The notion of social cohesion makes clear a fundamental reality: that we are all in this together. More importantly, that in fact we are all better together. So relationships, social connection, and community are essential assets of any cohesive society.
The work of the Social Cohesion Initiative is grounded in the belief that we can intentionally create the conditions that nurture and sustain a healthy social infrastructure. We can do this by engaging in practices that foster trust, good will and resilience. While many of these practices involve direct, face-to-face encounter, the current crisis is pushing us to consider new and alternative ways to pursue these kinds of precious human interactions.
Even as we follow expert scientific advice about keeping our distance in a physical sense, we can still stay focused on how we can stay connected and stand with each other in every other sense. So for the time being, perhaps it’s more phone and email and more person-centered use of social media. Perhaps it’s gathering on conference calls with a few friends or neighbors rather than a backyard barbecue. A handmade yard sign that says ‘we stand with you and yours’ has a powerful ring to it. And beyond our immediate circles, how can we pay special attention to those who are most vulnerable and isolated? How can we ease the immediate everyday burden on those most impacted?
A troubling aspect of this crisis is the unfortunate stigmatization of various groups of people and communities often considered to be ‘the other’. The use of the term ‘Chinese virus’, rather than ‘corona virus’ or ‘Covid-19’, is one such example. As a result, Asian-Americans and immigrants across the country have now become targets of scorn, hate and violence.
In the midst of all that we cannot control at the moment, there is nothing keeping us from holding onto and acting on our values. Even as we follow expert scientific advice about keeping our distance in a physical sense, we can still stay focused on how we can stay connected and stand with each other in every other sense.
Watch our website for more information about this disturbing trend towards stigmatization and our obligation to foster accurate and appreciative narratives about those with whom we live side-by-side. Let’s do everything in our power not to let this crisis pull us apart. Let’s bring our very best to deepening our concern and care for one another. If we do that, we are surely building that reservoir of trust, good will and resilience that are the hallmarks of the social cohesion needed to see us through.