Emanuele Gatti is an Italian and German, he is a staunch pro-European. Having received his education in the field of bioengineering, he has always combined management and academic activities. He was the CEO of a German multinational company for 17 years and now focuses mainly on the academic activities he leads in Austria and Germany. He is the President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt (Germany) and Scientific Advisor to Venture Capital Funds and Small and Medium Enterprises (i.e. medium-sized innovative enterprises). He has received several awards for his social, humanitarian and professional work in Italy as well as in Germany and Austria. He is married and has two daughters.
Q: You have traveled a lot. Let’s try to travel back in time together? When will we get out of the emergency?
A: I am optimistic that we in the West will soon come out of a certain phase of the epidemic, that is, we will not allow a repeat of the period during which a large number of deaths and hospitalizations were observed. Science is progressing very rapidly, both in terms of vaccines and in terms of treating the disease. Clinical studies of pathophysiological processes will allow us to better understand what actually happens after the virus has entered the human body, and, therefore, to develop appropriate protection. The time for a global exit from the pandemic will depend on the speed of vaccination of most of the world’s population, which is not so easy. In my opinion, reaching most people quickly will have two benefits: saving lives and preventing the continuous replication of the virus, with ever-changing and possibly more lethal options. We must understand that the salvation of an individual is possible only with the salvation of all. It can be argued that this requires tremendous economic effort to produce the required doses of vaccine in hundreds of regimens. Let me stress that the damage to the economy from this pandemic is enormous. Moreover, the constant development of new vaccines for new variants will not be an insignificant effort. So the only choice is whether to be proactive or wait for the worst instead. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic should finally teach us that monetary health care costs are not costs, but investments that pay off enormously. However, countless questions still remain, for example in relation to pediatric care, so the process will be long: we must forget about returning to what we call the norm. From some points of view, I would say, thank God.
Q: In what sense?
A: The spread of this huge world tragedy is also the result of lifestyles and social development that have been criticized but have not changed for a peaceful life and for the sake of predominant economic interests. We exploited the territory, creating absurd agglomerations, “packing” the population, and now we want to achieve social distancing; we have created a society of “shopping”, not consumption, because we do not consume, but produce a huge amount of waste; we have polluted the air; and now we also notice the damage caused by the transmission of viruses; we have allowed production models to grow that make it impossible to take care of the family and work at the same time; we significantly underpaid most of the world’s population to produce goods at low prices that we uselessly buy and often throw away.
Q: This is also a very important topic, but personally, where can we start?
A: We must give everything possible to the first cell of society, that is, to the small, but at the same time, large world of the family, in order to avoid further “Covid division”, that is, an increase in inequality between families and between members of the same family. First of all, we must renew the psychological education of families more actively, with greater determination and with more funds. The support of specialists at the stage of deliberate creation of a new family will help to avoid problems that appear now. In addition, parenting often turns out to be only an “improvisation” of the parents, and in many difficult cases this is not enough. Separately, it is necessary to consider support for families in difficult situations, which does not consist only in necessary, and often absent, economic assistance. Of course, the financial situation makes it much easier for some to get through this phase, starting with the possibility of hiring helpers, tutors for children, but for others, and here we are talking about most people, the situation is rapidly deteriorating. People who do not have water and food live in vast territories, and solving this problem is, of course, a priority. I live in the Western world and, of course, I am not fully aware of its drama. However, along with these priorities, there is training and education. The opportunity for the prepared to enter this world, which will always require new knowledge and skills, should become a priority not only in words, but should also be implemented concretely. In the future there will be a need not only for scientific discoveries, but also for practical knowledge and the ability to work with hands, which, however, will decrease with the development of innovations. Many children and adolescents are now forced to engage in remote learning. We give everyone the opportunity to connect to the Internet and personally use a PC or other suitable tool. Parents should not be faced with the choice of which child will be able to access remote learning and which will not. Global network coverage, even in remote villages, should be a priority. We spend astronomical sums on military defense and do not protect new generations from the danger of social, cultural marginalization, do not provide them with technical and vocational education. Of course, the “network” is not a panacea for all ills: together with the infrastructure, we must ensure effective management.
Q: Why is the availability of communications so important?
A: I will give an example: in the present and even more so in the future, thanks to new technologies, we will be able to virtually visit museums, cities, places that are difficult to reach. Augmented reality and other new tools, if properly managed, will also allow those who lack physical and economic capabilities to move, travel the world. Not to mention new speech recognition technologies that will allow children from all over the world to express their thoughts in their own language and very easily communicate with those who speak another language. But there are some preconditions.
A: For example, it is necessary to re-develop in the “network” its original ethical function, which has disappeared or at least decreased for commercial purposes in recent years, it is necessary to adapt the training of teachers to the development of new technologies. It is imperative that the educator, especially in school, is not only an expert in his subject, but also possesses all the skills that enable young people, in addition to traditional schooling, to learn how to fit into the social context, become aware of their personality and contribute to sustainable development of society. We need the “media” to do their job correctly.
Q: In what sense?
A: In recent years, we have seen the proliferation of communications using channels other than traditional ones. With some naivety and, perhaps, utopianism, I believe that manipulating the news in their favor does enormous damage to society. Professionalism in communication is a fundamental element. New means, and, obviously, primarily traditional ones, should avoid spreading fake news among the population, copying and publishing press releases without checking them, etc. This is one of the reasons why public confidence has fallen dramatically.
Q: In what areas?
A: Let’s start with trust in the governing bodies and the ruling class. For a balanced analysis, it should be noted that we are going through an extremely difficult period. We did not expect this and were not ready for this. Could this be better dealt with? Maybe yes, if the ruling class listened to nature, which rebelled and urged us to stop torturing it? Or perhaps if the pandemic program were professionally developed and funded? Or if more funds were invested in research and treatment of people? Or if other countries began to help earlier than when there was a desperate situation? Only when the situation stabilizes will we be able to provide answers to these questions. However, the damage is now done. But the loss of trust has also spread to other categories, that is, regulators such as pharmaceutical agencies, the pharmaceutical industry itself, which we condemn but call the savior from the pandemic, and above all, the lack of trust manifests itself as pessimism, depression and loneliness.
Q: So the virus still has psychological consequences?
A: – Yes, of course, the most subtle, hardly recognizable and treatable. Covid-19 is likely to leave little, or perhaps even serious, chronic consequences for those who have had the disease (I mean complications in the respiratory organs, kidneys, and cardiovascular system). We will all have to radically rethink what we believe and doubt. I believe that, on the one hand, the immanent, everyday, has suffered greatly from the pandemic and will require special attention, but I hope that at this stage we have restored the need for the transcendent, which will be a turning point for recovery. I imagine that, having passed from the vertical line, we can return to life horizontally, that is, we will again turn our attention to our neighbor. In recent months, we have had time and opportunity to reflect, to look at ourselves from the inside and in the mirror, and in the future, I hope, we can reap the benefits. Suffering or loss of loved ones, so traumatic and sudden, can lead to serious eschatological contemplation. These trends and changes are not visible in the short term, but a small flame of hope can be seen in my opinion.
Q: For example?
A: The aspiration of many to provide support to the disadvantaged, the generosity of many volunteers, the revival of ethical values in the profession, the sacrifices that many healthcare workers make in these dramatic moments, and so on. Of course, I am not the most qualified person to talk about this, but I see a certain “cleansing” of the crust of formalism and traditions in the religious faith of many, a return to the basics. However, we must avoid that the focus of global communication is directed only to a return to “normality”, understood as useless and consumer hedonism. Unfortunately, the mass media of the Western world do not help in this sense. We need to empower those people who no longer agree or may have never agreed with the principles of our lives that have failed to speak out loudly and firmly. Only in this way will we get out of this pandemic, which is not only a sanitary but also an infectious disease in the sense that it spreads false myths.
Q: How do we get out of this?
A: I prefer to interpret this question as follows: what will we be like when we get out of this crisis? Our task is to work on getting out of it, to become better and to convince others to work with us. Some manufacturing sectors will disappear or be in a very difficult situation, and others will emerge, new and prosperous; the gap between rich and poor within and between countries will widen; we will come out with a sense of solidarity, perhaps sincere, or perhaps some states will pursue hegemonic goals; we will pay more attention to the physical and psychological health of people; the level of digitalization of the population will grow significantly; technology platforms will appear to treat other diseases using the COVID-19 experience; we will be careful to provide qualified and above all honest work to those who have lost or never had. But one thing is for sure: we will doubt. The blow from the pandemic has shaken the status quo, and only by agreeing to doubt, “I doubt it means I exist”, can we work on building a new way of life and communication, knowing that the next pandemic, which will come one day, should not be caught us unprepared.