When dealing with a global pandemic, attention tends to be focused on the prevention and treatment of physical diseases. But as we’ve found in the last two months, the mental and emotional damage caused by the new coronavirus outbreak can’t be ignored.
Fortunately, the situation was somewhat calm, accepting that part of the exhaustion was due to corona exhaustion, and called the sense of loss and sadness caused by the pandemic “heartbreaking.” Many people still can’t afford to think what life will look like after convergence – and it’s still far from over – but it’s worth considering the impact of this public health crisis on society as a whole. It may seem counterintuitive, but now that we’re overcoming a pandemic, looking back on the past will help us find a hint of how humanity has overcome collective trauma.
The concept of collective trauma is not new, but much of what is now known is based on Holocaust survivors and their second-generation clinical studies, says Dr. Molly Castellow, an expert in group psychology. He is also the director of the documentary film Vamiks Room, which depicts the work of Dr. Vamik Volcan, a leading person in collective grief and trauma. But looking back on American history, there have been countless examples of collective trauma since before World War II: the slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, the atomic bomb, the Vietnam War, 9.11, and, most recently, the segregation of immigrant son-in-child detention. “At the heart of this collective emotional experience is the sense of helplessness,” he told Rolling Stone magazine.
First of all, what is collective trauma? According to Dr. Castellow, when a large group of people – such as a country, religion, race, or ethnicity – experiences a great deal of heartache, an emotional connection is born between the wounded. “In the first place, collective trauma is the share of helplessness, disorientation, and loss in a group,” he explains. “A common sense of commonity emerges from a threatening event : even if the nature and background of the victim, how to deal with it, and flexibility are different.” Sometimes collective trauma is passed down from generation to generation. Unconscious behavior , fathers who experience starvation in concentration camps try to train their sons in competitive sports ( traumatized parents strongly urge their children to show gratitude and not show weakness), or through memories of tragic events, they can pass on their own trauma to their children.
【Image】A man who has lived 20 years with a false mental illness in a “tragedy that no one can save” (photo)
According to Dr. Castellow, we have already experienced collective trauma with the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19). “This is a public health catastrophe. It’s the collapse of democracy and its imagination,” he says. “We share trauma every day with too many deaths – the elderly, the vulnerable, the local health workers, the paramedics.”
Fear of identity loss
According to Dr. Gilad Hirschberger, associate professor of psychology at the Israel Research Institute, there are many different types of collective trauma. For example, 9.11 was very immediate and most incidents occurred on the same day. The ripple effect of the incident continued for a while, but although the immediate threat was enormous, it ended in a relatively short period of time. But in the case of COVID-19, “it’s not as impactful as 9.11, but it’s pretty long,” Explains Hirschberger. “The fear and anxiety of enduring a moderate threat for a long period of time without the prospect of an exit is a huge burden to people all over the world.”
In addition to the death and the lingering anxiety of how and when the pandemic will end, it also faces a blow to american identity. “A lot of people are traumatized as individuals, as families, and perhaps as a group, for example, as part of a New Yorker,” says Dr. Jeffrey Alexander, a sociology professor who specializes in cultural and collective trauma. He is the founder and co-director of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University. “But the United States of America is very uncertain and uneasy. Because we have come to think of America as a great country – the greatest country. And now we see other countries coping better with pandemics than we do, and who are we? The question is raised.”
The 1918 Spanish cold pandemic occurred more than a century ago, but the impact of our Americans’ inability to cope with the epidemic is similar to it is back then. “There is no cure or vaccine at the moment,” Dr. Hirschberger said. “Now that there is no way to fight off this virus except my immunity, all young and old are confronting the virus alone. Not only is this disturbing and frightening, but it also shatters the illusion that we modern people have overcome the threats of nature.” The evidence is right in front of me. The ban on social distity and assembly was adopted in 1918 as a major anti-virus measure. “The only thing that is not there at the time, but now, is the hope that there will be therapeutics and vaccines in the near future,” he added.
The Importance of Awareness of The Parties
While there is something common between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 1918 Spanish cold, the response to the 1918 collective trauma was complicated given the outbreak of World War I around the same time, said Dr. Monica Shock-Spana, a medical anthropologist and public health expert at Johns Hopkins University. “When the effects of the Spanish cold subsided, people fell into a kind of collective amnesia,” he said, pointing out that at the time, the aftermath of the war was still dragging society as a whole. Dr. Alexander says the closest thing we are experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic is not the Spanish cold of 1918, but the Great Depression. “People at the time had extraordinary pride in the capitalism and economy of the United States. It all collapsed,” he says. “As a result, the role of government has changed. The establishment of labor unions, unemployment insurance, and social security has also included working class.”
If you look at the pandemic, especially the attention of medical and economic inequality and inequality, there is a possibility that after convergence, theoretically, similar reforms will occur. Dr. Hirschberger is optimistic that he will have learned an important lesson before it converges. If diseases like Ebola, which occurred in Africa a few years ago, had been prevalent now, we would have taken COVID-19 more seriously than we are now. “You will realize that what is happening to people far away, not from sympathy, but as a reality, is also a matter of ourown,” he says. In the same way, scientists have long warned of the possibility of a pandemic, but as the tusks that ignore it are turning around, climate change may be more seriously focused. “We understand that there is a correlation between each other, and now we understand that problems that seem trivial now, but that swells little by little over time, are dangerous and may not be able to get their hands on it – if this series of events brings positive results, i think that’s the kind of awareness,” Dr. Hirschberger said.
As part of our response to collective trauma – such as the Great Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic — we try to identify and convince the victims and perpetrators of the incident. Of course, such work does not go easy. For example, as Dr. Alexander points out, the pandemic is overwhelmingly damaged by minorities, but conservatives ignore that data and make it a problem that everyone is a victim.
Whose story is the scenario told after convergence?
When it comes to identifying the perpetrators, the situation becomes even more confusing. It is true that the source of the pandemic is a new virus, but it is not appropriate to explain the collective trauma. At least one “scoundrel” must be a “scoundrel” who has taken so many lives and hit the economy. It’s not surprising, but the answer to who is the perpetrator of the current pandemic varies from person to person. Some say it’s a large corporation that has unfairly received the budget allocated by Congress for small businesses that originally need help. Some say it’s a benefit-focused health insurance system that has exacerbated existing health care gaps and forced people to get the treatment they need during a pandemic. Some blame the current administration’s response to the pandemic. On the other hand, some say that all the culprits are China.
If political intentions appear to be already working in an attempt to identify the perpetrators of the pandemic, wait until november’s presidential election approaches. Dr. Alexander says there’s little doubt that Democrats and Republicans use collective trauma to develop their views and argue that we are the right person for president. While Democrats argue that the president’s response to the pandemic – especially the response in the early weeks – will not heal unless he changes the leader, Republicans will continue to point the blame on China and try to tie Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, to China.
With or without awareness, we are constantly seeing objects that evoke the collective trauma and grief of the past. He passes in front of the war dead monument every day without incident, but he never thinks about the events that led him to stop and build the monument in the first place. In a documentary, Vamiks Room, directed by Dr. Castello, Dr. Volcan described that “we build a monument – any emotion that remains in the chest is confined in marble or metal.” These monuments connect the experience of loss to visual and spatial objects and “give a concrete form to the indescribable emotions,” Dr. Castellow said. “In this process, it’s important to look at yourself and reflect on yourself so that you can accept painful emotions like sadness, disappointment, and guilt.”
The trauma of World War I may have faded the memory of the 1918 Spanish cold epidemic, but the post-war rituals of the Americans – the construction of war memorials and buildings – were also one way to sort out the grief as a group. “These ceremonies and buildings play an important role in grief and mourning,” says Dr. Shock-Spana.
At the same time, dr. Shock-Spanner says the memorial service is essentially a political action. Looking back on the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it remains to be seen whether the story of people of color, who had a large percentage of victims, will be told when they remember those who were killed. “What kind of monument and whose face will be represented? It is a very easy interpretation to honor the heroic self-sacrifice of doctors and nurses,” he says. “I’m not going to downplay the sacrifices of people in the medical field, but compared to the stories of people of color who have suffered so overwhelmingly that they are more acceptable to the public,” he said.It’s going to be easy to get it done.”
Deciding who to mourn with a nameplate or monument will not be as urgent as dealing with the ongoing public health crisis, but it will determine the future and efforts of collective trauma. “Memories are not just what actually happened. “How important is what actually happened to us now? That’s what it means,” says Dr. Shock-Spana. “The survivors are us. We can choose the story we need to tell.”