Terror attacks in Paris and California expose modern society’s lack of resilience.

The terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris on November 13 shattered the complacency of the French lifestyle. A few weeks later, a savage attack erupted in San Bernardino, California, further exposing the vulnerability of Western societies.

Dealing with terrorism and, in particular, with the frightening emergence of the ruthless Islamic State organization, also known as ISIS, will preoccupy the attention of world leaders for some time.

But there is a larger lesson to be gained from this and other recent crises. Put very simply: our complex global society lacks resilience.

What do I mean by that? Everything from our vulnerability to power failures to our overreaction of vilifying people who merely “look like” the perpetrators of violent acts, an overreaction demonstrated by Donald Trump’s recent call to close our borders to Muslims.

The good news is that we can improve our resilience. First let’s examine our society’s vulnerabilities.

Economic vulnerability

Terrorism is just one of many global threats that we face.

Our economy is highly vulnerable to a range of unexpected crises such as the 2011 tsunami that destroyed Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station, causing costly delays in the electronics, motor vehicles and other industries.

Since 2001, the US has endured a series of disruptions, including hurricanes, power blackouts, oil spills, bridge collapses, gas-line explosions and aircraft accidents.

The giant reinsurance company, Munich Re, reports a sharp increase in the number of natural disasters during the past 32 years – a trend that is linked to climate change.

Are we adequately prepared for the next catastrophe, even though we cannot predict what it will be?

Warning: turbulence ahead

The root cause of our vulnerability is the structure of the global economy: highly interconnected, complex and filled with turbulence.

Major disasters can occur unexpectedly, and even minor incidents can cascade into significant human and financial losses. Emerging pressures such as climate change and urbanization will only intensify the potential for extreme events and severe disruptions. When a catastrophe occurs, we rush to aid the victims, but the memory quickly fades and we return to business as usual, dealing with more immediate financial or political pressures.

Could we do a better job at anticipating and responding to unforeseen events?

Although businesses, communities and government agencies have developed elaborate “risk management” systems to detect vulnerabilities, this approach has an inherent weakness. It cannot protect against unidentified risks.

In an increasingly complex and volatile global economy, it is virtually impossible to predict and analyze all possible disruptions. Rather than resisting the inevitable waves of change, we need to embrace change and learn to ride the waves.

Learning to embrace change

The little poppy that could. Plant street via http://www.shutterstock.com

In my book Resilient by Design, I argue that to embrace change requires going beyond the traditional approach of minimizing unwanted disruptions and recovering normal operations as quickly as possible. We must treat each surprise event as a learning experience, and adapt accordingly.

Risk management makes sense in a stable environment with predictable events, but in today’s more complex risk landscape – the new normal – it is inadequate for dealing with fast-moving, unfamiliar threats that may cascade into disasters.

The most damaging disruptions are often a result of rare, “black swan” events that were never anticipated. Who would have guessed, for example, that a volcano in Iceland would ground virtually all air traffic in Western Europe?

The US government and many private companies have begun to study the resilience of our economic systems, urban communities and the infrastructures that support them.

A particular concern is adaptation to the emerging effects of climate change, including extreme weather and rising sea levels. Rather than responding to crises after the fact, we are beginning to design dynamic systems that are better prepared to anticipate crises and more capable of coping in the aftermath. For example, package delivery companies such as UPS use real-time monitoring systems to quickly reroute deliveries in the event of a transportation disruption.

Resilience – the capacity to survive, adapt and flourish in the face of disruptive change – is a basic characteristic of all living systems, from individual creatures to entire ecosystems. Most people are psychologically resilient in the face of setbacks, ranging from diseases to divorces or job layoffs.

Human communities are remarkably resilient, and many cities have been completely rebuilt after catastrophic events. In contrast, engineered systems such as machines, buildings and industrial supply chains are generally more “brittle” and prone to failure or collapse.

Designing for resilience

Brittleness is not inevitable. It is a fundamental design flaw.

Mechanistic systems based on logical rules cannot cope with events that the designers failed to anticipate. We have much to learn from the natural world, where resilience is seen everywhere from cells to organisms to entire ecosystems.

Today, innovative companies are learning to behave more like living systems, sensing, responding and adapting to change. They view resilience as a source of competitive advantage and are supplementing traditional risk management methods with adaptive processes and technologies.

For example, IBM has worked with the city of Rotterdam to deploy advanced cyber-based methods for flood detection and control, enabling the city to cope with the increasing intensity of flooding events. And researchers at The Ohio State University have developed a supply chain resilience assessment tool that helps to spot a company’s areas of vulnerability and identify corresponding capabilities that need to be strengthened.

Resilience capabilities are quite diverse, ranging from physical design of operations to information technologies to training of employees.

One basic approach to resilience is reducing the concentration and complexity of a system: for example, by building smaller-scale, distributed facilities instead of a single centralized facility. Global giants like Dow Chemical are exploring a range of supply chain resilience strategies, from increased flexibility of transportation modes to early warning systems that sense and respond quickly to surprise events.

And next-generation nuclear plants will have safety features that eliminate the chance of a meltdown. We hope.

Leveraging the human factor

The above research has shown that human intelligence and creativity are among the most powerful tools available to build resilience against unforeseen threats and enable both companies and communities to flourish.

Clearly the most challenging threat that we face today is the rise of violent extremism. Terrorist organizations, with their decentralized structure and covert operations, are inherently more resilient than the traditional armed forces deployed by nation-states.

Despite huge investments by the US and its allies in counterintelligence, we are still ineffective in “asymmetric” warfare. Overwhelming force may achieve temporary victories, but cunning and subterfuge eventually prevail.

To defeat terrorism, we may need to leverage the human factor – and its inherent resilience – by taking advantage of citizen involvement, social media and other nontraditional tools.

For example, the surveillance work of intelligence agencies can be complemented by conscious public efforts to promote inclusiveness, avoid alienation of minorities and reach out to potential dissidents. This type of adaptation seems more promising than trying to shut our borders to entire classes of immigrants.

In this age of turbulence, resilience has become a prerequisite for continued prosperity. Simply going back to business as usual – as we’ve too often done – is not the best strategy. Rather than bouncing back, we need to bounce forward.

With Courtesy of The Conversation



Terror victims study proves our resilience.

Floral tributes outside the Bataclan Theatre in memory of the victims of the Paris attacks1

Floral tributes outside the Bataclan Theatre in memory of the victims of the Paris attacks

Patricia Casey

On Friday, November 13 2015, a series of terror attacks erupted in Paris. They were mercilessly launched on people gathered at various social outlets and events in order to maximise the carnage. A football match was the first target in this co-ordinated killing spree. This was followed by shootings at restaurants and cafes and finally a metal concert in the Bataclan Theatre. Hostages were taken there also. A total of 130 lost their lives and over 4,000 were injured, almost 100 seriously. These were the most serious attacks on the city since WWII. Isis claimed responsibility.

It is no surprise that the impact of these attacks on the psyche of those involved, both directly as victims and less directly as observers, has been studied in depth by psychiatrists and psychologists, as have attacks in other locations. The London bombing and 9/11 attacks in New York have both generated large volumes of research information. In the April issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, a paper exploring the impact of the Paris attacks, headed by Dr Stephanie Vandentorren, of the French Public Health Agency, has been published.

Two groups were studied. First responders were fire officers, rescue workers and so on exposed during the first 12 hours after the events. The second group were witnesses – those who were themselves under threat of being killed, held hostage or injured or had seen somebody in that position, or heard of a close relative in that predicament. These could be either directly exposed or have witnessed them from their homes. Seeing these events only on the media did not constitute exposure. Various face-to-face structured interviews were administered and over 400 people were interviewed.

Among rescue workers, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was diagnosed in 3pc and an anxiety disorder in 14pc. Among civilian witnesses, more than 15pc were significantly distressed, 25pc had possible PTSD, while 18pc were diagnosed definitively with it, and 10pc had depression. As expected, those indirectly threatened had lower levels than close relatives of victims, and the highest rates of mental health problems was in those directly threatened.

Almost half of civilians had more than six months treatment for a mental health problem, compared with a third of first responders. However, most had returned to work six months after the attack. These results show that first responders had lower rates of mental health problems than civilians and they required less professional help.

This study shows that people witnessing traumatic events are more vulnerable to mental health problems than are first responders. It may be that the training those in rescue and first response teams receive helps them withstand the distress of their direct involvement. It is also likely that if they had concerns about mental health difficulties developing after the attacks, they pro-actively sought help as a preventative measure and needed it for a shorter period.

During their training, they will have been made aware of the help that it available should they ever require it. Civilians on the other hand may feel less entitlement to such help and may defer seeking it until their distress is much more incapacitating.

The positive finding, that all but 6pc returned to work, shows the power of healing. Similar results were described following the 9/11 bombings and the London attacks. Either time or therapy seems to have benefited those who were suffering in the aftermath. This surely proves the resilience that human beings are endowed with, enabling them to deal with major traumas and to emerge from the quagmire of distress that engulfed them.

Resilience is determined by several factors. The personality of each individual is probably the single most important element, while the presence of support from family, friends and the community is next. Having a person to talk to is undoubtedly beneficial. The scientific literature on resilience has been developing in recent years and it also describes the value of positive coping, religious coping, having a sense of purpose in life, and altruism.

It is comforting to know we are not long-term victims of the events that befall us. Rather, we are strong and can emerge from the suffering of terrible events with more compassion and a better understanding of life.

With Courtesy of The Indipendent.ie

Resilience: reaction after London attacks.

‘Resilience’ and rituals bring people together, but our true reactions are more complex

A member of the public brings flowers to lay on the north side of London Bridge. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

Seven people were killed in the London Bridge terrorist attack on June 3, seemingly echoing the attack on Westminster in March. Political figures and media commentators have invoked the resilient character of Londoners to terrorism, articulating their stoic refusal to be terrified. Vigils to the victims will be held and spontaneous memorials and tributes will cover the pavements. As we saw after the Manchester bombings, people spontaneously come together to honour the dead, condemn terrorism, and proclaim social unity and resilience “in the face of those who wish to divide us”.

There are patterns in the social responses to these kinds of atrocities. I was in London on the evening of June 3, having just returned from a workshop on the memorialisations that happen after terrorist attacks, during which we talked about the patterns that emerge both in political rhetoric and grassroots actions. We concluded that the complexity and differences of responses to terrorist attacks are routinely underplayed in media coverage and public discussion. “Resilience” and “standing together” appear after terrorist attacks as stylised performances of unity and stoicism.

Tributes to victims in Manchester. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images

However, research into post-attack memorialisations can capture the conflict and dissonance of reactions to terrorism. For example, Ana Milosevic has described the conflict at Brussels’ grassroots memorial over which national flags (Israeli or Palestinian?) could be invoked.

Similarly, Sylvain Antichan and Maëlle Bazin spoke at the workshop about the removal of some tributes to the victims of the Paris attacks, and the stylised curation of others at Place de la Republique. The supposed authenticity of the grassroots memorial was actually the result of hours of effort by self-appointed “keepers”. Indeed the self-censorship of racist messages deposited within tributes to victims occurs at all post-terrorist memorials – curators erase and alter texts which do not express an attitude of tolerance and unity. People produce an image of social unity and ‘standing together’ after attacks, when the reality is more complex.

Standing together

Members of the public bring supplies for police officers on duty at London Bridge. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

After terrorist attacks, people curate an image of social resilience and togetherness, unprompted by politicians. Talk of “standing together” after terrorist attacks is invoked by both people and politicians. As my colleague Chris Browning has shown, proclamations of social unity and standing together after the Paris attacks served to reestablish a feeling of security. If we stand together and proclaim “Je suis Charlie!” or “Je suis en terrasse!” then we do not feel so vulnerable or alone. We feel fewer death anxieties.

Politicians will embrace notions of Londoners’ “resilience” to terrorism to generate a similar effect. They will tell the public that Londoners (like Mancunians) will stand resilient in the face of terror. And indeed they will. But the complexity of reaction to what happened on Saturday night will be removed from the discussion.

I, and tens of thousands of others, were in the area of the attacks – many travelling home from a concert at the London Stadium. Many of us were prevented from leaving tube stations due to a “security alert” in the area of Bank and London Bridge. Everyone assumed it was another false alarm so gave it little notice.

But later, when thousands of us reached London Euston for trains out of the capital, more of the evening’s events had become clear. People were calm and carried on as usual – but they were also tense, frustrated, packed onto extremely overcrowded trains, and angry. In our carriage, an argument broke out between those standing and those sitting on the floor. Things became heated, and one person was told that their antisocial behaviour was inappropriate “given what has just happened in London tonight”.

So, while Londoners will take on an image of being resilient and unified, it will conceal all the microcosms and complex politics of the event. The immediate reaction to terrorist attacks is overcrowding on the limited services running out of the area, and – given that London experienced a night attack – the consumption of alcohol impacted the amount of resilience and unity shown by those on public transport.

The trope of “standing resilient against terror” produces a more comforting image of social unity and togetherness. But research shows the awkward details of social responses to terrorism. In the case of night attacks, inebriated revellers and travellers on the public transport system will demand access to trains that don’t exist, react badly to overcrowding, but also demonstrate incredible patience in the face of provocation by others. Some of this behaviour fits the image of unity and tolerance after terrorism, but some doesn’t.

So when British resilience to terrorist attacks is (once again) invoked by politicians, we will see the rituals that support social unity and which comfort us. But, underneath them, reactions to terrorism are more complex. We will portray ourselves as resilient, because that’s what we want to be.


With Courtesy of The Conversation.com

Jean Seberg and the fatigue.

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It’s very interesting how the interviewer put the accent on the fact that Jean Seberg doesn’t take any psychologist. She is in her 20s and just divorced.

Jean Seberg: “I am more Parisian than Hollywoodian Psychoanalyzed girl.”

Interviewer: “I can tell.”

Except she is found dead suicidal for barbiturates at age of 40 in a street of Paris.


Social Media break and Mellow Yoga flow Time.

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Today was a very bad day for my social networks; I am retunring a smartphone which is disfunctioning, I can’t cope with finding a code to put Whatsapp active, on my older phone, dunno why I don’t have any connection on my other phone, I wanted to upgrade my WordPress to Premium, in order to change layout, but I noticed that in fact you have to pay as well, so I asked to cancel my payment, and my website went down, for couple of hours, finally Paypal rejected also another payment, which I never subscribed….

Well, I promise that I was exhausted and overwhelmed, with all this social stuff, but it was worth it … I could finally take a break !!!!!

I went outdoor for a walk, in nature, 19 degrees, is not bad, with tiny sunshine, and a few dogs on the way… of course Spotify wasn’t loading, so I disconnected, and reconnected to mindful walking. Aha moment 🙂

My work here is going to evolve and I want to put at first subjects like empathy, HSP, dark night of the soul, coping with ptsd….. I need to reorganize this buzz.

If I can get more pro, I will. In any case, this yoga lesson was exactly what I need, deep stretching, and breathing ……