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Social Unrest

Civil disobedience and protest: a phase

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that a disaster has psychological and social consequences. Scientists have discerned a general pattern of three phases in the consequences of a disaster: the impact phase, the honeymoon phase and the disillusionment phase. And although the pandemic has been a situation that has been slowly unfolding, in contrast to an airplane disaster or volcanic disruption for example, we have still been able to recognise these phases during this pandemic.

The impact phase is characterised by a sense of disbelief, astonishment and feelings of unreality. How often did you hear yourself say that we are living in strange times last March and April? Like me, probably often enough until it started to sound like a bit of a cliché. I expect everyone will remember the honeymoon phase too: there was a real sense of social connection, the applause for healthcare workers, and the relief of discovering that there was enough toilet paper for everyone after all. We were all in the same boat.

We have been in the disillusionment phase since last summer. People are exhausted by the continuous disruption to their daily lives, and the feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ has made way for increasing division. We are starting to see a divide, for instance between those who are at low risk and those who have been affected by corona or are at high risk. Both groups feel they are victims, the former because they feel they have had to put their lives on hold for much too long now, and the latter because they are still at risk of serious illness or death. The different interests of these groups are increasingly diverging. Of course, these are two extremes and many people fall somewhere in the middle of these two groups.

This gallery is mainly about the people who want to see an easing of the restrictions or who protest against curfews and other measures. A café owner who ignores the rules and decides to open up his pavement terrace, young people at a spontaneous party in Vondelpark, hooligans during the anti-curfew riots but also local residents who try to stop the riots. There is a lot of unrest in the city, distrust towards the government but, most of all, people are fed up with these ‘strange times’. Young people are suffering with depression, businesses are in trouble, and everyone has had enough of it now.

The disillusionment phase can be dangerous due to the social divisions that emerge. There are those who feel that partying and the further easing of restrictions pose a risk to themselves and others. There is a lot of tension in the community but the vaccination programme gives some cause for optimism, just like the residents in Zuidoost who protect their young people from coming into contact with the police by persuading them to stay away from anti-curfew riots. This shows that society can be quite resilient when it comes to it. Perhaps this is also just a phase.

This room is curated by:
Tom van der Molen

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