My hometown has a history of protests getting big. Shortly before I left for boarding school at age 16, people were protesting against a construction project for a train station - after those protests, the entire country knew about project "Stuttgart 21." Now, there is a new wave of protests. This time, the opposed object is the protective measures the government has put in place to combat the coronavirus. Yesterday's protest had a permit for 5,000 people and thousands of people showed up.
I am a supporter of the government's measures - I believe human lives are worth saving even if the measures make life stressful for a longer period of time. I fully understand that parents are struggling to do their jobs from home while trying to teach their children at the same time. I get that it is uncomfortable to breathe while wearing a mask. I understand that people are worried about when this will end. Even though times are tough for all of us at the moment, I think these inconveniences are outweighed by the objective of saving lives. To a limit, ends can justify means.
Whenever I come home, I usually realise all over again how many privileges I have simply through living in Germany. I used to think one of the best things about my country was its ability to have a reasonable debate. When you look at the TV debates between American presidential candidates and then compare them to the TV debates of our candidates for the office of chancellor, you will get what I mean. But these protests make me question that.
This video of my local newspaper is from the protest last week and in the video, people describe why they are protesting. The video is in German but you can find my response to the protestors' key arguments below.
Below you can find my thoughts on the protestors' arguments. Please note that I intentionally used the word 'thoughts' - I am not an expert. I will be linking sources for all my points, but this post is more of a reasoned response in a public debate than actual advice.
'It's Not That Bad'
That argument is not entirely wrong - the situation in Germany is currently not as terrible as in other countries. But the sobering truth is that it could be. We currently have an extremely low death rate in Germany and we also still have over ten thousand intensive-care-unit beds available. But this availability of intensive care exists because our measures help reduce the number of cases or, as people like to say, 'flatten the curve.' Germany also had a good healthcare system to begin with and was therefore in a better position to tackle this crisis than other countries. The fact that we have intensive care available in such numbers is a better explanation for why Germany is doing so well rather than some of the protestors' claims that covid-19 simply 'isn't that bad.' But this is nonetheless not a carte blanche to ignore social distancing. It is hope that we can get through this with less tragedy than other countries, but it does not mean that the virus just stops at our border. So yeah, the situation in Germany is currently not as terrible as it could be. But you are advocating for could make it so.
'It's My Right to be Free'
It is true that our constitution aims to protect your rights and freedoms. Let us put a little more emphasis on the former: rights. Rights can sometimes outweigh one another under considerations of proportionality (the court in which you can sue Germany for violations of your human rights - the European Court of Human Rights - uses that very principle too). The right to life is one of the strongest rights, so it will take a lot to weigh that out. Take it from a law student, the inconvenience of not being able to eat with less than a meter distance to the next table in a restaurant and having to wear a mask on public transport is not going to cut it. The current measures are aimed at protecting lives and therefore protecting the right to life of the most vulnerable in our society. If rights matter so much to these protestors, I wonder why they show so little regard for this very fundamental right.
A Fear of a Duty to Be Forced to Get Vaccinated
Such a fear is nothing but unfounded as the chancellor's office confirmed that such a policy is not planned.
So once you take these arguments apart, the only thing that really remains is the inconvenience of putting life on halt. And I am not using the word 'inconvenience' here to suggest this is not a major issue. I am not belittling parents' achievements at home. The dark moments we all have after not leaving our house for anything other than the essential items. The desire to hug your grandparents again. But the fact that we can feel annoyed at and stressed by these things and that we can complain about it means we are alive. Let us show some more gratitude for that.
If you would like to do something good, stay home when you can. Keep you distance when outside.
Stay safe x
Lots of Love,