“Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal.” The British playwright David Hare quoted this line by the American writer James Baldwin in his recent reflections on the UK Government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Baldwin’s reminder and warning in the context of civil rights in the mid-20th century USA speak now in the pandemic to communities the world over who are unsure of their governments’ allegiances to them. The give-and-take relationship between the state and the individual—perhaps best viewed through the lens of what Enlightenment philosophers termed the social contract—is being strained, its inadequacy exposed, and must surely be remade in the midst of this global health and economic crisis.

 

Image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

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