How I experience the global crisis in Amsterdam

Angela Merkel spoke last night. “This is serious.” (…) “Since German unification — no, since the Second World War — no challenge to our nation has ever demanded such a degree of common and united action.” She was direct, honest and empathic. She thanked the healthcare workers and made a special point to show her gratitude towards the people that feed us every day. “Those who sit at the supermarket cash registers or restock shelves are doing one of the hardest jobs there is right now.” It was perfect.

The city continues to work. Construction everywhere, even around our house. It feels as if all construction work just started this week. In reality, all other services are closed, and construction, as well as municipal services, are sticking out because they continue to do their job.

There are now signs on the floor in supermarkets, 6 feet apart. Most people stick to it. Just a week ago, nobody would have paid attention. Now, we keep our distance. We smile more at each other. We are friendlier. We know everybody goes through the same thing. Even the ones with a steady income and no financial hardship. They are still scared.

The pace of change is breathtaking. Just a week ago, the restaurants were full, bars crowded. Humans can adapt their behavior rather quickly. Yes, there are always idiots. Especially during Spring Break. But in general, people are doing a good job. We are used to our daily script. And, we have problems deviating from it. It’s the same when we lose a job. A messy breakup. We want it to be the way it used to be. We hang on to that old reality. It takes time to change the script. It’s easy to shame idiots on the beach, in bars. But we are sometimes idiots, too.

That’s the first news headline I saw this morning. 2 days ago the burial pits in Iran. The narrative changes daily, almost hourly. Just yesterday we believed mostly elderly people died. 2/3 of dead people in the Netherlands never even went to the hospital. They had so many other issues that the doctors made a decision to let them die. On the other hand, in the US 38% of hospitalizations are between the age of 20 to 54. The story is unfolding as we speak.

We get CNN in our cable system and it’s unnerving. The constant breaking news, the dopamine hits keep coming, it’s anxiety-inducing. German TV focuses on a few experts that share their insights. It’s factual. It can be tough to hear their projections. But I can deal with facts, projections, data, and science. I can’t deal with this whirlwind of crazy emotions the US media wants to keep us in. Germans are sober people. They don’t like too much nonsense, hype, and overblown statements. And, Angela Merkel is even more German than any other German in that regard. She would never say “This is serious.” Yesterday she said it.

It’s serious.