World after
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
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Michael Bond, Cross-Cultural Psychology


Cross-Cultural Psychology

Michael Bond


Prof. Bond is a cross-cultural social psychologist with focus on locating Chinese interpersonal processes in a multi-cultural space. He taught for 35 years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the co–author of Understanding Social Psychology Across Cultures, editor of The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Psychology (2010), and co-editor of The Handbook of Chinese Organizational Behavior.

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Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant positive societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

Positive size societal change would be a redirection of social wealth through progressive taxation and that would channel itself into social institutions like employee protection, job retraining, health care and pollution control, welfare services, educational access, technical training for the fourth industrial revolution and guaranteed income, yielding greater freedom from disease, crime and natural disaster. The important psychological outcome for me would be a heightened awareness or common fate, and our ecological vulnerability. We’ve seen that vulnerability, of course, as we respond to the virus itself. There’s a much wider consideration to make when we talk about ecological vulnerability, particularly, the climate crisis and pollution mechanisms that interfere with the basic human functioning, willingness to sacrifice our wealth and freedoms for the welfare of others. So that your risks should not be my risk locally, nationally and internationally. But that would require a willingness on everybody’s part to exercise their freedoms within constraint, their wealth within beneficence, you might say, more broadly than presently defined. That should occur of course, psychologically, but would have to be reinforced societally.


What kind of wisdom will people need to capitalize on the positive societal and/or psychological change after the pandemic?

The psychological shifts need to be recognized as necessary for the survival and contentment of humanity. Especially by those persons in wealthier societies, in freer societies. I mentioned David Corden’s cry, and many of his articles for the privileged ones on this planet needing to rein in our, and I use our, innocent greed and widen our ambit of compassion. So much of every person’s life is determined by the shape of our genetic dice and the place of our birth. So, if that’s part of what comes out of COVID for some people, as wisdom, I expect it will have some payoff in enhancing empathy. Or you might even call it Adam Smith’s sympathy for the other, and the other not being confined to your local neighborhood, but rather, the planet and people of difference. And indeed, maybe we’ll all start to recognize that everybody is in fact different, albeit sailing the same boat.


Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant negative societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

Again, two parts, and I’ll start with societal. My major concern about negative change is a reduced commitment on the part of all nations, particularly the more advantaged nations to international institutions. The other is wars promoted by groups who are exploiting weakened military and legal resistance that internal political systems create, potentiating the possibility for internal political violence, which we know from the work of Rummel, Richard Rummel is a far greater promoter of homicide, what he calls democide, then are actual wars between nations. The additional feature about wars that can be potentiated is that there’s going to be greater third party indifference and preoccupation so that you don’t get the mediating roles being played to the same extent as nations who normally might step up for this mediation role, are preoccupied with dealing with the COVID and their own economic collapse. And we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. I keep thinking of the quote from Plato, “only the dead have seen the end of war”. Well, the likelihood of being dead is increasing as a consequence of COVID not only as a consequence of the illness itself, the virus, but also the ancillary destruction of other institutions, locally, including the health delivery system, where many people are denied access to that system have problems other than COVID-19. Psychological negative responses: heightened nationalism, skepticism about the efficacy of science, and the rise in what you would call virulent fundamentalism or authoritarianism. Cynicism and a sense of despair are certainly growing in some quarters. Not all, because some people, of course, are more resilient than others. But a sense of cynicism knows no personality, very few personality loadings and is a consequence of your understanding of how the world works. And if we get cynical about how the world works, it’s really going to turn off our willingness as individuals to reengage.


What kind of wisdom will people need to master to overcome major negative societal and/or psychological changes after the pandemic?

Well, for me, it’s, it’s basically that humankind must come to understand that we share the earth’s bounty and its vulnerability, both of those aspects of our being born. Secondly, good fortune is not fairly distributed locally, nationally or internationally ever and never has been. A third piece of wisdom is that contentedness is a better personal goal than happiness. Another piece of wisdom is that violence signals a need to reorganize our social systems, that we haven’t got a workable solution for humanity, and that a workable solution just for our narrow room is not going to be viable, long term. And finally, emerging out of the Black Lives Matter movement we will always need an accountable policing force to keep one another in check locally, and also internationally. All of those are components of wisdom, as I understand it, that will give us a livable future. A human future, a social future together.


What piece of wisdom do people need to make it through the pandemic?

It’s not my own, but it’s something that struck me when I first came across it. And that’s a quotation from Benjamin Franklin, one of the signatories to the American Declaration of Independence, when they were forming the union among the 13 states at the time. Referring to the States, he said, “we must all hang together or most assuredly, we will all hang separately”. I want to extend that from states of the union, to interpersonal connectedness and the unions we share with others, the connections, the relationships we share with others. Now, this is a pun in English of course, based on the sense that hang together means cooperate or work in conjunction with one another, to achieve joint outcomes. And the second hang in the expression deals with a form of capital punishment where you are taken out of the game because you didn’t master the game. So it implies that there are consequences to not cooperating that we are often blind to see.

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