The Individual (State and Society)
Something has happened. The “event”1This article was created in reference to the events in the three countries I have stayed in since the beginning of the COV-SARS‑2 pandemic, Germany, Serbia, and Poland. Also, its contents and context are largely the product of arguments, sometimes very heated, with Gert Röhrborn. The questions and some answers we have come up with are integrated into the text, for which I sincerely thank him. did not take place at the level of statistics or Bergamo images of horror. Nor did it take place at the level of restrictions – today the central theme of various protests against the new normal – which a few rejected at first, regardless of the increased affectivity that accompanied them. The event took place at the level of feeling that the collapse – the collapse of the state, of the health care system, of economic paradigms, of citizens’ rights – came so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that the space for questions about our political existence suddenly opened wide. The event is, strictly speaking, neither isolated nor the first of its kind. One might even say that its scope and depth are the effects of the accumulation of crises that shaped the political existence in the 21st century and which have not yet been resolved, nor is it clear how, in the current political framework, they might be resolved once and for all. The moment when everything stops – a moment that could not have been predicted despite the three-tiered mantra of modern forms of governance based on prediction, cooperation, and efficiency – actually adds up to the ongoing state of emergency produced by the war on terror, the adjustment to uncertainty in precarity, and the constant threat of infestation, kidnapping, and desecration. The “event” initiated by the pandemic leaned on 2001, 2008, and 2015, showing the unsustainability of a system that intertwines the individual, the state, and society in the spirit of neoliberal securitarian political rationality.
This entry will focus on the individual. The individual is defined as the basic unit of political, economic, and social life as configured by 19th-century liberalism and then further shaped in the neoliberal conditions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.2Zaharijević, Adriana. “Protiv individue: deindividualizirani politički subjekt” [“Against the Individual: Deindividualized Political Subject”]. Filozofska istraživanja, vol. 151, no. 3, 2018, pp. 651 – 666. The individual is a discrete, isolated, and indivisible entity, the basic unit of every form of social association, the main party in a contract, the irreducible holder of private interests. In concreto, the individual is the ultimate and only true owner of their own persona and affairs. This ownership is grounded in a thorough knowledge of their personal interests, the individual capacity to act according to this given knowledge, and the political capacity to represent it autonomously. To own oneself completely implies independence from a state or other higher entity (this goes both ways; the individual is not dependent on the state nor can the state take away their independence); it implies sovereignty and control in the realm of one’s own interests, the power to decide upon them independently.
This entry will question whether the notion of the individual in its classical form can survive the pandemic event. (It is, of course, quite another question whether this notion should have been a basic concept of political, economic, and social theories in the first place, and what the world would have looked like if it had not been). That is, it is necessary to ask ourselves what the event teaches us about the individual, or about our desire, need, and ability to fit into the narrow frame of this seemingly universal category? The thesis I will try to present is that individualization, as well as the augmentation of the state, took place during the pandemic. However, it has also been shown that the individual never stands alone; the self-isolation of the individual is ensured by what exists as a social network of hands.
At first glance, it might seem that, during the pandemic, there was a dramatic increase in individualization. By confining us to our private estates, establishing an appropriate distance in public (sometimes even private) spaces, producing quarantines, and continuously appealing to our personal responsibility, the pandemic separated, further distanced, and scattered us in the name of controlling our own well-being, in the name of our best interests. Paul Preciado delivered a striking depiction of the experience of individualization as one of the first powerful experiences of the pandemic, having fallen into a feverish half-sleep in Paris just before the French government imposed the first restrictions on movement: “When I got up on March 19, a bit more than a week later, the world had changed. When I went to my bed, the world was close, collective, viscous, and dirty. When I got out of bed, it had become distant, individual, dry, and hygienic.”3Preciado, Paul B. “The Losers Conspiracy.” Artforum, 26 March 2020, www.artforum.com/slant/the-losers-conspiracy-82586. The fact that we all found ourselves locked up, suddenly and without warning, split us apart and established the prescribed distance that showed once again that the social and the physical are difficult to distinguish. Waking up in a world where the pandemic event had already taken place, Preciado was by no means alone in his fear – not of illness or death, but of dying alone, of not being cared for – the constitutive fear of the monad that the individual must be by definition.
The global emergency has all but atomized us in our micro-worlds. The emphasis on the individual, as if it had just been discovered in the pandemic, speaks to the idea of a close, viscous, and dirty world from before. Before the pandemic, we were together; now, we are separate and on our own. This is supported by the constant emphasis on the importance of individual hygiene, individual responsibility, and individual control. We are instructed to wash our hands properly because touching – touching another person, touching the surfaces on which others leave their marks, touching ourselves, and perhaps transmitting the indirect touches of others – is potentially dangerous. We are made to accept the fact that it is not only the others who are dangerous – all the others who, until yesterday, were dirtier, more contagious – but that we as individuals are dangerous; we are not only in danger, but we are also a danger. The virus has turned us into individuals who fall prey to it regardless of our status: princes, prime ministers, paramedics, the homeless, the poor and the rich, men and women – to the virus, we are everyone and no one in particular, reduced merely to biological hosts. Finally, we are made to practice a basic form of self-control that manifests as taut self-discipline, from the rigid maintenance of outdoor distance, through disinfecting our hands multiple times a day, to the careful and persistent imposition of structure to our days in an attempt to preserve our mental and physical health.
Behind the frantic reminders to practice individual hygiene, responsibility, and control is the old trope – left to their own devices, individuals will act in their best interests, inevitably acting in the best interests of society, which in itself is nothing more than a mere aggregate of individuals. In the case of a pandemic, for example, this trope could be translated into maximum self-restraint with minimal contact outside of our homes, in which we act responsibly, that is, we continue with our economic activities as if the circumstances were “normal.” In other words, in every home, all worker bees perform their economic tasks – true, under altered circumstances that artificially merge the public and the private, the sphere of production and the sphere of reproduction – as if, in the pre-pandemic world, everyone could work from home, as if the “home” were a space of peace and tranquility that now expanded slightly to accommodate a workplace, as if every house could be remade into an office for all its “employees.” In addition, the laissez-faire aspect of this trope – letting individuals be – almost presupposes that the virus triggers and further regulates the epidemiological situation, where individual accountability presumes a direct relationship between the individual and the virus, even as the state imposes draconian measures that completely challenge the idea of ownership over ourselves and our personal affairs.
However, there are at least two fundamental problems with such a translation. Let us begin with the appearance of laissez-faire; from the moment of admitting that something was really happening, individuals were not allowed to make decisions about their own interests and in accordance with their personal reasoning and purposes. States have deeply influenced the movement and liberties of its citizens, often shifting full responsibility onto the individual and denying them the ability to act responsibly, which in various instances has led to the collapse of an important political distinction between citizens and subjects. This hypocrisy has been particularly pronounced in instances when the state has exploited the epidemiological situations for what may have been political (for example, shutting down the alarm signals justified by raison d’etat, such as elections)4See Marušić, Antonela. “Razglednica iz države u vanrednom stanju” [“Postcard from the state of emergency”]. Libela, 22 July 2020, www.libela.org/razgovor/10727-razglednica-iz-drzave-u-vanrednom-stanju/?fbclid=IwAR2UGi4Aw_nWl6XDcd0hXMeaGi0s3jn_U5G5MIJ15d61z5xvrrNpu5gkZko. or economic reasons (when workers are forced to come to the workplace because they are employed by foreign firms, to which the state turns a blind eye, despite proven high risk and restrictions it has otherwise imposed). Lest we forget, even in the most permissive states, there were restrictions that fell within the domain of the most stringent state control: even where there was no parading of combat rifles (like, for example, in Serbia), they were still a potential part of the social mise-en-scène. States were “at war,” a strange war against the virus that, given its human face, could always turn into some form of civil war or a complete apocalypse, as in Saramago’s Blindness.
Somewhere at the very beginning of the new epidemiological situation, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben spoke out in what was probably the most controversial philosophical statement about the virus, especially in light of the dramatic events that would soon become known worldwide as the “Italian scenario.” Declaring the epidemic as alleged and the urgent measures as frenetic and irrational in panic production, Agamben sees it as “a real state of exception, with severe restrictions on movement and the suspension of normal functioning life and working conditions throughout entire regions.”5Agamben, Giorgio. “Lo stato d’eccezione provocato da un emergenza immotivata.” Il Manifesto, 26 Feb. 2020, ilmanifesto.it/lo-stato-deccezione-provocato-da-unemergenza-immotivata/.; See Agamben, Giorgio. “Izvanredno stanje izazvano nemotiviranim hitnim slučajem” [“The state of exception provoked by an unmotivated emergency”]. Translated by Mario Kopić. Libreto. libreto.rs/2020/03/19/krunska-pisma-5-agamben-26-februara/. The virus opportunistically replaced terrorism as the state’s justification for the seamless introduction of various restrictions by relying on the fear of individuals, a basic emotion necessary for a state of exception to function as a normal paradigm of power. Many have noted that Agamben does not stray far from his understanding of the state of exception and bare life nor from Foucault’s description of the supreme dream of a ruler in which the plague becomes a utopian biopolitical situation of establishing utter control over all individual bodies governed.6Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan, Vintage Books, 1995, p. 199. According to Agamben, a ruler’s dream of having a plagued state, in which he rules in such a way that naked survival eventually becomes the only social value, abolishes sociality.7Agamben, Giorgio. “Razjašnjenja” [“Clarifications”]. Translated by Novica Milić. Libreto, libreto.rs/2020/03/19/krunska-pisma-5-agamben-17-marta/. It seems, in fact, that in a state of emergency, there can be no sociality: the only thing that can exist there is us as “reduced biological situations” whose best interest is generated outside of us, shaped through restrictions and constant surveillance, and motivated by an endless production of fear of insecurity, and not by rational choice. Under such circumstances, an individual cannot be the true owner of their own persona and affairs – their independence, sovereignty, and inherently promised self-actualization are seriously compromised by the unchosen, state-imposed concern for bare life.
Although many will agree with Agamben that a life reduced to mere survival is unworthy of the name, few went so far as to deny the importance of urgent measures in the name of freedom – the independence and sovereignty from which sociality was then to be built – or, in other words, to oppose a pandemic event. Roberto Esposito thus argued that while humanity is essentially characterized by its social nature, herd immunity (as one of the possible state responses to the virus) is the most current form of thanatopolitics, even eugenics. Jean-Luc Nancy calls for an exemption for this virus, as well as recognition of its exceptional status. It is not that the measures are exceptional, it is the virus that is exceptional. In its exceptionality, it pandemizes us all, turning governments into “pitiful executors,” not creators of a new paradigm of governance.8See Esposito, Roberto. “The Biopolitics of Immunity in Times of COVID-19: An Interview with Roberto Esposito.” Antipodes, 16 June 2020, antipodeonline.org/2020/06/16/interview-with-roberto-esposito/.; Jean-Luc, Nancy, “Virusni izuzetak” [“Viral Exception”]. Translated by Ivan Milenković. Libreto, libreto.rs/2020/03/24/krunska-pisma-27-nansi/. Even though this discussion might seem to be a bickering of savants who, in an effort to confirm their own theoretical standpoints, renounce the complexity of the situation,9See Gironi, Fabio. “On the Philosophy that Should Not Be.” Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, 26 Apr. 2020, identitiesjournal.edu.mk/index.php/IJPGC/announcement/view/41.; Owen, Joseph. “States of Emergency, Metaphors of Virus, and COVID-19.” Verso, 31 March 2020, www.versobooks.com/blogs/4636-states-of-emergency-metaphors-of-virus-and-covid-19. that complexity is still very important for our context. Whether we agree with Agamben and claim that the state has maximized itself in relation to the individual because that is the essential structure of the current form of state existence, or whether we admit that it has maximized itself due to exceptional circumstances that led to its pandemization, one thing is certain: a pandemic event is also an event of a maximized state.
The epidemic, therefore, has spurred two parallel trends: individualization and the augmentation of the state. Moreover, the pandemic does not elevate the state to an (authoritarian) brute (although extremely crude authoritarian strategies were recorded in various parts of the world). Instead, relying on all previous crises since the beginning of this century, the state positions itself in the role of supreme protector, a benevolent Leviathan whose body is composed of countless bodies of subjects who thirstily and anxiously look up to their sovereign, entirely dependent on his wisdom and rationality.
The 1651 cover of Hobbes’ Leviathan is extremely appropriate today – one might even say more appropriate than at any other point in the last four centuries. Individuals are tiny bodies composing the gigantic, symbolic body of their ruler. They do not look at each other or in any vague direction. Their backs are turned toward the viewer. Evenly distributed and properly arranged, all their gazes fix on a single point – the face of the sovereign. The neoliberal discovery that there is no society pushes the individual to the foreground (tiny bodies are torn loose from the sovereign’s body, still without looking at each other or in any other vague direction), and strictly insists that the individual is determined by their ability to care for themselves independently. In moments of crisis, however, all individuals reassemble into the Leviathan body, separated but integrated by the body of the sovereign. Instead of “routine” independence, individuals are now asked to cede their independence to the state and to adhere to its constant demand that self-care is the only recommended form of care available to the individual.
This counterintuitive combination of injunctions is part of a specific relationship that is now established between the state and the individual – whether the state acts paternalistically (or maternalistically), in an authoritarian or indifferent manner. During the pandemic, the state demands individual responsibility (enforced through gentle or strict measures), and the individual willingly or reluctantly agrees to these demands while recognizing the state as the sole protector – precisely because the individual is being asked to, at least in part, give up their independence.
Of course, one might ask how this is possible. How is it possible to expect protection from those who have dismantled and destroyed common goods for decades, how is it possible that the first reaction to the “Italian scenario” is not a revolted cry for the state to take responsibility for the destruction of healthcare and other social welfare systems through privatization and the planned erosion of social cohesion? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the individual as a political entity can only exist in circumstances where it is implied that social welfare systems do not exist or are deteriorated, and because the entities that channeled and socially shaped the needs of individuals no longer exist or have been altered beyond recognition. Nowadays, there are individuals who take care of their personal needs, and there is the state, which comes into play especially when individuals fear that they cannot take care of themselves. This establishes an immediate, direct relationship that allows the individual to remain suspicious of any other form of social interaction and to focus only on themselves in articulating their personal interests, while the state remains a guarantor of protecting the individual from “unaccountable” threats such as terrorism, immigrants, and viruses. During the pandemic, it became apparent that we had long since become accustomed to “replacing the horizontal and associational systems of solidarity with the vertical relationship of each individual and the protector state.”10Rancière, Jacques. “L’essence de l’Etat contemporain.” Le Grand Continent, 10 March 2020, legrandcontinent.eu/fr/2020/03/10/la-crainte-et-lessence-de-letat/.; See also De Gruyter, Caroline. “Fear of Loneliness. How the State Uses Insecurity?” European Council on Foreign Relations, 17 March 2020, www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_fear_of_loneliness_how_the_state_uses_insecurity.
How does the state take care of the individual during a pandemic? The state speaks to me, it protects me when it orders me constant and callous self-centeredness. The state protects me from my child (by closing kindergartens and schools), my partner (through initial assessments of the necessity of physical distance that goes so far as to invade the marital bed), my aging parents (for whom special measures are determined which, given their non-economic status, are easier to apply, completely ignoring the issues of dignity). By turning everyone else into a source of contagion, the state becomes the only entity that can be trusted, at least temporarily, as long as the urgency of the measures is justified by the pandemic event. By closing the borders to outsiders – which was the first foreign policy act for a vast number of states to reduce the influx of the “foreign” virus – the state caused individuals to close their personal borders as well.
Of course, those who could shut themselves off and remain isolated. Those who could work from home and carry on as if everything were normal, those who could rearrange some aspects of their lives so that they could simulate normality. The fact is that since the beginning of the pandemic, there were many who, in order to carry on with their economic activities, had to leave their homes – and come into contact with others, at a time when such contact was synonymous with acting against one’s personal interests. There were also many who, in economic terms, had to act insufficiently responsibly because the obligations and responsibilities within these “new normal” circumstances became more numerous and complex. There were, finally, those who had no home or whose home was a collective place and, by definition, close, viscous, and dirty. At least for a short time, those who enabled an individual to be self-sufficient were made visible and highlighted (and then forgotten again).
This specific insensitivity or disregard for all those who do not fit into the rather narrow framework of a sovereign owner of their personal affairs should not come as a surprise. It is a problem that cannot be disentangled from the genealogy of the idea of the individual. Although individuals have always been thought of as anyone and no one in particular, as a concept that is universally applicable and abstract in content, individuals have always belonged to a relatively select set of those who followed and could follow their own best interests – which in itself has a very normative meaning.11Zaharijević, Adriana. Ko je pojedinac? Genealoško propitivanje ideje građanina. Karpos, 2014. The extent to which “individuals” are entities defined by class, race, and gender is especially evident in times of crisis, when all individuals should self-isolate, when everyone should continue to perform their economic activities, when everyone should stay at home. At this point, we can address the second issue with the pandemic translation of the trope of the individual who, left only to themselves, autonomously follows their best interests.
Are women also individuals, and can they pursue their own interests as men do? In a home-work unit, do all members function as if they were actually in the workplace, acting “responsibly” toward their personal economic activities? Even in the case of a nuclear family with no particularly vulnerable members over 65, in which there are no members with disabilities, members with autoimmune diseases; even in the case of a well-to-do family whose members can work from home, doing tasks that can be done virtually; even in the case of a couple that values equality and builds a community beyond patterns of violence, the division of household work and childcare persist as a condition for the possibility of “normal” economic performance, as a condition for the possibility of someone being an individual. According to the data showing that unpaid household work and care jobs during the pandemic have become even more consistently gendered compared to the pre-pandemic period, it seems that there cannot be more than one individual in the home-work unit, and that individual is most likely male.12Margolis Eleanor, “Stop this retro nonsense about lockdown being a return to domestic bliss for women.” The Guardian, 23 Apr. 2020, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/23/lockdown-women-domestic-struggle-coronavirus-crisis.; Chung, Heejung. “The return of the 1950s housewife? How to stop coronavirus lockdown reinforcing sexist gender roles.” The Conversation, 30 March 2020, theconversation.com/return-of-the-1950s-housewife-how-to-stop-coronavirus-lockdown-reinforcing-sexist-gender-roles-134851.; Stroh, Perlita. “Pandemic threatens to wipe out decades of progress for working mothers.” CBC, 17 Aug. 2020, www.cbc.ca/news/business/women-employment-covid-economy‑1.5685463. In addition, there is no need to emphasize that the structure of the home-work unit is rarely so ideal. For women, the home can become a place from which they need to escape, but when that was made impossible by a lockdown, the home might literally become a dungeon.13See reports and statistics on the impact of the pandemic on gender equality, for example www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/in-focus-gender-equality-in-covid-19-response; see also Q&A regarding violence against women during the pandemic on the World Health Organization website, posted very early, on 15 Apr. 2020 – www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q‑a-detail/violence-against-women-during-covid‑9?gclid=CjwKCAjw5p_8BRBUEiwAPpJO64vctncs_FpirBxnLbcWfgsVL6Pu48m3NmFAiCFT9A_VHIIkTXDXqBoCNdEQAvD_BwE.
In order for individuals to be able to obey the state and remain closed off, i.e., be able to self-isolate, those individuals had to be looked after by a large number of people who were recognized, at least briefly, as essential – the ones collecting garbage, baking bread, depositing salaries and pensions, producing toilet paper, selling medication, assisting births that did not stop happening during the pandemic, looking after newborn babies in neonatology sections, burying the dead, making sure the electricity and the plumbing are working.14Zaharijević, Adriana. “Kako nas je virus podsetio da smo društvena bića?” Voxfeminae, 18 March 2020, voxfeminae.net/pravednost/kako-nas-je-virus-podsjetio-da-smo-drustvena-bica/. In order for individuals to self-isolate, to become beings without skin, without hands, untouchable, excluded from physical transactions, as digital consumers, digital visitors, digital lovers; outside of and beyond encounters and exchanges; contactless, hidden behind real or virtual masks such as the Zoom platform; purchasers of a package whose name is an account that pays for a distant business concern,15Preciado, Paul B. Ibid. someone had to deliver the package to the door in person; someone had to wrap it; someone had to assemble its contents; someone had to procure raw materials. These others are now referred to as “essential workers” – essential because they allow us to maintain some semblance of the possibility of being and remaining individuals in states that have devastated essential subsystems of social welfare.
If the Victorians thought that individuals are those who constantly isolate themselves from others, who are always and primarily attuned to themselves by their personal interests, then quarantine sheds light on the whole illusion that such a position entails, in which every life is presented as a potential Robinsonade. The quarantine shows that between me and my self-isolation stands a great number of others who make it possible (while the number of essential workers is by no means limited to those most exposed – health care workers), as well as a whole range of those who cannot self-isolate or can do so only partially. The pandemic has, therefore, also shed light on society (or what is left of it), peeking out from behind the individual, who is neglected and squandered by the state. We should not forget the words of Boris Johnson, spoken from deep self-isolation, just before he was taken to hospital (which was then the first case of a high-ranking state official being infected): “One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society.”16“There is such a thing as society, says Boris Johnson from Bunker.” Guardian, 29 March 2020, www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/mar/29/20000-nhs-staff-return-to-service-johnson-says-from-coronavirus-isolation. As if to deliberately contradict his predecessor, who had declared that society does not exist, Johnson thanks – which is the same kind of performative gratitude we heard from the world’s highest state authorities in different languages during the first few weeks of the pandemic – doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and vendors. They are society, although at least some of them should be part of the state, and they exist alongside us who are individuals.
The “society” that peeked out from behind the individual, without which the world populated by the owners of their own bodies, personas, and affairs obviously could not exist at all, is fundamentally unequal, and its inequality is reflected precisely in the fact that it is composed of those who cannot obey the injunction of the state to take care of themselves. They take care of the individual so that the individuals can follow their own interests and maintain the appearance of their own self-sufficiency.
What did the pandemic teach us, as individuals? To the virus, we were all really anyone and no one in particular; to the virus, we are only individuals: hollow, empty, genderless, colorless, asocial bodies that it makes its host. But the virus has also opened up a world of fundamental inequality that persists to serve the fiction about self-sufficient individuals and a state that can be removed from individuals’ affairs. By placing us in a situation where the degree of sociality is determined by the degree of isolation – rather than by social responsibility or social justice – the virus has shown us to the extent to which we do not normally live isolated in our self-sufficiency. We are determined by the surfaces of the world on which we leave traces of ourselves, and, in turn, without knowing it or wanting to, we pick up traces of others. These surfaces make us porous within our own borders, while masks, visors, and rubber gloves show how difficult, and perhaps impossible, it is to erect walls around our bodies. The virus has shown us that we are all vulnerable.17Butler, Judith. “Mourning is a Political Act amid the Pandemic and its Disparities.” Truthout, 30 Apr. 2020, truthout.org/articles/judith-butler-mourning-is-a-political-act-amid-the-pandemic-and-its-disparities/. Invulnerability is impossible precisely because we are in-discrete, un-isolatable, and intrinsically inseparable. The virus has also shown us that vulnerability is distributed disparately and that the state works in favor to maintain this inequality.
When the vaccine race began, the World Health Organization urged that the vaccine be made available globally, rather than promoting “vaccine nationalism.”18So far, the Global Vaccine Access Initiative (COVAX) has been joined by 172 countries, which do not list three key players in vaccine testing and production – the United States, China, and Russia. See Kamradt-Scott, Adam. “Why ‘vaccine nationalism’ could come up with a plan for global access to a COVID-19 vaccine.” The Conversation, 7 Sept. 2020, theconversation.com/why-vaccine-nationalism-could-doom-plan-for-global-access-to-a-covid-19-vaccine-145056. This attitude was most welcome: there can be no healthy nation in ill humanity. Perhaps even more encouraging was today’s news that, in the event of the discovery of the vaccine and its global availability, it will be necessary to implement thorough triage while defining priorities. Essential workers, the elderly, people with special health risks – in other words, people hidden behind functional, “normal” economic individuals – will take priority.19Rourke, Alison. “Global Covid report: young and healthy may not get vaccine until 2022, WHO says.” The Guardian, 15 Oct. 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/15/global-covid-report-young-and-healthy-may-not-get-vaccine-until-2022-who-says. The virus has shown us that not all lives are equally important. Perhaps we can learn from the “epidemiological situation” that this has far-reaching consequences.