The stress and insecurity from the worst drought in 900 years pushed life under the rule of Bashar al-Assad to an unbearable level. Disempowering the Syrian People through decades of authoritarian rule, the Assad regime restricted the capacity of Syrians to provide for their own basic needs. In doing so, the Assad regime chose to be thoroughly responsible for the welfare of the Syrian People, which is why the Assad regime became the target of massive civil unrest. Ultimately, it was Assad’s attempts to violently suppress civil unrest that resulted in the Syrian Civil, yet it was their forced reliance on his inadequate governance that made him the target of neglected Syrians.
Recognizing climate change guarantees widespread drought and food shortages in highly populated regions like Asia, how people might react to scarcity will be essential for proper governance during the comings times of crisis. To understand scarcity, one must understand the psychology of insecurity. Looking at China’s economic woes and Beijing’s efforts to reorganize China’s economy, including plans to lay off six million state industrial workers, such insights can be applied to climate change as well as numerous other situations where populations face crises that put them under duress.
Since the 2008-2009 Great Recession, the Peoples of the developed world have struggled with growing poverty, income inequality, and job insecurity. Not only has this placed generations of Westerners under severe stress, the prolonged duress of financial insecurity and lack of viable opportunities has assuredly traumatized many. The inability to cope with stressful situations is manifested in very different ways by different people, yet it always leaves people feeling insecure. A lack of emotional and psychological security is, of course, also a source of stress that tends to impact how people act.
In the wake of the Great Recession, Westerners are certainly angry at their governments for their inadequate responses and the public policies that allowed the economic collapse to become so damaging. Westerners have lashed out against their leaders by holding massive protests and voting for alternatives. That said, the political and economic freedoms that Westerners enjoy has likely helped soften reactions and helped protect governing institutions from total rebellions. In fact, the worst backlash against government happened in European countries where government-dependent workers saw massive layoffs and salary cuts.
It is important to consider public welfare, for example, reduces the risk and insecurity of financial ruin by offering a “safety net” for many. Efforts to slash welfare spending during times of economic distress, however, undermine that sense of security that people need to remain psychologically and emotionally resilient during times of duress. On the other hand, potential shifts in public policies leave those reliant on public assistant in a very insecure position, which fosters often-dysfunctional security-seeking behavior. For those trapped in a prolonged cycle of poverty and those facing a lack of opportunity, the inability to find security is traumatizing.
For Westerners, financial freedom is far from a certainty, but political freedom is a guarantee that offers Westerners control over the public policies that affect their financial security. From public welfare to taxes to regulation, a degree of political influence offers citizens of democratic societies a sense of control and security when they have a lack of security in other aspects of their lives. When people feel they have influence over how their society is run, they feel they have a great capacity to adapt to whatever crisis is undermining their financial and personal wellbeing.
Countries like China, however, offer neither financial nor political freedom. The People lack control over the public policies that directly impact their personal lives. In nature, humans can act as they please, but we can also adapt to thoroughly oppressive situations without an innate sense of insecurity. In other words, people within cultures where there is lack of personal control and freedom from government oppression are not necessarily uncomfortable with their oppression when they feel secure in other areas of their lives. This is made evident by the millions of individuals living in abusive relations and under the thumb of oppressive leadership.
Like any abusive situations, the politically suppressed learn to function within their environment by reacting to the whims of the powerful. When attempting to adapt to changing whims, the abused are stressed. When they are unable to adapt or their interests are so neglected that they can no longer tolerate the abusive situation, they are in a state of duress. Unable to rely on government for viable solutions, government dependency leaves the oppressed unable to cope with difficult changes. It also makes government the sole focus of blame when government is just as clueless.
Faced with the effects of climate change and economic insecurity, countries like China can expect its People to thoroughly lash out against the government when it fails to offer them viable ways sustain their increasing standards of living and to provide for their basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter. That is unless Beijing and others can instill a sense of security, control, freedom, and personal responsibility in the minds of their oppressed populations.
Read old posts