They say that there are at least three impossible vocations in this world. The first one is to be a preacher and adviser on religious and existential issues, helping people to sort out this life and be prepared for the hereafter. The second impossible vocation is to be a doctor or another medical worker, making decisions about peoples’ health, life, and sometimes even the opposite. The third impossible vocation is to be a teacher, helping young people to learn about the past, the present and the future, so they can find good ways to live.

We could make the list of impossible vocations longer, and now during the corona pandemic, we realise that there are many difficult and impossible vocations. Whatever experts do and say, even with good justifications and references, they will be criticised. If they say they don’t know for sure, as any good experts should say, they are certainly criticised. They present options, with pros and cons, and leave the decisions and priorities to the politicians, and whatever the elected politicians decide, with the best intentions, they will be criticised, and if they should change their minds, they will again be criticised.

I am glad for not being in a position where I have to make decisions about technical or political issues in this difficult time of the corona pandemic. Also, to be a preacher at this time is particularly difficult when more people than usual fall sick and pass away. To be a teacher, too, as I have been most of my life, is again more difficult than before since there are so many things we don’t know about the effects of the pandemic and how the world will be.

I shall in today’s article not only be philosophical, but also concrete and report on some corona experiences from my home country Norway and the Scandinavian region. It can be educational to learn about how the richest countries in the world handle the current situation, and it can be comforting to know that they were not quite well prepared, that they are not always sure what to do, and that they will have serious long-term problems related to employment, social issues, economic rebuilding, and so on. The rich countries’ experts and politicians, too, are in impossible vocations now, perhaps even more than in poorer countries, since we all look to the rich countries for good ways to handle the crisis – and for them to find vaccines and medicines soon.

We should all show understanding for the work of experts and politicians at this time, as long as they do their utmost. In democracies, it is the politicians we rely on and criticise. It is the politicians who decide on our behalf. They have to weigh and balance facts and opinions, consider local contexts, and so on, indeed costs and financing issues of it all. In many countries, temporary emergency laws have been adopted, giving the leaders a freer hand and more power to handle the current crisis. Sometimes, the leaders are given authority to decide by decree, justified by the emergency of actions, putting aside lengthy discussions and studies. But in democratic countries, parliamentarians must be informed and criticism can be extended in hindsight.

In many countries, including my home country Norway, the government in power has sought cooperation with the opposition, setting aside much of the traditional party politics. When they decided on a lockdown and other restrictions, the various party leaders praised each other for constructive cooperation. It seemed evident that the measures had become better than if the government had been allowed to handle the crisis alone. Let me add that since Norway is a small country with a very strong economy, including the world’s largest government saving fund (based on huge profits from the country’s oil industry) the politicians have not faced the same financial problems as most other countries. In spite of massive emergency measures, they have only spent one percent or so of the country’s savings.

The measures that the Norwegian politicians have put in place seem to have worked very well; less than 250 people have died from the coronavirus thus far in a population of 5.3 million, and those who fall very sick are treated well in hospital. Yet, many people have been laid off and given unemployment benefits; many factories and other businesses are in trouble or have had to close. Schools and universities have been closed, although with some distance education; old people’s homes, including such giving medical care, have not allowed visitors; many people have been advised to work from home; commuters have been advised against using public transport, and so on. These restrictions and others have had the intended positive effects, but they have also had unintended, but perhaps foreseen, negative effects, such as increased child abuse and other domestic violence, increased depressions and other psychological illnesses, and more.

In Norway and the other Scandinavian countries, it has come to light that the social services are not as good as they should have been in the world’s best welfare states; often staff are underpaid, not well trained and on temporary contracts. When the corona pandemic has well ended, there will be many critical issues to discuss, indeed since a high number of the deaths have taken place in old people’s homes, in spite of authorities knew the very old were particularly vulnerable and they said they would be given high protection.

After the corona pandemic, we will also discuss the lack of preparedness for crises such as the current pandemic. How come we were so poorly prepared, with insufficient stores of medicines and equipment, and so on? In recent decades, many crises and expert committees under the World Health Organisation (WHO) and at national levels have pointed out that epidemics do occur at intervals. In addition, we have swept under the carpet the need for actions against other unnecessary diseases, all from malaria, malnutrition, lack of clean water, to epidemics that we know occur every five to ten years. In today’s world – or should we say, in yesterday’s world before corona – when tens of thousands of people flew from one corner of the world to the next every day, diseases will reach most or all countries in a very short time. In spite of all the science and technology we have nowadays, we seem to have put our heads in the sand, like ostriches. We have not yet become members of the knowledge society we like to believe we belong to. Although it is a topic for several separate articles, let me mention that security issues and emergency preparedness have been handled badly in many countries in recent decades, including in Scandinavia.

This means that in future, after the pandemic is over, there will be need for constructive criticism of actions, of politicians and experts, yes, of people in the impossible vocations and others. We will all have a common duty to criticise and help build back better in the years and decades to come.