Almost three years ago, on July 14, 2017, the French and American presidents celebrated with emotion the hundredth anniversary of the entry of American troops into the First World War. In 2020, facing a new war against the coronavirus, Donald Trump celebrates in his own way the hundredth anniversary of the rejection of Wilsonian internationalism by the United States Congress. In the age of the coronavirus, the word isolationism must now be taken literally. Would George Washington have forbidden access to American soil to La Fayette and Rochambeau, when the latter had just crossed the sea to fight alongside the American independence fighters?
Decline of the West
A century from now, will historians see the coronavirus crisis as another stage in the decline of the West? Aren't Asians, from China to South Korea or Singapore, regardless of their political systems, better equipped "culturally" to deal with the pandemic? Are we not, in the face of rising peril, victims of a blindness that in fact reflects our mad individualism? Rationally, it should be obvious that we cannot save ourselves alone. Viruses know no boundaries. Emotionally, the temptation is great, if not irresistible, to privilege sacred selfishness by withdrawing totally into oneself. But what's the point of closing borders if, as polls in France show, most people still shake hands and kiss each other?
The danger of over-reacting
"Fear is a bad counsellor" says popular wisdom, because it makes us lose control of ourselves. Reality is more complex. What is dangerous is not fear, it is excessive fear. Legitimate and reasoned fear, on the other hand, is an indispensable protection against overconfidence and underestimation of danger. It is a factor of survival in a world that is naturally dangerous, and which becomes much more so in times of pandemic. The rabbit that is not afraid of the hunter will not live long. The citizen who does not take the full measure of the threat exposes himself and others. The comments made in France a few days ago in the media by some experts had undoubtedly the very commendable ambition to reassure the public.