Volume 22, Issue 2, 2021
COVID-19 Pandemic and Media
Bas de Boer
Has COVID-19 Changed the World?
From Sovereignty to Intimacy
Starting from March 12th 2020, the Netherlands entered a period of what has come to be known as an “intelligent lockdown”, enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All public meetings were prohibited, institutions of higher education was temporarily shut, and stores and public transport were asked to take measures allowing people to keep 1.5m distance. More generally, people were strongly advised to stay inside. It was only then that many in the Netherlands started to understand COVID-19 intimately. This intimacy meant getting to know the virus as a threat to oneself, as a threat to others, and notably, as introducing new responsibilities and a new idea of what it means to live “normally”. The reconstruction of events of such a phase of the pandemic serves to show how the felt proximity of the virus strongly shapes both individual and societal perception of it. Further discussions might reveal the installment and challenging of science as the sovereign when being treated as offering the ultimate answer on whether certain measures will lead to a decrease in the number of infections. Other discussions might reveal politics as the sovereign, deciding which members of the biopolitical body are in need of protection, such as those asking whether the economic burden put on some citizens is proportionate to the number of lives of other citizens being saved. However, the relative ease with which a large portion of the Dutch society has been willing to sacrifice some of their privileges as a mark of solidarity during this pandemic, makes one not entirely cynical about the willingness to sacrifice some more, in light of the ecological crisis we are living through as well.