Photo: istock / Christian Horz

Here’s to normality

When society, organisations and individuals are striving for resilience, they need to recognise the strength in normality.

At Christ­mas time, our society acts as if all is right in the world. The twink­ling lights, the gifts, the fund­rai­sers and the parties – it’s the same every year and it gives a semblance of norma­lity. It paints a posi­tive picture of a caring society where ever­yone looks out for one another and wants to ease suffe­ring. You could also say this time of year is filled with a hint of hope, which soon fades away with all the New Year’s resolutions.

Shared values under attack

Hope used to be the key to buil­ding resi­li­ence as an indi­vi­dual. That is, the hope that ever­y­thing will be all right in the end. The more hope you had, the more resi­li­ent you would be in the face of a crisis. Reli­gion played an important part in this belief. The pream­ble to the Swiss Fede­ral Consti­tu­tion still refers to God Almighty – and reve­als the chal­lenges of a secu­lar world through those words. Because we don’t have that God-given shared foun­da­tion anymore.

There’s no sign of any of that in our daily lives. We have so much free­dom as indi­vi­du­als that we can mostly do without that common ground. Except in times of crisis. When we’re being pulled apart, we need a common under­stan­ding. This is when our shared values are truly put to the test.

Lost trust

Soli­da­rity comes in many forms. We’re picky when it comes down to it. With whom do we stand in soli­da­rity and where do we draw the line? And then we have fake news and disin­for­ma­tion putting strains on that common under­stan­ding and chal­len­ging our own under­stan­ding in the process. But we need those under­ly­ing shared values in the discus­sions that guide us out of a crisis. 

We all expe­ri­en­ced exactly that during the pande­mic. All the certainty suddenly disap­peared from our day-to-day lives. Think back to the early days of the first lock­down. Remem­ber the empty shel­ves and stock­pi­les of toilet paper? The resi­li­ence of the Swiss society doesn’t seem to be God-given either – despite the fact that we have a solid foun­da­tion of demo­cracy and prospe­rity here. The mere mention of a lock­down was enough to wipe the essen­ti­als off the shel­ves. The world has chan­ged since 2020. Global resi­li­ence is being put to the test. 

Chal­len­ging times ahead

Human lives are in danger every single day as refu­gees try to cross the Medi­ter­ra­nean. The inhu­man ques­tion of how we deal with the situa­tion is divi­ding socie­ties across Europe. War is raging on in Ukraine. In the Middle East, conflict is escala­ting with shocking bruta­lity and spar­king a horri­fy­ing wave of anti­se­mi­tism. What all of this shows us more than anything is that stabi­lity is no longer a natio­nal issue in this globa­li­sed world.

Igno­ring or rela­ti­vi­sing thre­ats only exacer­ba­tes them. This is where the concept of resi­li­ence comes in. Resi­li­ence is about accep­ting thre­ats and the fact that it’s impos­si­ble to elimi­nate every single one of them. On the contrary. It would be wrong to believe that we could be facing a future free from thre­ats. Climate change, incre­asing social inequa­lity and poli­ti­cal pola­ri­sa­tion are just some of the chal­lenges facing society in the future. If we’re going to have any chance of deal­ing with these thre­ats, we need to find the values that hold society toge­ther on the ‘normal’ days and uphold them. We need to start prepa­ring oursel­ves for tomorrow’s thre­ats today if we want our society to survive what the future brings. 

Strength in normality

Foun­da­ti­ons and nonpro­fit orga­ni­sa­ti­ons have an important role to play in this. They support the people who fall through the cracks in times of crisis. And they make society more resi­li­ent as a result. Quick and without compli­ca­tion, they prevail where others fail to act.

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