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The Four Phases of Humans: Where are you and your community today?

HUMANS CAN MOVE THROUGH FOUR PHASES

In my 100th Medium article, let us talk about you. I humbly offer a 3am brainstorm on the sickly state of the nation and your role in healing it. (No pressure.) Please enjoy the long, winding and possibly rambling story. This is my most stream-of-consciousness article to date. There’s something about living through a pandemic and economic free fall in a society with no coherent plan forward that says — go with the flow.

Six months into COVID-19, social isolation and massive financial disruptions, I have observed that most humans appear to fall into what I call the “Four Phases of Being.” We have the disrupted, the normal/coping, the aware and the engaged. (Illustrated definitions to follow.)

I am in no way suggesting these four phases, which are broad generalizations, are the most effective way to categorize people and their capacity to be change agents. I am suggesting that we should talk about what it takes for a community to address social injustice, health disparities and trauma as one’s city, state and nation are driven off a cliff.

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Figure 1: The Disrupted (in a state of flight or fight)

What percentage of your city’s residents are the Disrupted? We can use the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey (measuring ten forms of abuse and neglect in childhood) to begin to measure disruption due to trauma (and untreated trauma) in the adult population. We can also measure what percentage of a county’s population are seeking healing and their capacity to access vital services for surviving like health care.

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Figure 2: The Normal (coping and vulnerable)

What percentage of your city’s residents might be called the Normal/Coping? We can measure if people have access to community support services (health care, housing security, job training, etc.) and coping skills in an era of colliding crises. We can also measure the impact of economic disruption on their job(s) and capacity to earn a living.

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Figure 3: The Aware (reading and witnessing)

What percentage of your city’s population could we describe as the Aware? We can measure awareness of challenges, if people understand the root causes of social adversity, health disparities, benign neglect, social injustice and what it takes to make change on a systems (citywide and countywide) level. It’s important to note that the Aware watch from the sidelines yet have the capacity to engage if the right dire circumstances are presented.

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Figure 4: The Engaged (are change agents committed to social justice)

What percentage of your city’s residents are the Engaged? We can measure if the Engaged, working as change agents, are making measurable and meaningful progress toward social justice and ensuring county residents have access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving.

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Figure 5: What percentage of your county residents are living lives of disruption? How many are engaged?

We are clearly enduring an epidemic of trauma, hence so many Phase 1: Disrupted people. Phase 2: Normal (or Coping) people are on very shaky ground (due to the economic disruptions and massive layoffs) and devolving back to a disrupted or traumatized state of mind. Phase 3: Aware people keep reading up, hoping things get back to normal, and watching the madness play out. The very few Phase 4: Engaged people I encounter are putting out fires daily, fueled by a passion for social justice. They are the only hope for humanity.

We need a lot more Phase 4: Engaged people if we are to survive and thrive as a society. I want to believe that many Phase 3: Aware people are ready to transition to Phase 4. Clearly, we must move from caring about injustice to acting to end it.

The four phases apply to societies as well as individuals. Entire cities and towns can become traumatized, especially as economic disruptions coupled with lack of vital services lead to desperation and hopelessness. Benign neglect by city and county government leaders can steer any community into disruption. It’s also true that the Engaged can mobilize residents to work toward well-resourced communities by capacity-building and voting in responsive, sane and caring elected leaders. We can measure the challenges and successes of Engaged Communities — and share their stories.

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Figure 6: Most US residents have no idea they are being driven off a cliff.

The Engaged, those people committed to action, are the vital ingredient in social justice, health equity and progress. Without engagement, many more people in your region (and across all 3000+ counties in the United States) will find themselves vulnerable to joblessness, untreated mental and medical health challenges, and food and housing insecurity.

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Figure 7: Who seeks but can’t easily access vital services for survival?

Our Status Quo: Unjust and Unacceptable

If you wonder, do I really need to consider moving from aware to engaged, ponder some data from a Jan. 2020 survey of parents in Rio Arriba, NM (a 30 minute drive north from Santa Fe). We asked parents to what degree it was difficult to access local services for surviving and thriving? We also asked why it was a challenge to access services. I offer a few data points that beg the following questions. (And yes, many more questions need to be asked and answered.)

In a pandemic, almost 30% of survey takers report having challenges accessing medical care. Is this a healthy situation or one for concern?

In a state of colliding crises, almost 50% of the survey takers state they seek, but can not easily access, behavioral health care. Is this good public health policy?

In this era of economic disruption and joblessness, 51% of survey takers seek, but struggle to access, job training. Is this good economic development and workforce development policy?

It will take social engagement on an unprecedented scale to finally ensure our families (and all of us) have timely access to vital services. If you wonder if your activism matters, the answer is a resounding ABSOLUTELY!

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Figure 8: Three-headed hydras, (aka persons of power) seek a society of passive humans.
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Figure 9: The hydras running your city and state truly don’t care about you or anyone.

One challenge we all face are those leaders perfectly fine with this chaotic and unjust status quo. You will be facing what I like to call the three-headed hydras of Apathy, Envy and Fear running our local, state and national governments, along with those who control mass media in its many addictive and disempowering forms. They have successfully engineered a nation where most people are either traumatized, coping or passively watching injustice unfold. (See the new book: Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras: Confronting Apathy, Envy and Fear on the road to saving the humans and the future.)

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Figure 10: Engaged humans can defeat the hydras. Action=Justice.

CAN WE TRANSFORM OUR SOCIETY IN TIME?

In the FSA (Fragmented States of America), we are at a tipping point. We either move forward to become a caring and connected society or we descend into isolation, vulnerability and the lifestyle represented in The Walking Dead. We need to invent a process to assist people in moving from phase to phase. Most humans are not even aware that Phase 4: Engaged exists–except in the Marvel Universe of Superheroes.

IF WE ACCEPT THE STATUS QUO…

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Figure 11: The pandemic, social isolation and economic disruption are exhausting,
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Figure 12: The hydras make money while more and more suffer.

*The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? The Plan Forward awaits you here: www.tenvitalservices.org

Written by

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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