When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

French President Emmanuel Macron visiting a supermarket in western France on April 22
French President Emmanuel Macron visiting a supermarket in western France on April 22

As governments now brace themselves to begin a tightrope walk between saving lives and saving their hemorrhaging economies, one thing is certain: No decision will lead to a perfect outcome. National leaders must quickly pivot from a posture of disaster relief to satisfying often contradictory demands from their populations as the pandemic's rally-around-the-flag effect starts to fade. Indeed, for all of us, hovering over the burdensome journey ahead will be the same doubt that comes in times when old certainties are suddenly up for grabs: Will it bring us closer together, or drive us farther apart? It is question posed both within and among nations.


So far, the most acute phase of the pandemic has offered national leaders some temporary respite from dissent. In Italy, where the virus has been particularly devastating, approval of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reached 71% in March — far higher than those achieved by his two most recent predecessors, reports Il Fatto Quotidiano. In Sweden, where authorities have been under both domestic and foreign fire for its light-touch approach, approval of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has nonetheless increased from 26% to 47% since the crisis began, reports daily Expressen. In South Korea, where the widely praised reaction to the coronavirus outbreak limited death tolls, President Moon Jae-in's ruling Democratic Party coalition won a landslide victory earlier this month.

Still, cracks in support are beginning to show, which may be explained only in part by some examples of objectively poor management of the crisis. In France, President Emmanuel Macron's support has dropped the past few weeks, reaching 40% on Monday, its lowest level since the pandemic arrived, reports Les Echos. U.S. President Donald Trump is finally paying the price for his ham-handed (and much worse) management of the coronavirus response.

We've seen the whims of popular support in other dramatic events in the recent past. After 9/11 when President George W Bush briefly hit 90% approval, while Francois Hollande, the most unpopular French president in post-War history got a 21% boost after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack, only to see his support quickly plummet in the succeeding months.

Still, as fearsome as the current crisis may be, it is something different than a terrorist attack — both more insidious and harder to track, tearing at every part of our societal fabric. It also comes as many countries were already suffering a surge in polarization, populism and growing distrust of government leaders.

Indeed, the threat of an economic depression turning into a democratic collapse is very real for many countries. The IMF has projected an economic downturn 30% worse than the 2009 financial crisis and a $9 trillion hit to global gross domestic product. Indeed, the financial crash a decade right now seems to pale in comparison with a perhaps more fitting, historical analogy taking us back to the mind-bending devastation of World War II.

That too was an event that destabilized nearly every corner of the planet, sparking a recognition of the need for some kind a minimum of established norms and shared values. What followed were the Nuremberg trials which, however inconclusive, were part of a broader effort to engineer a new world order and establish a common humanity as a legal principle. The post-1945 divisions, of course, brought us the Cold War, but also such institutions as the United Nations, and the Coal and Steel Collaboration that led to the European Union.

With the current uncertainty, and rising nationalist sentiment, it is still hard to envision such a rosy recomposition of the world order. In an interview last week with Le Monde, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was rather pessimistic: "My fear is that the world "after" will look a whole lot like the world before, but worse," Le Drian said. "We seem to be witnessing an amplification of the fractures that have been threatening the international order for years. The pandemic is the continuation, by other means, of the old power struggles."

It will be months or years before we know whether this dark forecast comes to pass, or the COVID-19 dynamic somehow manages to advance a new kind of collaboration in domestic and international politics. What we do know is that the pandemic has laid bare the fragility of our globalized world while also demonstrating its potential for good — setting the stage for what might very well be recalled as a turning point in history.


For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Jehovah's Witnesses Translate The Bible In Indigenous Language — Is This Colonialism?

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut.

A Mapuche family awaits for Chilean President Gabriel Boric to arrive at the traditional Te Deum in the Cathedral of Santiago, on Chile's Independence Day.

Claudia Andrade

NEUQUÉN — The Bible can now be read in Mapuzugun, the language of the Mapuche, an ancestral nation living across Chile and Argentina. It took the Chilean branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a latter-day Protestant church often associated with door-to-door proselytizing and cold calling, three years to translate it into "21st-century Mapuzugun".

The church's Mapuche members in Chile welcomed the book when it was launched in Santiago last June, but some of their brethren see it rather as a cultural imposition. The Mapuche were historically a fighting nation, and fiercely resisted both the Spanish conquerors and subsequent waves of European settlers. They are still fighting for land rights in Chile.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ