Community resilience is the way forward: critically reflective academic commentary

1 De Montfort University, Leicester, London


*Author of Correspondence: Dr. Indrani Lahiri, De Montfort University, Leicester, London Email:

It is the great irony of human progress that as humanity has increased its control of nature it has become immeasurably more vulnerable to the power and products of human thought itself. Despite our technological mastery of disease, hunger and hostile environments, our technologies threaten species, habitats, cultures and, through nuclear weapons, the entire world. Our social gains have been equivocal: enlightenment and egalitarianism have failed, thus far, to achieve a rational, just and fulfilling world”.[1]

Post-quarantine world will certainly look different, but it is hard to visualise it yet. The ‘new normal’ will transform itself into a ‘newer normal’. What would life look like in a post- COVID-19 world? How much stronger do we aim to come back as individuals and communities? Designing a future starts with critical thinking and reflection, on the past, as a dialectical process, to better analyse and understand human actions driven by ideologies that shaped and nurtured it, as “ideologies are symbolic, affective, behavioural, and relational”[2]. Critical thinking is a tool for civic engagement and self-reliance[3]. The conscious reflection on the past experiences and actions give us the power to reconstitute our social life and assist in strengthening our future social actions[4]. The reflection on the pandemic times needs to be captured in some form, systematically and employing multidisciplinary lenses to produce the counter-hegemonic narrative to create tools for social change[3][5]. The future is complex and specific disciplinary paradigms cannot provide the solution to construct new modes of social operations. COVID-19 has yet again taught us the relevance of participatory, collaborative and emancipatory action research [7][8][9] as we face and examine the problematic situation[8]. Action research, however, have been often linked to cognitive models with minimal emphasis on the human emotions as neurobiological activity. According to Izard[10]cognition and emotion are “interactive and integrated”. One of the seven principles[10] by states,

“Basic emotion feelings help organize and motivate rapid (and often more-or-less automatic though malleable) actions that are critical for adaptive responses to immediate challenges to survival or wellbeing.”

The pandemic teaches us that by exploring the accounts of ways in which communities, families and social contacts have developed digitally enabled community resilience, emotional resilience, patterns of adaptability, continuity and change, and the interrelationships between the mental health and the digital sociality of the community, demands immediate action research[11]. By employing the emancipatory research paradigm, the model crucial to survival and well-being, can be developed, that promotes self-care, self- empowerment and self-efficacy within the community and does not prescribe, dictate or patronise, rather empowers communities. The lenses of our belief system play an important role based on our own experiences in life. Perception is situational, subjective, selective and unique to individuals. During these unprecedented times, the communities have come together to create their own subjective reality inspired by arts and music that may assist us to visualise pathways to resilience[12]. We want to consider those multiple perspectives, without negating, to build a representative picture of community resilience[13].Amidst all the adversities, the world is singing together to express gratitude. The terms like compassion, empathy, surfacing more on the public domain. Life has certainly become purposeful and meaningful, with unprecedented human costs. Whether we are civilised enough to hold on to these precious human values or revert back to the chase, is a question to be answered in the future[11].

We are adapting to a new situation. There is a huge potential to learn life lessons, if we can cultivate the practice of critical reflection (social, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual). Being critically reflective is an attitude that can be developed through continuous practice[12].In a time of global instability and uncertainty, ‘disorientations and re- orientations’[13] are the new normal that affects the way we think. Thoughts do have an impact on our actions and behaviours[14][11]. It is very much like, when we get a teaching frame institutionally imposed without much possibilities for change, then it affects our motivation and lowers productivity[15]. Freedom is therefore one of the crucial conditions for self-reflection [3].

As Lahiri mentions, “without a concrete direction and clarity, we are exposed to the uncertain thoughts, that can be emotionally uncomfortable and blurs our vision of the future. Being critically reflective, enhances the chance of recovery, by connecting us to our fundamental

values, and teaching us to manage internal and external conflicts, even if we cannot resolve them”[11].Critical reflection is an important component that has the power to affect our mental wellbeing. In difficult times, keeping a record, either in a digital-journals or a diary, depending on individual preferences, can influence our individual strategies for survival and empower individuals with ways to remain resilient during change. For example, social innovation signals social transformation and in a way, can be therapeutic[16] [17][18]. Social innovation demands co-production and co-creation, that “can mediate livelihood improvement and community empowerment[19]. During these trying times, we have noticed that communities have created digital networks collaboratively to facilitate interactions, share concerns, play games, support each-other to stay strong. The digital networks have been used to collect prescriptions, shopping for people who are shielding. These are all examples of social innovations co-created, co-produced and co-designed by communities, for communities, that have contributed towards the social capacity building exercise.

We are restless, strained, anxious, yet we are catching the magnificence of nature to impart to our loved ones. Restriction has shown us the estimation of embraces, human touch. The seats and tables are empty in the cafeteria, although we have grasped readily the virtual advances with custom made reasonable exchanges over fair-trade beverages. Zooming to stay connected is not new, however zooming to build community resilience is a novel approach[11]. Virtually connected people, and networks, are utilizing the advanced space to exist together all inclusive. As a feature of our essential visual ethnography study, findings recommend emblematic assembly point of view is one of the potential contributing components to fortify passionate strength. The mutual standards, accounts, thoughts, understandings, contradictions, acknowledgements, dismissals, these have social effects on how we see it and they sway our feelings. Those emotions then get shared within the ‘common belief islands’ that are formed and preserved by telling the stories[11][20]. The common belief islands are pockets that are supported dependent on shared convictions yet can have complex social impetuses or authorizing specialists to seek after or force it on a more extensive cultural level. The pandemic circumstance, preparing us consistently to cross those virtual boundaries and deconstruct the complex social accounts to co-make and co- produce intercultural spaces. The language matters least when the existence of human beings is threatened, in a way reminding us of the core principles of life[21]. Consequently, normally, we have installed certain practices like contemplation, reflection, thankfulness and so on in our day by day lives. We are tuned to have a sense of safety and remain in our customary

ranges of familiarity. The weaknesses spiralled out of the pandemic showered a few endowments, in the midst of the emergency, helping us to remember the expository vision, that is amazing in making passionate and network versatility. For a significant number of us, who keep on working, have our own office space held on the floor with pads, or on an extravagant work area. We keep on demonstrating our capacities and skills by flourishing in lockdown conditions. Every day we come out solid by deftly adjusting to novel difficulties. The genuine battle is to remain grounded in a bound life. The significant point to recollect here, we are not abandoned alone yet the world is abandoned together, and we owe to the Zooming society that has helped us to remain associated. Although the fact is this brings to the surface another two significant issues around digital haves and have-nots; and the digital literacy. Remaining carefully associated virtually does not continually bring satisfaction, rather in some cases mixes strains. There are many research findings that suggest, social, economic and cultural capital can ‘affect mental wellbeing’ at individual levels[22]. The disgrace around emotional wellness in social orders (degrees can shift contingent upon the spot) are verifiably established in social speculations influenced by outer possibilities. There are sure cliché visual and story designs that have been utilized in different types of media, to fortify the shame inside social orders. The exigencies of the current social situation demand some unlearning exercise to produce the counter narrative. In a world engulfed by insecurities, and so less under our control, we need to focus more on positives and develop some community models globally on cost-effective, digitally mediated survival techniques. In view of story devotion, it is conceivable to translate the positive ‘hang-out’ accounts from the negatives and distinguish the qualities to build incredible assets for mental prosperity and mental wellbeing [11]. As Lahiri observes over a digital ethnography study that in “the last few locked down months, the musical and visual art aesthetics contributed immensely to shape beliefs, thoughts and behaviours”[11].We need empirical evidence to confirm any claims, but as a visual ethnographer, observations suggest, the conversations around mental wellbeing on the digital public sphere has been reassuring[11][23][24]. The stigma has been challenged. The lockdown has taught us to forgive, resist the ‘pathological need to be right always[25], radiate happiness, position ourselves as a witness to the facts and look beyond any subjective interpretations. We need to remember “one who obsesses over always being right ends up suffering two ruthless side effects: isolation and the loss of health [26].

We need less to live and remain genuinely and intellectually rich. Developing the craft of living in a customized manner, enables us to acknowledge others and spotlight on our core

desires. On the contrary, fear obstructs our vision for change and limits our ability to create the pathways to success in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. Happiness[22], also known as subjective wellbeing[13], can be long and short term. Our positive and negative feelings activated by contemplations vary every day. We despite everything approach fundamental human needs and not in a Castaway circumstance. Lockdown experience has reframed happiness at social and individual levels. Lockdown has helped us reflect on “little things” to “open dialogue” [11][25]. The circumstance requests us to consider back our logical components, similar to social, family, proficient connections, deeds and so forth and to outfit the positives and unfasten the negatives. Practicing balance and esteeming our step by step

lives, can sound otherworldly, yet has a more profound association with mental prosperity[26][27][28].

Lockdown has taught us the importance and relevance of psycho-social factors and the need to address the hidden biases and ignorance that prevail in our society. There is often a subtle difference between visibility and recognition, for example designing an infographic on mental health is not the same as developing a policy on mental health, at both institutional and individual levels. The issue of the twenty-first century is the issue of “othering.” In a world assailed by apparently obstinate and overpowering difficulties, for all intents and purposes each worldwide, national, and provincial clash is wrapped inside or sorted out around at least one component of gathering based distinction. Othering is a comprehensive conceptual structure fed by preconceptions, misconceptions, distorted interpretations, prejudices that escalates and problematises humanity. The pandemic’s another major global incident that has been framed in the media as a Chinese construct, hence other, that jeopardised the entire preparation of the West, inviting, endorsing and cultivating Anti-Asian sentiments[29][30].The constructed xenophobic narrative in the public domain has invited violent attacks[31]. The question here is how long do we need to address the “interactional injustice” that is impacting our society and mental wellbeing? In UK, the xenophobic bullying against eastern Europeans[32] has been on the rise since Brexit; and now the Asian community[33].The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres[34]has already invited the governments to act proactively against “the virus of hate”, as they did before post- Brexit[35]. Suleman et al. found “cultural integration” is central to community health[36].Therefore, how do communities stay strong and what pathways can we undertake to strengthen the community resilience?


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