The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The unexpected and the expected

As lockdown progresses across the world, diversity once again becomes visible. Watching the news we can discover how different countries choose to deal with the pandemic and how their populations react.

Governments across the world are dealing with the tension between freedom society provides and the liberty individuals seek to protect.

Many countries like France, Italy or Spain decided to use a fixed set of preordained procedures. Germany settled into a route with “a constant, experimental push-pull between social norms and legal restrictions, trust, and compulsion, freedom, and constraint” as Doug Saunders described it in a piece titled “We learn to fight this thing together by keeping parks open”.

Within a month Germany shifted from closing parks to keeping them open. They started to invite people to go into parks and leave their apartments. They understood the constraints and challenges people experience when staying cramped in their apartments. They have seen how people took up the situation. How people started to use the necessary physical distances and other protective gestures. Authorities accepted that there was a learning phase at the beginning. It was a phase where people oriented themselves. Learned what it means to keep a physical distance and to organize themselves at home. At the same time, authorities showed leadership and constantly shared how to behave safely in these times.

They were teaching the population and watching their reaction. It became a situation where trust leads to more trust.

Society and authorities worked together to establish new habits. They helped people see how “people like us do things like this”.

Shops found ways to ease to keep one’s distances. Institutions started to share advertisements thanking people for leaning in. Police pay attention to break-up groups of people who don’t believe in taking their distances. At the same time, they thank those who do keep their distances. A variety of organizations started to add #StayHome tags to their logos or other visuals.

In marketing terms, it’s an experiment that allowed to cross the chasm between early adopters and early majority. It happened with a growing number of people finding details and activities they could share with others to reinforce the new habits. The growing number of followers allowed to create a sense of safety while following these new norms.

It’s a give and take to find ways to keep freedom as flexible as possible for everyone. The idea of being unencumbered and have one’s liberty is being voluntarily downsized by individuals to serve everyone’s freedom.

And yes, some people might not take up the invitations and remain more concerned with themselves than with society. Some people aren’t happy that some don’t follow the new social norms. Some people complain and believe more in the forbidden than in trust.

But, for now, the majority in Germany continues to be responsible for themselves. They follow the gigantic experiment and succeed in establishing a sense of new social norms. They see it as a contribution to a new way of living together.


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