Societal losses can yield positive results.
The positive results do not outweigh the negative repercussions – death, misery, and destruction – but they are nonetheless present. Two infamous examples could illustrate how devastating losses could actually bring a city closer together.
Sociologist Henri Tajfel theorized that the “groups which people belonged to [were] a significant source of self-esteem and pride”. He thought organizations, groups, teams, and societies provide us with a sense of belonging. In joining groups – or being a citizen of a city – we develop a sense of ‘Us vs. Them’.
If I belong to the Liberal party, I’ll hold prejudices against Conservatives. These rivalries develop group loyalty and identity. Losses, I believe, tie group members closer together. One feels a greater attachment to a city if he feels the citizens are genuine and loyal, and what better time to exhibit genuineness and loyalty then in the time of a crisis?
Bombings, Bedrooms and ‘Boston Strong’
April 15th, 2013 was at first a day of celebration in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox had beaten the Rays at Fenway Park, the weather had been cooperative, the Boston Marathon was in full swing. There were only a few thousand runners left on the course when the bomb detonated. It took everyone by surprise. First responders, shocked and confused, rushed to the scene. Ambulances and police followed. It was deemed a terrorist attack. Three people died, hundreds more injured. One suspect died shortly after the bombing and the second were found and sentenced to death. It was a grim day for the city.
Despite the horror, the city came together. Boston Strong, a patriotic new slogan, was created. A few hours after the attack, over 3,000 people had offered up beds in their homes to anyone who needed one.
David Ortiz, a star hitter for the Red Sox, gave a stirring speech to tens of thousands of fans at Fenway Park, declaring, “This is our city.” An outpouring of support from around the world flooded social media. Despite the awful, traumatizing events that occurred, the city bonded. Bostonians rallied around a shared disaster, and the city’s true character was on display.
The ‘Blitz Spirit’
The London Blitz was the infamous Nazi bombing campaign waged against Britain’s largest city. Hitler inflicted considerable damage to the city’s infrastructure and citizens. Over 40,000 people died. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed. War production decreased. One would expect Londoners to be demoralized, fearful, and stressed as a result.
This was not the case. As various historians note, the Blitz actually significantly strengthened British morale. The citizens’ expectations of the Blitz proved far worse than the Blitz. Most expected to die; but when they didn’t, they were injected with a sense of hope, faith, and nationalism.
These two instances illuminate the paradoxical power of crises. When the government is at its weakest and citizens are most afraid, society does not, contrary to what Thomas Hobbes may think, revert to anarchy, distrust, and fragmentation. People come together. And that is miraculous as it is unexpected.