It’s Not Your Same Old Set of Crises

It’s Far, Far Worse

Ian Mitroff
3 min readMay 31, 2023

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

A feature article in The New Yorker rightly singles out Lucy Easthope, one of Britain’s most experienced and lauded Disaster Experts, for her distinguished contributions to the field[i]. Nonetheless, as much as I agreed with the article, and even more reflected on my work in the field of Crisis Management (CM), I couldn’t help but think that in recent years, things have become far worse. Like Ms. Easthope whose focus is primarily on individual Disasters, the field of CM has focused mainly on individual organizations and at best whole industries. True, 9/11 and the Oklahoma City Bombings were prime examples of National crises which received the attention due them. Still, the primary focus was on individual firms and industries.

Today, more than ever and on a daily basis, we’re facing Crises which are National and International in scope: the Continuous Unabated Waves of Mass Shootings; an Ex-President and a Political Party that Have No Respect for Democracy, indeed Undermine It at Every Point; the Looming Disasters Caused by Defaulting on the National Debt; Threatened Cuts to Medicare and Social Security Affecting the Poor and Seniors; a Pandemic that Is Still Killing Too Many; the Precarious State of Reason. And, by happening at once, all of the above constitute nothing less than a Mega-Crisis, thereby making it worse.

One of the worst aspects is that the very Institutions upon which we depend to protect us are themselves are not only in dire straits, but a big part of the problem. Thus, writing in The New York Times, Randall D. Ellison has opined about the problem of Corruption that is literally destroying the Supreme Court[ii]. In siding time and time again with big Corporations and giving tacit approval to “donations” by wealthy persons to Public Officials, the Court has thereby sanctioned Corruption. The egregious acts of Clarence Thomas didn’t come out of nowhere.

Adding to the calamity is the fact that Congress, the major Institution that is charged with fixing the problem of the Court, has shown little interest. Once again, it’s potent example of a major Institution not coming to our aid.

[i] Sam Knight, “Chaos Theory: How a disaster expert prepares for the worst,” The New Yorker, May 22, 2023, PP 46–55.

[ii] Randall D. Ellison, “The Supreme Court Has a Corruption Problem,” The New York Times, Friday, May 19, 2023, P. A23.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His most recent are: Techlash: The Future of the Socially Responsible Tech Organization, Springer, New York, 2020. The Psychodynamics of Enlightened Leadership; Coping with Chaos, Co-authored with Ralph H. Kilmann, Springer, New York, 2021. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid 19, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo by Harold Mendoza on Unsplash