Blog post

Community resilience: is empathy possible in an online world?

Community development Digital communications Emergency services

In the latter part of twentieth century, cultural critic Raymond Williams described “community” as a “warmly persuasive” keyword that touches on a desire for a sense of belonging. Almost a decade later, French philosopher Jean Luc Nancy, in The Inoperative Community, suggested that people are most likely to consider the significance of “community” when they feel it has been lost or is missing. This is not to suggest an insufficiency, but the activity of sharing and belonging. Nearly a quarter of a century later, the sense of belonging and the fragility of community – the idea that community cannot be taken for granted – couldn’t be more salient. The recent devastating bushfires in Australia devouring over 12 million hectares and a billion animals, razed communities to the bone of resilience with losses beyond their control. The increasing frequency of catastrophic climate-related and natural disasters – floods, hurricanes, earthquakes – have displaced communities the world over with recovery efforts often balancing initial urgencies with the enduring commitment to community healing and rebuilding. Caught in the maelstrom of these early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the virulent spread of COVID-19, too, seems an indictment to community as we know it, particularly in mitigating against the social and communal disruption of “social”, or “physical distancing”. As New Yorker columnist recently put it, “COVID-19 may alter the human journey.”

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