Is the smoke detector working?
Is the smoke detector working?

Adaptation and images by me.

Illustration for article titled My kingdom is not of this world
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NO ONE wants to speak all the time about COVID-19, but it is inevitable. The pandemic is ahead of oneself every single moment: kids out of school, businesses closed, streets semi-empty. Just statistically, almost no one directly knows a victim of the virus, let alone someone who died -and many do wonder, openly or secretly, if the problem is as big as they say it is. But no one can escape the effects of the pandemic. There’s no way of having a regular lifestyle and the simple fact is that the virus and its sequels will stay with us for a long time and, to some, too many, it will be devastating. This is the world in which we live and will live for the foreseeable future, one doesn’t need to think about it much more than that. It’s perfectly reasonable that we don’t like it. We have expectations, plans, and, yes, dreams. To leave them behind without anyone doing anything to deserve it, merely through luck, cannot feel other than fatal. Nothing wrong in it. Everyone has a right to deal with disgrace in their internal courts as they understand best. It’s enough already.

Except that, as with everything, there are exceptions to rules. There are people that cannot have the luxury of denying truth. Or perhaps they can, but the consequences to everyone else are potentially fatal. We choose those people and we vest in them a lot of power to operate in the world that exists today; the pandemic world, not the one we knew or imagined. We expected, at a minimum, that they’d understand what changed with the crisis and adapt to it, no matter how hard it hit them personally, how harmful it was for their political projects or the hopes of their courtiers, would be successors, and allies. We expected that they wouldn’t hold to their own dreams so that, well, the rest of us could hold to our own, even if we felt like the walls are coming in. We have leaders for the moments of crisis. No one needs to be told how to behave when everything is alright, when the road is obvious and the sun is shining. Without crisis, the political elite usually hurts more than it helps. In the moments of crisis, however, they become indispensable. It’s the nature of the state: the last line of defense when chaos comes knocking; a floating piece of furniture after a shipwreck.

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We then understand why in pandemic times these leaders couldn’t do anything but disappoint us, a little or a lot, or earlier rather than later, when we take account of every lost opportunity and the cost of every moment of hesitation, for every tactical and strategic mistake, for every, well, impulse of holding onto the sails to become a martyr - in front of everyone, so that it’s evident that it doesn’t matter what we suffer, the leader suffers more than us. In the good times, one can concentrate on what they like about their leader’s agenda and careless about the rest. In bad times, however, the obsessions and defects of leaders, their imperative need to protect what they believe they’ve built and what is still left to build up, becomes like boulder tied to our necks. Maybe they can’t avoid it: like the rest of us, they don’t want to live in the new world that was shoved in front of us but in the previous one, the one before COVID-19, in which they headed a triumphal march towards posterity, even if it was only inside their heads and in the lungs of their base. But unlike the rest of us, we expected a lot more from them, we needed more from them.

Christ, in the hands of Pilate, could afford the luxury of saying that his kingdom was not of this world and that it would be inconvenient for someone to interrupt his sacrifice and that of his followers. But that was Christ. Nowadays, our leaders equivocate between the promise that we may return to the lost pre pandemic world and that they’re the only source of salvation in this new world. Meanwhile, the rope is tightening, and we better not forget how suffocating it felt after its all over. We needed a kingdom of this world. We didn’t get it and we were offered a fantasy world instead. Although we might survive to see the next crisis, we will pay a heavy toll for it.

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-Jaime Lopez Aranda for Animal Politico
Lopez Aranda is a former government official, college professor, and member of a think tank as well as a writer for many news mediums. He studied in El Colegio de Mexico, The Fletcher school at tufts, and the Harvard Business school.

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