Our bodies are made up of bones, muscles, and organs. Yet that’s not all. There is a wide network of nerves, blood and lympathic vessels to connect them, and there is connective tissue to hold the whole system together: cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and membranes.
Our animal life depends on that connective tissue. Elastic fibres enable movement by stretching, collagen holds the structure in place. This is what keep us whole, and mobile.
The same applies to the social world. Collectives are made of more than bones, muscles and organs. They need shock absorbers, cartilage and glue, to keep us from hurting too much as we bump against each other.
Diplomats, connectors and care-takers play that role. Gentle movements to soothe inflammation, politeness to reduce the risk of ripping a fragile social fabric. Emotional labour of all sorts.
Those efforts are particularly valuable in all settings where misunderstandings arise easily. Whenever there is difference, injustice, or inherited tensions. Whenever things shift, rub or chafe. Yet as for all harm prevention, we fail to value those who keep society together, then clap those who remediate – or worse, encourage the trouble-makers.
As we face major disruption around the world, it may well be time we rewarded our shock absorbers – or at least, celebrated them enough that they don’t leave us dry when we need them most.