How I experience the global crisis in Amsterdam

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” — Rilke

It is silent out there. It is an unreal silence, one that carries the coming storm and its associated noise with it. Just like a Tsunami: You stand on steady ground, your feet in the sand at the beach, the water retreats, and you know: the water will come as a long, seemingly never-ending wave. We see the power of the wave in parts of Italy, in Madrid, a time delay that let us anticipate what we will go through. Maybe it won’t be that bad because we were able to learn from the sufferings of Southern Europe and we are a bit more prepared. The mercy of the late virus spread, a cynical blessing. Knowledge acquired dealing with the virus, successes and failures the lucky ones can learn from — a blessing for the ones that will experience the wave in the days to come. The mercy of the late virus spread does not equalize for social, economic and topographic differences. I worry for Mexico City, Dhaka and Karachi — just to name a few of the mega-cities. A blessing might not be enough for them.

We have places that made us who we are, the forest behind my house, the football pitch 2 blocks down, the Rhine river a few kilometers away from where I dreamt of leaving my home and exploring the world. And there are places that change us in our young adulthood. Places that represented love, happiness, a different way of life. When I was 14, I toured through Spain with my sister and we stayed in Madrid for a week. Spending time there gave me a glimpse of what my life could be, how life could be experienced in a completely different way. The images of Madrid hurt in a special way. And I don’t understand why we can’t help. Germany provided ICU beds for Italy and France. Not for Spain, Romania or other hard-hit regions.

What happened to Europe? Is there still an ounce of Europe left? Was Europe nothing more than a currency and open borders? I was pleased to see a helping hand being offered by Germany to Italy and France. Still, people are dying miserable deaths all over Europe, have to spend their last moments alone, separated from their loved ones, no funeral, just putting the bodies into the ground or burning them. What happened to Europe? Thousands are living dying in a refugee camp in Moria and we just watch it and shake our heads. Citizens are being flown back home from all over the world, but we can’t even help orphans in refugee camps. I have to focus on children because they are the only ones that evoke emotions. A 40-year old refugee from Syria needs as much our help but I don’t have any hope we can establish an emotional connection to his tragedy. Empathy seems to be as scarce a resource as masks and ventilators. Only freezing children in a tent on muddy grounds can evoke some form of empathy. We should move all these people, all these tragedies, all these lives. They should have the right to ask for asylum, be processed, moved into humane camps and be regarded as humans. We are failing badly. Our expectations who we should be and could be were never that low. We don’t even feel anymore what a failure we all are.

Nobody should live like this. And nobody can ever say: We didn’t know, it was hidden from us.

It is quiet out there. My ears are used to constant stimulation: video calls, podcasts, music, anything to fill my ears and mind. And, now I sit often in the living room, just listening to the silence. And I can hear the storm embedded into the silence. I drink my coffee, look at the tired dogs and hope.