The immovable present that cancelled the historical horizon, a few weeks ago, has been swept away. The future has reappeared with force in the daily lives of people, the media and politics.

SARS-CoV-2 has imposed it on us, it has stripped away our last certainties in very few weeks, using the main lever of fear, a connotative characteristic of our global, postmodern, hyper-connected, schizophrenic and individualistic society.

We lived in the era of paradox and polarization, immersed in an eternal present. The day before yesterday we were talking about the immortality of man, yesterday about the serious possibility of an extinction of human beings caused by climate change, today about the possibility that up to 60% of the world’s population could be infected by SARS-CoV-2 with survival mainly linked to factors related to the longitude and latitude of the place where we live, including the health system, the system of governance and the level of expertise in the search for the solution. Context factors must necessarily be combined with individual factors: age, general clinical condition and income.

We have probably been able to afford to live a very long present, occasionally paused by small emotional waves that have concretely overwhelmed a more or less large group of people.

Terrorist attacks, earthquakes, Ebola virus in 2013, economic crisis in 2008, Sars epidemic in 2002, have not been able to generate an effective rethink that would lead to a new overall design of priorities and global governance.

All fragmented by visions of terrible, but distant, wars that often came to touch us more closely, but always at an appropriate distance, through the landings of those who fled and the related political controversies. All this has not succeeded, in substance, in concretely undermining the actions of Western and European policies and governments.

The liberal democracies, now in a state of advanced crisis, could, with time and knowledge available, have learned from each other, sharing the most effective systems of government, the most prudent systems of public finance management, the best from the point of view of health performance and immigration management, best practices for energy efficiency and respect for the environment.

On this occasion, too, for now, history has repeated itself. Where action has been taken late, reaching almost total closure, the epidemic has developed (China and Italy) and is developing (US, Spain, UK, etc.) in an important way together with increasing damage to the economy. Where it was timely (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore) with a fast, integrated, transparent response, with a good dose of strong empowerment of people, the epidemic was contained and the economy was not stopped.

Throughout the Western world, citizens have become much more distrustful of politicians and sceptical of democratic institutions. Liberal democracy has gone into crisis, citizens have stated their disappointment caused by the inability of politics to solve urgent social problems. Governments have often had no choice but to act slowly, following and respecting bureaucratic procedures, the rules of democracy, at individual country level, at supranational level.

The moment is that of paradigmatic change.

The alternatives looming on the horizon are those of strengthening individualism, sovereignty, authoritarianism, the exaggeration of the river of fear against a new paradigm, all to be built, in which an enlarged governance is put at the centre for the resolution of global problems that cannot be managed and solved by individual nations. We are at war, the enemy has no passport, no colour and does not speak a specific language.

The next Middle Ages, which often peeped out in post-apocalyptic speeches, is about to sit down in the good room of the West, putting himself at the head of the table and then claiming to become the protagonist of our future.

Can we prevent it?

We must prevent it, it takes imagination to do so.

To maximize our imaginative capacity we need to create a new mindset that can only be born by comparing heterogeneous knowledge, skills and experiences.

Once we have built the mindset and defined the new paradigm we need to get down to reality.

There are no complex problems that can be solved with an easy recipe.

First of all, we can start from the perimeter in which we want to build a new paradigm. The natural furrow in which to start moving is Europe. Now, more than ever before, the opportunity to give history an epoch-making turning point in building our future is a real treat.

How can we move forward?

Let us start with what we absolutely must avoid, there are two things: the collapse of the health system and the collapse of the economic system. There is no order of precedence or priority. At the moment, unfortunately, we are trying to buffer the collapse of the health care system through the collapse of the economic system.

We need to write a new social pact with European citizens in which Europe, like a mother, says to all citizens: “Don’t worry, follow our instructions, we will safeguard your health and nobody will lose anything”.

What are the guidelines for such a plan?

  • Vision, strategy and programme for the short, medium and long term;
  • Governance and implementation of the project at European level with programme communication, daily for the first months, weekly for the following months;
  • Transparency and accountability on the part of individual citizens:
    – Large scale sample testing with the aim of supporting studies to define the infected and vulnerable population;
    – Identification of spaces for specific care for SARS-CoV-2 and for diseases other than SARS-CoV-2;
    – Paid and mandatory isolation of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases by the government, without the need for hospitalisation, outside the home in dedicated hotels;
  • Concrete and unbureaucratic reassurance for individual citizens on all economic and financial aspects through the issuance at European level of adhoc securities jointly guaranteed by individual states with the availability of concrete intervention by the ECB;
  • Use of systems and technologies that increase the speed and feasibility of all sharing and monitoring processes: people management and gradual reintroduction to normal life of the “verifieds” with controls on the risk of re-infection.

We will not go back as before, but we have to decide whether the paradigm to be built will be centred on a new humanism pervaded by transparency, courage, individual responsibility, environmental sustainability, technology and innovation or whether we will choose to end up in the chaos of everyone against everyone, starting from the neighbourhood where we live with our families, up to the European Council.

If we do not reach an agreement in the face of a pandemic, when will we ever be able to do so?