Why is the disappointment so much greater now than a year ago? I look in my old calendar, and see appointments, again crossed out, and endless Zooms. It was also cold and wet at the time. I was a ‘fellow’ at NIAS for six months, an international scientific institute, luckily just in Amsterdam. I was part of that for a while, but couldn’t go there, because of a lockdown.
But the world was buzzing: things like ‘self-testing’ were coming, you knew there were vaccines in the works, we were going to ‘pop our out’.
The miracle happened, twice. What happened in that optimistic spring and summer: being vaccinated was being safe, you could take on the world and the world you.
Did you think then? Let me speak for myself; At the beginning of July 2021, with two pricks in my arm, I was still cautiously dreaming about an invulnerability dose tout court. It’s always hard to sort those things out, but it had been a rough time, and when the sun started shining again and you could disagree about vaccines at all, a perspective began to emerge; that it would cease; that there would be a Liberation Day, flags out, tanks with Yanks in the streets.
All borrowed images.
A good friend, about my age (60), predicted to me at the very beginning of this Covid crisis: “When this is over, I’ll be old.” “No, dude.” I’ve always been the encouraging man to the woman, every woman.
But she was right, and how we have all grown older in such a short time, even those seventeen-year-old darlings.
And they poked us, and we thought we were immune to Covid for a month or two. But also secretly immune to setbacks, misery and so on.
But those antibodies don’t seem to be in the vaccine.
Private skepticism about the booster shot can still be called sympathetic, but such a vacillating government that reacts too late is disastrous. Or does the Netherlands want to repeat its Alleingang against the mouth cap? Doubt what you want, that booster is now only for a few.
I read in the newspaper: ‘Despondency lurks.’ I’m not surprised by a new South African virus variant, I think: “What is it compared to the Biblical Job Tidings?”
And yet it is enough to lift a stable, prosperous country like the Netherlands out of its handles, and let it taste the strange pleasure of chaos. Disappointed and angry.
We had ascribed a better fate to ourselves, an exceptional Dutch fate. There is a lot of demand for it, but strangely enough no supply.
Stephan Sanders writes a column here every Monday.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of November 29, 2021