Tag Archives: identity

Panic in Times of Crisis: What is it and How can we stop it?

Richard Petrosyan

[4 minute read]

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Note: This article is the fruit of my analysis and my analysis only. By no means do I wish to come off as an authority on these matters, but rather as a blog writer attempting to spark debate on relevant life experiences.

How often in the last few months did you see people panicking, washing their hands frantically, cleaning surfaces of things that don’t even belong to them, yelling that the end of the world is near, or preparing as though we were under nuclear attack? To some of us, these are precautions. To others, these are scripts for a comedic movie. Panic has posed itself as one of the major psychological refuges of Americans (and quite a few people in other countries, as well) in the face of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Here, I will seek to understand what exactly panic is and how we can alleviate this inherently adverse aspect of human psychology.

I define panic as the psychological and physical state of a living being that is based on the fear of an external entity or occurrence as a perceived threat to your interests, or in more extreme cases, to your own life. Accordingly, I define panic as the counter-reaction to lack of stability: we humans prefer planning and expecting the future; we like to know what lies ahead and take steps to succeed in our endeavors accordingly. Having this life stability reassures us. In some cases, we prefer things not to change whatsoever: this is what I call “love for the status quo.” However, as the saying goes, nothing in the universe is eternal except change. This means that, at any point in space and time, there is a nearly 100% certainty that some unforeseen element will disturb the established order of things. When people see that image of stability evaporate, their safety net erodes, and fear secures its nest in their minds. We begin taking precautions, avoid doing anything risky, close doors literally and figuratively, think about dangers and potential solutions frantically, sweat all the time, etc. I would argue this to be a tendency to protect oneself as an individual.

Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

Where do these tendencies come from? I’d simply say: evolution. Since the dawn of time, when we perceived a threat to our survival (or that of our loved ones), we adapted by entering into a state of excitement and anxiety in order to acknowledge and combat the danger. However, the ways we protect ourselves have evolved over time, simultaneously with the nature of the threats. Prehistoric men didn’t fear that they’d get a bad grade and wouldn’t get into a good grad school just like we don’t fear now that we will be eaten by animals or other humans.

I will now apply this human instinct to the coronavirus pandemic. In the last few months, people have feared touching each other or approaching each other too closely. On national scales, some of them have even staunchly advocated for stay-at-home orders, border closing, furloughs from work, online classes, and so on. Governments have issued guidelines that push people away from each other (more famously referred to as social distancing guidelines) to avoid the threat of contamination by the virus. It appears that, in the fight or flight response associated with panic, most humans are choosing “flight.” To be fair, it’s a bit difficult to physically fight a microorganism. However, according to our more civilized way of fighting, the “fight” part against the microbe was taken up by scientists attempting to find cures as well as vaccines against the virus.

There is much ado -is it about nothing? That’s a matter of opinion. But how did panic even occur in the first place? The first answer that comes to my mind is media coverage. Journalism is a very powerful tool, in that news outlets are often used by people as a connection to the world at large. So, whatever people read, they believe. And the media certainly spreads alarming information. How much of it is fake news? I won’t delve into that question, but I’d keep in mind that this is a question worth asking. On the positive end, the spread of panic alarmed people to protect vulnerable populations. On the negative end, it shut down the world’s most powerful economies and altered our lifestyles significantly, and some may argue unnecessarily.

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Kakehashi Project: Being an Asian American in Japan

By Erika Gomi

Last Spring break I was lucky enough to get the amazing opportunity to go on a week long trip to Japan. Through the Kakehashi Project, Asian Americans can go to Japan and experience Japanese culture, history, and traditions and promote US-Japan relations. This was done through sightseeing, lectures, and homestays.

We first arrived in Tokyo where we jumped right in and started learning about Japan and its foreign relations. We had to sit through some lectures, but after we were taken to the Overseas Migration Museum where we learned about the meaning of the term “nikkei”. I was surprised to find that the term was so inclusive, defining a state of mind and not a label defining ancestry. We were encouraged to all recognize our common roots and appreciate where we’re from. Then in the evenings we got to explore the city with the other participants in the group. We got closer and bonded over our common Asian ancestry and our feeling of dissonance with being American in Japan. We felt so foreign, barely any of us in the group spoke Japanese, and yet we looked the part. Exploring the city, we figured out how to use the subway and observed the similarities and differences between Japanese and Americans.

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The Single Space Between Korean and American

By Jacqueline Choe

Throughout middle school and high school, if someone asked about my cultural heritage, I always said, “I’m more American than Korean.”

Korean American. That single space between Korean and American divides this compound word in half. Obviously, nationality and ethnicity aren’t as distinctly partitioned. But language is a tricky thing, and English had fooled me into thinking that I could develop only one half of my cultural identity without missing the other.

I’m a second-generation Korean American, but I grew up speaking English, and only English. I’m from a small suburban town half an hour’s drive from Seattle. In high school, I knew of maybe three or four other Korean kids, but  I didn’t know them on a personal level. My Koreatown was the H Mart (the local supermarket) in Bellevue, the only place outside of our own house where I could eat jjamppong and jajangmyeon and practically the only place where we could buy them.

Photo by Laura on Flickr

My brother and cousin don’t speak Korean either. On New Year’s, when our family meets up for mandu-guk, our parents would have conversations with our grandmother that we couldn’t understand. Sometimes our names came up. We accused them of gossip and laughed about it. Then we grasped for words in the common language between frustration and loneliness: two lands in which we are not outsiders.

Photo from Wikipedia

Los Angeles is different. Los Angeles has the largest population of Korean Americans in the country, and Koreatown is the most densely populated district in Los Angeles county. In a world like this, Korean Americans are Korean American, and that single space between the two words is not a divider, but a connector. Identity is intrinsic to life and vice-versa. Language and culture bond people together in ways I didn’t understand until I came to LA, walked down a city block, and saw what I couldn’t be a part of because I had spent so much time disregarding my Korean identity.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
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