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Global crises: why denial leads us to catastrophe

© Tomas Ryant/Pexels

At this tumultuous start to the year 2024, our planet seems to be wavering under the weight of unprecedented crises. Devastating conflicts are causing a mass exodus and threatening the starvation of entire populations in Gaza and Sudan. Armed clashes are spreading, claiming a staggering number of civilian lives, reaching heights not seen in more than a decade. Some pandemics are reappearing (this is only the beginning), others are getting worse, and the climate is inexorably spiraling out of control.

Paradoxically, in the face of this maelstrom of calamities, a worrying trend is emerging: denial and minimization of perils are becoming commonplace . This disconcerting posture raises questions about the mechanisms that led us to this alarming situation and the potential repercussions of this attitude. How can we explain this paradox and what will be the long-term consequences for our society?

Stucking in the sand, a new sport

The phenomenon of collective denial in the face of crises appears as a psychological mechanism enabling societyto maintain an appearance of normalcy despite alarming circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a striking illustration of this, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

During this health crisis, the decision of the American CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, equivalent of Public Health France) to reduce the requirements for monitoring hospitalizations played a determining role in this process of minimization. In April 2024, the organization lifted the obligation for hospitals to report admissions and occupancy rates linked to the virus.

Science journalist Laurie Garrett refers to the period as the “dark phase of the 1960s ;epidemiology ,” in a tweet on X.com highlighting the loss of an essential tool for monitoring the evolution of the pandemic. This lack of monitoring created an illusion of normality, even when the positivity and mortality indicators were worsening. For example, as positivity and mortality rates increased, tweets from official sources decreased, thus reducing the visibility of the health crisis.

The use of terms like “ endemic ” or “ during COVID ” contributed to trivializing the seriousness of the situation among the Americans. Thus, despite more than 73,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 in the United States in 2023, this reality is often minimized by misleading comparisons with previous years. A minimization accompanied by phrases like “ fewer hospitalizations than last year ”.< /p>

Ultimately, this collective denial, fueled by minimization and lack of transparency, allows society to function apparently normally, while obscuring deep crises. This habituation to increasing levels of suffering and instability compromises our ability to respond effectively to crises.

< h2>The consequences of denial

Collective denial in the face of global crises has significant repercussions, the example given in the first part n’ is just one among many. By becoming accustomed to increasing levels of distress and instability, we risk general insensitization, profoundly altering our perception of planetary issues.

Researchers now evoke concepts such as “&nbsp ;polycrisis » (see this article from the World Economic Forum) or “ postnormal times ” (article published in the journal Future 14 years ago) to depict the complexity and scale of contemporary challenges, highlighting the interconnectedness of the crises we face.

Climate disruption is a striking illustration of this. Despite temperature records and the multiplication of natural disasters, the collective reaction often remains marked by a disconcerting passivity. The year 2023, marked by intense heat and an unprecedented number of colossal climatic disasters, did not spark the expected mobilization. This apathy dangerously conditions us to accept a reality punctuated by increased suffering and recurring environmental upheavals.

The increase in authoritarian movements and ideologies, and religious fundamentalism and attacks on democracy constitute another striking example. Recent years have seen an increase in attacks on democratic and scientific institutions, events that previously might have triggered an immediate and vigorous response. Today, these phenomena are too often minimized, or even ignored, ccontributing to an insidious but constant erosion of our fundamental values.

The consequences of this denial therefore go far beyond the environmental and political framework. By obscuring or minimizing these crises, we are insidiously accustoming society to a “ new normal ” marked by suffering and instability. As if we were now capable of denying the evidence, incapable of protesting against it, and above all, end up accepting it all without even realizing it. « Lucidity is the wound closest to the sun » wrote René Char. This famous French poet and resistance fighter understood well that a clear conscience is often paid for with pain; pain that many of us apparently can no longer bear.

  • Global crises on all sides generate increasing suffering and instability, frequently minimized by collective denial.
  • This attitude of denial promotes a global habituation to a “&nbsp ;new normal “.
  • Passive acceptance of these realities compromises our ability to react and desensitizes us.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116