If my children run thoughtlessly onto a busy street, I naturally hold them back. If there is immediate danger, this massive restriction of their freedom is fully justified. In the short term, at least. In the long term, however, I will not always be able to stand beside them on every street and therefore need a strategy based on their understanding of the causal relationships and their personal responsibility. The same applies to excessive consumption of sugar, where bans only help in the first few years until the children have the cognitive maturity for the necessary understanding as well as the ability to take responsibility for their own diet.
Discipline is achieved through self-organization and personal responsibility, by disciplining one only gets obedience.Gerald Hüther
The same is true for change processes in society and in organizations: Only on the basis of self-organization and personal responsibility (and the authentic example of leadership) a sustainable, purposeful change in behavior can be achieved. This is exactly what we need now to contain the Corona pandemic in Germany. In fact, however, we are still seeing a German Chancellor and Prime Ministers who, like anxious parents, instinctively pull their children back off the busy road in the face of the imminent danger.
What was appropriate in spring, however, wears out very quickly in the long run. At some point, the children just don’t listen anymore if they are constantly being yelled at. And certainly these massive interventions do not promote personal responsibility, but on the contrary prevent thinking for oneself. Those up there will know best. The time of appeals and commandments is over since spring and over the summer we missed the chance to switch to a long-term strategy based on self-organization and personal responsibility of mature citizens (exceptions only confirm the rule here as well).
Only when a person sees meaning in what he is supposed to do can he develop sufficient self-discipline.Gerald Hüther
People no longer want to be treated like naughty children. I am tired of being admonished, threatened and occasionally praised by our government. The situation is extremely complex in the fullest sense of the word, much more complex than crossing a street anyway. We all, including the government and the sciences, have more questions than answers. And where there are answers, they are often ambiguous and contradictory. One example among many: Does a simple facemask have an effect against this virus or not? Or does wearing unsuitable masks for a long time or incorrectly perhaps even harm? Research is confusing and this is perfectly normal (see this article published in The Lancet in August).
The complexity of the pandemic is inherent and will not go away. Therefore it does not really help that the Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder likes to mime the experienced captain and tough crisis manager. On the contrary, this know-it-all, patronizing and sometimes arrogant gesture of the schoolmasterly savior undermines precisely the self-organization and personal responsibility that we actually need for sustainable containment. After all, in the end the government cannot stand next to each of the 80 million Germans and “protect” them from themselves (even though the idea may well appeal to one or the other ministers of the interior).
Containing the pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint — not even two or three sprints. The goal is therefore not obedience, but personal responsibility. Constantly holding the rising number of cases against the naughty citizens and threatening to shut down public life again if they continue to rise, or even “a lonely Christmas”, as Markus Söder put it with a raised forefinger, does not help at all, but mainly creates fear, displeasure and resistance.
Children are just like adults on this point: we want to cooperate whenever possible, but we don’t like being manipulated to do so.Jesper Juul
A little more humility in the face of the complexity of the situation on the one hand, and respect for the responsible and in most cases very prudent citizen on the other, would suit our government well. It would have been more honest and powerful after the summer holidays to admit that the situation is complex and ambiguous, and that the government and its advisors are not fully aware of the reasons for the increase in the number of cases. The behavior of citizens would then be just one factor, and a seasonal increase in respiratory infections, as every year, would be another. And, of course, one could then also have self-critically questioned whether we are measuring the right thing in the right way and whether we are looking at the right indicators.
Instead of simply blaming the citizens and their misconduct for the increased numbers, one could have turned one’s back on one’s own doorstep and standardized throughout Germany under which circumstances exactly (test strategy), which PCR-test is to be applied in which way exactly (which gene or genes) with which cycle threshold (see this article in the New York Times). And one could have considered more meaningful metrics than the simple 7‑day incidence.
In such an overall package, a shutdown of public life would then be part of a joint effort and long-term strategy and would not have the bland aftertaste of disciplinary action. With a somewhat humbler attitude, it would also be easy to get rid of the many abstruse conspiracy theories by not wiping aside or simply ignoring other interpretations of the situation and the figures — which are perfectly normal in view of the complexity — but by constructively integrating them into this strategy.