Fighting For Each Other
Monday, June 1, 2020
We're in a hell of a moment. If you are hoping that it is going to calm down, I'm here to tell you that it won't. We just had a series of super spreader events nationwide, and there is (obviously) tremendous pain, rage, fear, and frustration around.
First on the virus. Not only were these super spreader events including people who are community leaders and activists who obviously cross many social groups and geographic areas themselves, but there was a lot of contact, inconsistent mask-wearing, yelling all around, running, coughing from tear gas and pepper spray, detainment in tight spaces, and imprisonment in facilities known to have active coronavirus spread.
On top of that, many communities and states nationwide have been "reopening" partially or mostly entirely. Which means that the spread will continue more actively.
The most god-awful thing about it is that many who have been out protesting, heartbroken, are obviously in groups known to be more vulnerable to the virus. I heard anchor Don Lemon on CNN say yesterday that if you have nothing to lose, then you have nothing to lose. It's a position I can't imagine being in.
There's a lot of heartbreak and rage out there, and rightly so. It's tragic so far, and it's going to get so much more tragic when the hospitals start to fill up.
I saw a moment yesterday when the police chief in Minneapolis spoke essentially directly to the family of George Floyd. He said basically that he did not see a difference between the former cop who's been arrested and the other ones who were involved. The family doesn't understand why he has not arrested them. He didn't speak to that. But he spoke with the deepest respect. Incredible emotion on both sides. I hope like hell that we see the others be arrested today.
It obviously won't fix everything that's wrong. All of the rage. All of the trauma. It won't make anything easier as the next weeks unfold, and the damage from everything over the past week hits in terms of illness.
We're in a very bad spot as a country. We were obviously not prepared for a pandemic. I had saved documentation for years showing that the US government was not ready for multiple catastrophes or a pandemic. I don't need that now. We got it. Message received.
What we're likely to be facing from here on out are multiple disasters on top of the pandemic. It's wildfire season in the west, and hurricane season starts today. Officially. Although hurricanes don't follow a calendar. A dam broke recently in Michigan, leading to evacuations and a need for shelters. Emergency plans have not been updated to account for a highly infectious disease. Partly because we're so busy dealing with the disease. Partly denial. Partly underfunding and understaffing. Partly other priorities.
It's fairly likely that the civil unrest will persist. That may shift as the impacts of the virus set in. Or it could intensify it.
One of the signs that we're not ready for multiple disasters is how local and state governments were blindsided by all of the protests. I mean like deer-in-the-headlights blindsided. Frozen, to a certain extent. A forward-leaning city facing a protest might have put out more proactive public health guidance for how to protest. A few did. We saw some with portable road signs up encouraging social distancing and masks and whatnot.
But police tactics in most cities clearly did not take public health into account. At all. Even remotely. That's a major disconnect. It's dangerous for everyone involved, including the police departments. It has continuity ramifications for them.
And it could be a death sentence for those who have been arrested or otherwise impacted. Going to jail for disobeying curfew could mean you die of coronavirus. The complete silence on this even by the pundit and media community over the weekend demonstrates the shock and overwhelm all around. It's a lot to take in.
We're going to need to hold each other and our communities and institutions up as we go through this. Everybody is going to have a better shot at surviving if we work together to keep our systems functioning. Many are on the brink (systems and people). We need to find ways to hold them together.
People are not making good decisions because we're in a series of multiple shocks.
We need to be good at making decisions in multiple shocks or we will lose power.
Those who try to seize power and money in times of crisis are at it. Actively. That's a whole different subject. But it's happening. A lot.
We need to hold on to our local governments and our state governments as much as possible. In all the ways. With whatever organizations, coalitions, and structures we have.
Going forward, we'll need to find ways to fight and to do all of that that also help keep as many of us alive as possible. That's going to be a hell of a challenge. It's not going to work for everyone. But we need to help where we can.
Many were this weekend. There were groups handing out masks to protesters, and food, water, and milk for tear gas and pepper spray. People were supporting first-responders. People are trying to look out for each other. We have to keep doing that. Everyone. Wherever we are.
The United States as a whole does not have a long institutional memory for systems being torn apart and what to do when that happens. We've not had a domestic war since the 1800s. Since then we've largely had stable state and local governments, with some notable exceptions. For example, today is the 99 year anniversary of what I understand was a massacre in Tulsa.
We've also had cities devolve in crisis, like during Katrina, but we've not had anything on a scale like this probably since the civil war. We will have cities with decimated budgets soon. We have a federal government that refuses to send funding. We have medical systems laying off employees. We have interruptions in supply chains, and we will have more. We will have critical infrastructure disruptions as well.
Other nations have not gone so long without deep structural disruptions. They have dealt with destabilization more recently, and it's likely helped them deal with the virus better. We're making poor decisions with the virus, in combination with so many other things. The deeply systemic racism and wealth disparities have shot to the forefront in the past week. They will stay in the forefront as the death spreads in the coming weeks as a result.
Will we forget? Will be bury it? Will we hold on fiercely to denial? Will we try and hold on to a world that's gone, rather then dealing with the one that's before us now?
Or will we shake ourselves out of the shock and trauma... and figure out ways to be adaptable, in whatever our roles are? Within our spheres of influence?
In a disaster, 10% of people tend to make good decisions with clear heads, 80% tend to wander around in the shock of it looking for leadership and direction, and 10% of people tend to act in ways that are counterproductive to themselves or to others.
It's very hard to dislodge the 10% who are counterproductive and reckless. That's likely to be persistent as we go through this entire thing. It's the fight response of a trauma, and it's natural. It's very hard to stop. It is certainly some of what we've seen over the last week. All around. It's tragic and heartbreaking. And it sucks.
We can work on the 80% though. We can work on being clear-headed and making good decisions. It's all about adaptability, flexibility, and resilience. Good problem-solving. Being able to have connection and community.
The reason I write stuff like this is to help people get to the 10% out of the 80%. To help us all find ways through this. To help us keep enough of the systems in place and functional to help us all survive so that we can transform this world into something that serves everyone better.
That's a lot harder to do if everything dissolves into chaos. It's harder to get systems to serve everyone if there are no systems. So we'll need to hold them together.
I'm not wrong about this. I've been getting ready for this level of chaos for my entire life. Not because I'm a prepper. Because I'm a professional, who first studied population dynamics in 1992, and who has spent a career on risk, disasters, complex systems, infrastructure, resilience, and homeland security.
There are ways through. We have to help each other find them.
When we see police leadership and sheriffs joining protesters, we have a chance of seeing sea change. A chance. When we see lines of police taking a knee in front of protest crowds, we have a chance of seeing sea change. A chance.
And maybe that's coming. We've seen some of it. Maybe those are things that are possible on a larger scale. Maybe they sound like pipe dreams. For good reason. But beautiful vision is worth holding. What a melting of ego that would be - cops taking a knee, en masse. What a moment for viral spread of something completely unprecedented.
It would scratch the surface. The idea alone brings possibility. The idea brings it into consciousness. That some have already started shows possibility (some have started, but some cops have tear-gassed or pepper-sprayed the crowd after the photo op). It's only one thing (when it's authentic). We need thousands of things. We also need to move forward. And not just in tiny steps.
Maya Wiley said this week that "something bigger is afoot. And that afoot is called justice, and the demand for change. And I think what demonstrators and protestors are showing is they keep coming out because they have not yet heard what will be different."
We can do beautiful things. We don't know yet what we can do from here.
In all of what we've seen over the last week, most of what we have seen is just incredible love. It's love for people. That's why people are out fighting. Risking their damn lives to fight. To advocate. They're fighting for themselves. They're fighting for their families. They're fighting for everyone they know. They're fighting for people they don't know.
They're fighting for each other.
We all have to do that as this goes forward. We all have to. There are a million ways to do it. A million ways.
Good luck. Be safe. Try not to get dead. And I mean that. It's going to get harder.
Light it up.
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