The Strong Solidarity Created by a Crisis – Can We Maintain It?

COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise. There are already over 4 million cases, and the numbers are set to grow as we have yet to find a vaccine to help us deal with this health crisis.

However, it’s still amazing to see how people, regardless of nation, creed or political affiliation, show strong solidarity during these times. It seems that our collective experience as humans binds us more closely together when we are beset by a crisis.

But the question remains: Can we maintain it?

A stronger feeling of belonging

Experience and studies tell us that when we are subjected to stress, we tend to withdraw or retaliate as a manifestation of frustration and anger. However, exposure to both acute and chronic stress — situations where people realise things that are happening are beyond their control and that the future is uncertain — tends to make us more generous and helpful.

The same can be said of crises in the scale of COVID-19, and during environmental, economic and political upheavals. These include hurricanes/typhoons, earthquakes, war or civil unrest, and financial crises like the last GFC. These major events affect not only one person or community, but also the rest of humanity. Even in the case of localised disasters, like earthquakes in Iran, tsunamis in Japan, hurricanes in the United States, heat waves in Europe, forest fires in Australia and typhoons in Asia, we find ourselves commiserating with our fellow human beings.

One thing used to explain this behaviour is the tend-and-befriend theory which posits that we tend to affiliate when subjected to stress. And although this behaviour is usually attributed to women, studies involving male subjects also show how men engage in prosocial behaviour as well during times of acute stress. 

This explains why, even as we wish to simply turn away from undesirable situations, we cannot, as we have natural impulses such as empathy and communality which are instrumental in the survival of our species.

These natural impulses help us to seek comfort in one another and keep hope alive as we do what we can to alleviate one another’s situation.

Signs of solidarity in times of crisis

Currently, as we continue to struggle together against the global pandemic that is COVID-19, we see individuals, governments, NGOs, businesses and various groups and collectives helping together as one.

People, both rich and poor, are giving help in cash and in kind to various organisations actively engaged in alleviating people’s plights in this period of uncertainty. Work stoppages are everywhere and economies are failing, yet it is during these times when humanity thrives.

In the face of shortages in terms of personal protection equipment and masks, various entities have rushed to help, donating PPEs, masks, gloves, alcohol and other hygiene material requirements to frontliners. There were even trending posts on ordinary people giving away alcohol and masks to people on the street. Young people continue to step up as active volunteers in the distribution of goods, especially food, to those who have no income.

Animal welfare groups have banded together to feed not only the strays but also provide donations in cash and in kind to pet owners and animal shelters in dire need of assistance.

NGOs have extended their assistance to farmers whose harvests are at risk of spoilage when the movement of goods is hampered by quarantines or stay-at-home orders. They have found ways to help farmers dispose of their crops while at the same providing consumers access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

And how can we forget the viral video created in Italy, of people singing from their balconies as a message of hope. These are just a few of the instances when we have shown each other that there is solidarity when we need it the most.

Can solidarity become evergreen?

As mentioned, the big question here is whether the solidarity we continue to exhibit today can last.

Again, experience tells us that sometimes we do forget. During times of plenty, we usually go back to our routine of overconsumption and detachment.

Every 20th of December, we celebrate the International Day of Human Solidarity, as a reminder of the fact that we are one species and that it is governments’ obligation to honour this in all of their dealings. Whether it’s facing a climate disaster, health crisis or an economic meltdown, we are all in this together.

However, the question remains unanswered as humans seem to require constant reminders to act beyond their immediate convenience and freedom. There are those who care no matter what, but for most of us, our focus seems to be on our own daily personal struggles.

But there is hope yet, as the current situation is telling us. We can and do care about others because what happens to our neighbours can likely happen to us. The only way we can overcome these crises is by banding together and looking out for each other’s safety and welfare.

Let’s continue what we started

We’re on the right course, no matter how terrible the current circumstances may seem. We only need to stay the course and we will survive this pandemic together — and probably emerge as better human beings.

The same can be said of hand hygiene.

Continue what you started and keep using Your Sanitiser — your partner in health during COVID-19 and beyond.