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Disasters and crises bring out the best in us

Old Assumptions About Human Behaviour

Studying the natural disasters of the past, sociologists agree that while news reports lean towards the negative, a vast majority of people, good samaritans, doctors, nurses, government servants stay calm and help to the best of their abilities. While there can be panic and fear, caring for the other becomes common.

Economists and politicians often have views based on logical projection and past data, but human beings are an evolving race, and many assumptions now need to be overhauled.

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Disasters and crises bring out the best in us

Disasters and crises bring out the best in us

https://ideas.ted.com/disasters-and-crises-bring-out-the-best-in-us/

ideas.ted.com

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Key Ideas

Human Behaviour During Crises

Human beings may seem selfish and illogical during times of crisis, but there is evidence that disasters and crises bring out the best in us.

There are reports and sightings of people from different ethnic backgrounds and countries helping and motivating each other, providing much-needed support.

Communities all across the world are strengthening, with people volunteering to help in every aspect, spreading kindness, hope and charity.

Old Assumptions About Human Behaviour

Studying the natural disasters of the past, sociologists agree that while news reports lean towards the negative, a vast majority of people, good samaritans, doctors, nurses, government servants stay calm and help to the best of their abilities. While there can be panic and fear, caring for the other becomes common.

Economists and politicians often have views based on logical projection and past data, but human beings are an evolving race, and many assumptions now need to be overhauled.

Bad Times Are Good

A crisis helps draw awareness towards our fellow human beings, with our starting to embrace dependency, community, and solidarity, something not visible in normal circumstances.

Though we have to keep a physical distance in these strange times, we embrace each other more warmly.

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Handling pandemics

When faced with threats so dangerous as the current pandemic, individuals may react in two main ways: they become whether more selfish or more caring in regards to the people around them. 

...
People's behavior in times of disaster

The available research on the topic mostly shows us that, when faced with a disaster, people tend to be more caring and more concerned about the ones around them. 

Different forms of selflessness are easily reachable by individuals during natural disasters.

Technology and solidarity

While technology may enable us today to stay connected with our friends, families as well as to keep working, it does not bring us the key to solidarity. 

The issue emerges whenever there are long periods of time that require social distancing, as individuals are forced to stay away from their group of friends or families. In order to still remain socially active, one might want to consider becoming more involved in the local community's activities.

Byproducts of Crises
Byproducts of Crises

During war times, the common man is least prepared for dealing with the drastic change of circumstances, displacement, loss of life of the self and loved ones, along with injury, loss of property a...

Benefits Of A Crisis

During the peak of World War II, where it was expected that the citizens would go through hell, the opposite happened. People turned out to be more resilient, driven and motivated during the war.

The looming threat of being dead at any time turned out to be beneficial for the mental conditions and toughness for the individuals. Suicides lessened, and social unity and community bonding increased manifold.

At Home With Adversity
  • We, as human beings are naturally adaptive to a disaster or crisis, and bad times are improving our morale and strengthening our community spirit.
  • Groups of people collaborating, caring for and working with each other, hand in hand, are the ones who are most likely to live through any crisis.
  • The necessary conditions that we need to flourish as individuals and as a species, ironically, emerge during bad times.

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The new virus

They are a group of viruses that cause respiratory infections, including the common cold.
They can infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. They can reach t...

The symptoms

Common symptoms: coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Non-respiratory symptoms (feeling nauseous, vomiting having diarrhea) were also reported.
The virus is more violent with the elderly, the very young and with individuals that have a weak immune system. The majority of those infected however recover after a few days.

Spreading the virus

Coughs or sneezes from an infected person are the most likely to spread the virus. So it's essential to follow basic hygiene rules:

  • Wash your hand often during the day.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your inner elbow or a napkin.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands.
  • Stay inside if you have any of the symptoms and avoid interacting with people that show signs of the infection as well.

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Missing the signs
Missing the signs

There are many known psychological processes that cause individuals and organizations to miss the signs of a coming crisis – even when the signs are noticeable.

One reason is known as the...

Optimism bias

One possible reason for the "optimism bias" is found in the way we learn new information. People are quicker to change their beliefs when the information is better than expected, compared to information that is worse than expected.

  • If people were told that lockdown would be eased in two weeks, people would quickly update their beliefs. But if experts said it would last longer, people would be less likely to update their beliefs. They will make statements like "I don't really believe it" or "things change."
  • People may underestimate their personal risk of infection.
  • People may fail to adopt precautions like social distancing.
Outcomes bias

Outcomes bias it thinking that because things turned out reasonably good, we can underestimate how close they came to going wrong.

In the past 20 years, there have been two outbreaks of diseases caused by the new viruses. The outbreak of 2003 killed 774 people before it was contained, and the Mers outbreak in 2012 has killed 858. The new virus has far surpassed both.

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Insight from literature

Over the history of Western literature about pandemics, much has been said in the way of catharsis, ways of dealing with intense emotion, and political commentary on how people respond to public he...

Stories help us to think

Homer's Iliad opens with a plague visited upon the Greek camp at Troy. The Decameron (1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio is set during the Black Death.

The stories offer the listeners ways to consider how similar crises have been managed previously, and how to reorganize their daily lives, which have been suspended due to the epidemic.

Authority's failure to respond
  • Mary Shelley's apocalypse novel The Last Man (1826), depicts the life of Lionel Verney, who becomes the last man after a devastating global plague. The book criticizes the institutional responses to the plague, showing the revolutionary utopianism and the in-fighting that breaks out among surviving groups before they also die.
  • The short story, The Masque of the Red Death (1842), also shows the failures o authority figures to respond to a disaster appropriately.

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Stoicism: the art of staying calm

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“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skilful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”

“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skilful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”

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Attention and Mindfulness

Life passes us by in a hurry, and if we pay close attention, even to routine and boring chores, we are slowly able to get insights, which weren't visible before.

Zen-like attention

To pay attention is to be present, not just in the body — but also in the spirit. Paying close attention, and being mindful invokes a different feeling, and unpeels the outer layers of life.

A Million Distractions

Compared to the earlier centuries. the modern world has millions of things that demand our attention. Previous century works of poetry and literature are almost inconceivable now.

In this present age of distraction, it is even more important to preserve and nurture your precious attention.

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Using music

During the plague of Saint Charles in the summer of 1576, religious gatherings were banned in Italy for fear of contagion. But nothing could stand in the people's way.

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Music connects

Music is a very powerful tool during quarantine. People in Italy, Spain, and the wider world are using music to bring their communities together.

When you're making music, you submit your mind and body to its regulation. When you're doing the Macarena with your neighbors, you're contributing to the larger goal of the group and inspire global solidarity.

Other benefits of music

Since the time of ancient Greece, medicine claimed that maintaining a positive mind can help treat physical disease.

  • During the Renaissance, patients were encouraged to compose and study art and play music.
  • When plague approached England, Henry VIII chose his organ player as one of the five men he quarantined with.

Music asks that we laugh, and sing, and dance, and seems to be a real antidote to fear, just as the Renaissance doctors claimed.

Loneliness before quarantine

We crave intimacy. And yet, long before the present pandemic, with its forced isolation and social distancing, humans had begun building their own separate cells. 

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Loneliness is a form of grief

It is an umbrella term we use to cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix.
Plenty of people like to be alone. But solitude and seclusion are different from loneliness. Loneliness is a state of profound distress.

The evolutionary theory of loneliness

Primates need to belong to an intimate social group in order to survive; this is especially true for humans.
Separation from your group (either finding yourself alone or finding yourself among a group of people who do not know and understand you) triggers a fight-or-flight response.

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