Even as another day experiences another issue in our society, we are nudged by an article presented by journalist Uri Friedman in The Atlantic which reads that “the COVID-19 pandemic is revealing a new form of national power”. According to him, “in the COVID-19 era, a country’s strength is determined not only by its military and economy, but also by its resilience”.
These two sentences by Friedman give us a glaring connotation that no one knows which are the stronger ones and which are the weaker ones in normal times. This in turn tells us that a situation such as this COVID-19 induced one shows us the index of the health of a society. This is because no one can tell whether someone has become a resilient power until a problem such as the COVID-19 pandemic or some disaster occurs.
According to William Hynes of the Paris based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “who has been studying ways to shock-proof countries”, and quoted by Friedman in his article, “We cannot say when we have truly achieved resilience, since part of resilience is the capacity to react to change.”
While Friedman and others are talking at the country level, the referent objective of this editorial is a society or a people at the micro level. We are fitting things to a society or a people level because a significant degree of subjective societal insecurity of any aspect can prevail even as a country or state remains secure. This is the view of many societal security experts. This infers that security of any front or aspect at the micro level-food, culture, belief system, a people’s values-can suffer insecurity even when the overall description of the country is considered secure. This again reminds us the obvious and the simplest thing that “your country may be rich but you can be a pauper”.
We are talking about sustainability. This, in fact, is also about societal security.
Barry Buzan defines societal security as “the sustainability, within conditions for evolution, of traditional patterns of language, culture and religious and national identity and custom”. We can extrapolate this one bit to say that the COVID-19 induced issues open our eyes to realities that the resilient power of a society determines societal security, also.
When it comes to our society, the security aspect of essential commodities during the height of the COVID-19 induced lockdown reveals that we can be extremely vulnerable in times of 'disaster'.
The salience of resilient power as defined by Friedman is about one’s “capacity to absorb systemic shocks, adapt to these disruptions, and quickly bounce back from them”. According to scholar Stephen Flynn, as quoted by Friedman, “the aim of resilience is to design systems not just so they can endure shocks, but also so they can fail gracefully and recover nicely.” Friedman himself then said that the COVID-19 pandemic “has taught us that today, a country’s best offense is a good defense”.
In a vast country like India, and in a time such as the COVID-19 or any disaster or emergency, systems may fail and the situation at the micro level can be put in an extremely grim situation.
The thoughts shared here should make us look at the micro level and ask---where should people, who have no productions, bounce back to or what should they defend when they have nothing? If one’s strength is measured in terms of resilient power today, it is time to think about it seriously if we are to gain the "capacity to react to change.”