Academics Discover Resilience

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

In the latest issue of The Chronicle Review, various scholars try to come to grips with the terrorist attacks in Boston.  The word jihad is barely mentioned: “It is especially agonizing when we have been attacked but don’t know the perpetrator,” evolutionary biologist David P. Barash writes in The Chronicle Review. “Or why.”

“In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, in addition to the horror, the anger, and the sense of renewed vulnerability, many Americans felt frustrated and helpless precisely because the identity of the attackers wasn’t known.” But now it is, and Barash analyzes that reaction. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington.

“Let’s face it: The Boston Marathon, awful for so many, will likely also prove a godsend for a not-so-few, those predisposed not only to lash out at enemies real and imagined, but also to find and if need be, create them,” he argues. “Sadly, it seems likely that such people won’t have to look very hard to meet their needs.”  That this country has actual enemies it is not looking for is a prospect Barash does not entertain.

“In its baser goals, however, and regardless of why those bombs were detonated in Boston, Al Qaeda and its fellow propagators of terrorism, whether individuals or groups, continue to succeed: Their very existence appeals to our own baser tendencies, providing us with a look-alike contest, in which the benign Mr. Chaplin is replaced by the Devil himself.”

Barash’s latest book is Peace and Conflict Studies, in which he elaborates on these themes. This will no doubt become a treasured text in academe.

Meanwhile, a veritable platoon of pedagogues are discovering a concept most Americans—particularly troops, cops, firemen, doctors, nurses and EMT technicians— are already familiar with— resilience.  “Scholars have collected in research organizations like the Resilience Alliance or the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Agencies as diverse as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the World Economic Forum, and the Rockefeller Foundation all support programs promoting resilience,” Scott Carlson writes in The Chronicle Review. “Last year the National Academy of Sciences released a lengthy report on disaster resilience, which it defined as ‘the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.’

“Books in fields as different as ecology, economics, and engineering bear titles like Resilience Thinking, Resilience Practice, Resilience Engineering, Resilient Cities, Resilient Enterprise, The Resilience Imperative, and Resilience and the Future of Everyday Life.

“‘Forget sustainability. It’s about resilience,’ declared a headline over a New York Times article by the futurist Andrew Zolli, whose new book, with Ann Marie Healy, is titled simply Resilience.”



Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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