for the sake of protecting our even more precious health.

More generally, fear is the opposite of hope. In a world of hope, people think that tomorrow will be better than today. But in a world of fear, they think it will be worse. From this perspective, Asia today appears to be the continent of hope, while Europe and North America are the continents of fear.

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