MeIn 1940, as the Nazis were closing in on Paris, Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish literature critic and avid collector, knew he had to flee. Before leaving, he entrusted one of his most prized possessions to his friend Georges Bataille, who hid it in the archives of the National Library of France. This was the work of the artist Paul Klee called “The New Angel”. The print is of a little angel with spread wings, and Benjamin describes how the angel’s “face is turned to the past” and sees history as “a single catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage.” increase.
More than 80 years after Benjamin portrayed the never-ending storms of the early 20th century in pictorial angelic figures, the Collins English Dictionary has come to a similar conclusion about recent history. Topping the 2022 Word of the Year list is permacrisis, defined as “prolonged anxiety and instability.” This new word fits perfectly in a time when we sway from crisis to crisis, wreckage piling up on wreckage. Today, Klee’s angels have a similar face.
The term perma-crisis is new, but the situation it describes is not. According to German historian Reinhard Koseleck, we have been living in times of perpetual crisis for at least 230 years. Koseleck says that before the French Revolution, crises were medical or legal matters, nothing more. After the fall of the ancient regime, he writes, crises become “a structural feature of modernity.” As the nineteenth century progressed, the crisis doubled. There was an economic crisis, a foreign policy crisis, a cultural crisis, an intellectual crisis.
In the 20th century, the list got even longer. An existential crisis, a midlife crisis, an energy crisis, an environmental crisis have come. When Kozerek was writing on the subject in the 1970s, he enumerated his 200-plus types of crises that we might face. Fifty years from now, perhaps hundreds of new kinds of crises are on offer. No wonder we feel we are living in an era of perma-crisis.
For some, waking up each morning to hear about the latest crisis is discouraging, but throughout history it has been an encouraging experience for others. One hundred years later, John F. Kennedy wrote (incorrectly) that the word “crisis” in Chinese consists of two letters, “one One represents danger, the other represents opportunity.” Recently, Elon Musk argued that “if things aren’t failing, you’re not innovating enough.”
JFK’s misunderstanding of China’s approach to the crisis has since been echoed by many others, but Victor H. Mehr, a professor of Chinese literature at the University of Pennsylvania, actually believes that the Chinese word for crisis is points out: Wazy, indicates a hazardous situation that requires special attention. “Those who propagate the doctrine that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ elements are engaged in a kind of confused thinking that is dangerous to society,” he said. writes. “It calms people down and makes them welcome the crisis as something they can benefit from instability.” Revolutionaries, billionaires and politicians may enjoy the chance to profit from the crisis. But most people in the world prefer no crisis at all.
We know a lot these days about how the crisis affects us. A common folk theory is that times of great crisis also lead to explosions of creativity. World War I sparked the growth of modernism in painting and literature. Second, it encouraged innovation in science and technology. The economic crisis of the 1970s and 80s is believed to have influenced the spread of punk and the creation of hip-hop. While this is all true, psychologists have also found that when we are threatened, we become more rigid and stick to our beliefs. , has researched breakthroughs in philosophy, science and literature. He found that during times of crisis, people actually tend to be less creative. When examining his 5,000 creative individuals over his 127 generations in European history, a significant creative breakthrough was Less than It can occur during times of political crisis and instability.
Interestingly, psychologists have found that it’s what they call “malicious creativity” that thrives when we feel threatened. Weapons, torture devices, and sophisticated fraud are innovations that tend to be harmful. A 2019 study observed participants as they used bricks and found that those who had been threatened prior to the task reported more harmful uses of bricks than those who did not feel threatened. I’ve found that they tend to come up with things like using it as a weapon. Other studies have found that an outside threat can cause U.S. college students with liberal beliefs to start thinking like conservatives. Students who were presented with information about threatening situations tended to become increasingly wary of outsiders, and then began to take positions such as unwillingness to support LGBT people.
The great irony here is that in moments of crisis when change is really needed, we tend to be less able to change.
Suffering from a significant traumatic event tends to worsen well-being and life outcomes. However, other research has shown that, in moderate doses, crises can help build our sense of resilience. We tend to be more resilient,” said Bruce Daisley, former vice president of Twitter.
Crises are like many things in life – they are only good in moderation and best shared with others. It can be a disaster for ourselves as well. The challenge facing our leaders in times of overwhelming crisis is to avoid diving alone into the ocean of change to see if we sink or swim. Don’t tell them it’s okay by urging them to cover their heads. Instead, in moments of great crisis, the best leaders can share a degree of certainty and destiny in a sea of change. To do. It also means people don’t feel lonely. When you feel a certain amount of certainty and a shared identity, you are more likely to be able to summon the creativity, ingenuity, and energy needed to change things.
Andre Spicer is Professor of Organizational Behavior at Bayes School of Business, City University of London. He is the author of the book Business Bullshit