Building Resilience in the Days of the Coronavirus: Lessons from the Great Depression

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Dubrovnik: The medieval city designed around quarantine

Since ancient times, societies have attempted to separate people with disease from those who remained unaffected, with references to self-isolation dating back to the Old Testament. As Covid-19 sweeps across the globe, we are advised to “self-quarantine” if we have recently returned from a part of the world where the virus is rapidly spreading, or if we have knowingly come into contact with an infected person. To understand the importance of self-quarantining during this modern-day pandemic, it’s helpful to look back to the history of the word “quarantine” itself, which traces its origins to medieval Europe…


Building Resilience in the Days of the Coronavirus: Lessons from the Great Depression

The word resilience comes from the Latin verb resilire, meaning “to jump or spring back. Resilience at the personal level relates to one’s ability to overcome a blow or series of blows in one’s life, accept what happened, and find strength to address the later challenges that come along.

Resilience at the community level is much the same. It depends on tapping into internal and external resources to rediscover or rebuild what was lost. In a people who have lived through long-term adversity, a key point about resilience is that the adversity or hardships must end. In the face of a global pandemic, the effects of which are both to our lives and livelihoods, people are wondering whether our nation will be able to bounce back. We can take some consolation in looking at the past, to other dark periods in history that came and sometimes even left the world better off in unexpected ways.

Focusing on the disease aspect of the 2020 pandemic, journalists and others are considering the impacts of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which took millions and millions of lives. Focusing on the financial aspect, commentators are turning to the Great Depression for insights and encouragement in terms of how people coped and how the government reacted…


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