Mind Matterz

Corona Reflections # 3: Community Psychology Matters!

  • Shraddha C. Sankulkar
  • 20-Apr-2020

Since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has been galloping towards new standards of living. With the turn of the 20th century, the IT revolution has further advanced us to benefit from the marvels of science and technology. But today when we helplessly sit at our homes, witnessing the bizarre turn of events due to the Coronavirus pandemic, one wonders about its socio-economic aftermath.

Besides medical & economic solutions, it is need of the hour to find holistic solutions to build a society that would empower us all in the post-coronavirus world. For that experts from various behavioural sciences like Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Public Administration need to work hand in hand with the economist, medical experts, business houses, technocrats, government & philanthropists of the world.

Talking about Psychology, very few are aware of one of its sub-field called 'Community Psychology', which I believe, can effectively contribute to organize the world here after. Community Psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with person-environment interactions and the ways society affects individual and community functioning.

Various research from ecological psychology, environmental psychology, critical psychology, cross-cultural psychology, social psychology, political science, public health, sociology, social work, applied anthropology, and community development, fuses into the applied scope of Community Psychology.

Community living has been diminishing over the ages. Especially, when the world transited from Agricultural to Industrial to IT lifestyle. As we depend on gadgets and the virtual world, it is obvious that our direct interactions with other humans has been minimizing. But if you notice, since the outbreak of the pandemic, we are seeing people coming together and singing in their balconies, lighting lamps, helping each other, feeding the poor, showing compassion towards the helpless & praying for everyone's well-being and finding value in connecting with each other. Why does this happen during a crisis?

When people come together to combat a common threat, then a warm feeling is experienced by the members of the commune/family/neighbourhood/country etc. They no more feel lonely or isolated as, the chemicals named Oxytocin & Endorphin are released in the brain which generates hope & sense of security within an individual. The individual feels a sense of belonging and gets spiritual strength to fight the threat collectively. It is a research proved fact that, just the perception of ‘being together’ helps people sail through difficult times. But unfortunately, once the threat perishes, everybody is seen retiring into the cocoon of their individualistic & digital culture, until the next collective crisis is experienced.

Its high time that nations of the world should recognize the importance of building a healthy community life for their respective citizens, particularly during their non-crisis times. This practice, I believe will eventually help the nations manage the public in crisis situations. Also notice the standards of community living that are being reported by media these days. The statistics of domestic conflicts & violence has increased world-wide. Besides this, mob lynching episodes are increasing in the lock down, where police officers are also getting attacked by angry people. Why is this happening? Well, humans have evolved out of animals and it’s a known fact that, more an animal is insecure, the more it will attack. Already the lock down has created huge anxiety within all, secondly there is a fearful vibe of the future and in all that if there is any provoking or suspicious trigger from around then, just like an angry or frightened animal lashes out, tensed people tend to do so. Had a Community Psychologist been consulted by organizations, government and police forces to manage the issues, then I am sure we would have got better solutions to manage the pandemic.

How does one install ‘sense of community’ in people? Well, disciplining the people of the nation for community benefit initiatives during non-crisis times will certainly generate sense of belonging and responsibility towards others, especially during the crisis times. For example, like Israel has made it mandatory for youth to undergo military training and also they have Kibbutz farming communities, which is an excellent example of installing ‘community welfare’ sentiment in the citizens. Another example that can be quoted, is Gandhiji’s call for spinning the charkha (handloom) during the Indian Freedom Struggle, for promoting purchase of home spun cloth, certainly had created a ‘sense of community’ among the then people of India. Individuals who participate in such initiatives thereby develop a mindset to look beyond oneself and live for the collective good. Lighting candles and singing songs in one’s balcony during a crisis can certainly help, but how long can the citizens sustain that ‘feel good’ sentiment. For people to really follow instructions that are released for community welfare, they need to have strong roots towards community living which has to be inculcated in non-crisis times. Its then and only then there will be civil & organized behaviour seen even in times of chaos.

Notice locations where communist philosophy still prevail, there has been good organization standards even in chaos. The Cuban doctors volunteered to help the Italians. Also, Cuba allowed the ship carrying coronavirus patients to be nursed on their land and its impressive to see that the state of Kerala, in India, has been applauded for the way the State government (which follows communist philosophy) managed to curb the coronavirus cases and provided best medical assistance to bounce back to normalcy. It’s certainly should be a matter of research is communism the key when the world is in crisis and is Capitalism the key when it is not? Well, I suggest, lets adopt the best of both the philosophies and thereby practice ‘Conscious Capitalism’ (as popularized by John Mackey & Raj Sisodia) in post COVID-19 havoc times. Had Darwin been alive today, he would have surely seen this phase as ‘time to adapt’ for the human species to upgrade on their socio-economic & also psychological standards for collective well-being!

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