COVID-19 highlights lack of democratic resilience


The number of countries “knocking on China’s door” will give Beijing’s soft power a boost, according to one expert, The Washington Post reports.  “There is no European solidarity,” said Elias Mossialos, head of the Department of Health Policy at the London School of Economics.

One thing that has been on my mind for the past few weeks is the similarities between what happened in my first home, which is Iran, and what is happening in my second home, which is America, notes Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. The Iranian regime is a totalitarian one and Iran is not a democracy, but totalitarianism as a mindset can be anywhere. Here, two important things should be noted about the Iranian people, she tells Francis Fukuyama in The American Interest:

  • The first is their sense of humor. Frank, I wish I could show you the jokes I am seeing, the majority of which are directed against the government and the clerics. They’re hilarious. Then there are so many videos of people dancing and singing, saying that that is how they’re going to be resisting the virus and the regime.
  • The second thing is the fact that people have taken things into their own hands. They are not expecting anything from the government. The hospitals, the doctors and the nurses, and the Iranian people as a whole have all been helping one another. They have had way stations where they deliver disinfectant and supplies to people who need them.

What happened to democratic resilience? @Carnegie_Europe’s @Judy_Dempsey asks. Too often, some Western governments looked to the short term, keeping budgets tight, cutting back on infrastructure investments, saving money. Now, #COVID19 has exposed Europe’s lack of resilience.

The coronavirus crisis reminds Fukuyama of something Vaclav Havel said, he adds.

“He focused on this quite a bit, how totalitarian societies are a ‘convex mirror’ of democracies. He said that they expose and reveal the potential and latent tendencies within democracies, because totalitarianism and democracy are both mindsets that can exist anywhere.”


Both Nafisi & Fukuyama are former board members of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). 

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