Dena Michele Rosko
The power lines zapped overhead in the late September sky as I crossed the open field, past the new and empty play toy, and around the newly painted white building with tall and lean windows and vacant eyes. On that warm late summer day, I had finished photographing the 10th anniversary of September 11 at the local firehouse. In a pre-pandemia memory as a child, I stood inside the church building gazing at the collection of ladybugs on that same window sill.
Years later, I returned with my baby in the backseat to show him my old neighborhood and the church of my childhood on the west hill, a subarea of unincorporated King County claimed by no city. A limensphere in-between the structural disparities, and a community association advocating for healthy placemaking (King County; Williams). The church had changed owners with three signs of different congregations working together. A van sat in the parking lot with “youth violence prevention network” written on the side.
In a limensphere, a time lapse of “blursday the umpteenth of Juneuvary,” we passage personae to communitas in-between the margins of coping with and designing systems for the health and thriving of all (Rosko; Turner). This effort means placemaking with a collective validation, and responding with compassionate action to the health crises of our times, and the structures that enflame them. On the inside of our homes looking out from time-lapsed windows, we catch the heel of a structural era limping away.
Pandemia Reveals the Crisis of Invalidation
A crisis of invalidation has unfolded during pandemia. It’s not the virus or race that’s the problem. It’s the failure to listen to the feedback from people and systems that our way of life, our economic code, and ideological divides, have harmed for generations. Pandemia has revealed what no longer serves. Pandemia has shown a top-heavy militant system of “don’t tread on me” supremacy. Pandemia has revealed public health crises from structural ostracisms, or the intersections of how economics has coded racism, sexism, and childism. Pandemia has affected those whom our economic code marginalizes more so than those that the code does not. Supremacy has deluded generations to power-hold life-giving resources or validation unto oneself or group to continue at the expense of others. The colors may change, but the method of ostracism does not. White supremacy hasn’t gone away because of how our society has upheld it through the privilege that it seems to afford (Saad). In effect, supremacy as an attitude of superiority differs from the domestic terrorism of hate crimes and anti-blackness. Diversity and inclusion only mean something if we follow-through with action for systems change.
We find that supremacy hinders heritage. The intent of supremacy to power-hold resources for one group over others threatens the continuing of us all. Existing public health crises collide because our economic system codes health and well-being for some, not all, for the purpose of economic advantage of a few. We can map the health disparities of people based on race and neighborhood (see Baradaran; California Newsreel & Vital Pictures; M. Desmond; Kendi; O’Brien; Rothstein; Wilberforce). Specific to COVID-19, hospitalization and death rates among Black/African Americans is higher than their white counterparts, and yet testing rates are lower (CDC). “Those most vulnerable before an emergency are also the most vulnerable during and after an emergency” (CDC). African Americans make up 80% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Georgia, and 72% of those who died of the disease in Chicago (CDC; Fears).
The CDC recommends working across sectors, collecting data, and evidence-based strategies to reduce health disparities (CDC), or with community- centered, driven, and owned solutions, and yet, the health team appointed by the White House lacks diversity save one brilliant Black woman scientist working on the vaccine (Fears; Rodgers). The structures need to change because more data, more evidence, and more research won’t alleviate the burden that we have aggravated the wound of pandemia through structural ostracism. Structural ostracism marginalizes people to control populations so that one population, person, or group accesses the resources that continue life. Pandemia has amplified suffering with an urgent opportunity to dismantle the systems that no longer serve, and redefine economics in terms of health and heritage. Health indexes and placemaking can support a thriving population and economy. We separate the two with structural ostracism; we need integration.
In many indicators the United States has placed dead last. The United States ranked #18 out of 80 in 2017 for quality of life rankings, and Canada, Denmark, and Sweden ranked in the top three, respectively (U.S. News & World Report). Researchers scored countries based on 65 attributes that they sub-ranked into nine categories for the Best Countries ranking: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power and Quality of Life (McPhillips). The United Nations Development Programme calculated health index for countries as a ranking of very high, high, medium, and low human development from 1980 to 2013 based on life expectancy at birth using a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 85 years. In 2018, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland and Germany led the HDI ranking of 189 countries and territories, while Niger, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad and Burundi presented the lowest scores, where 59 countries presented in the very high human development group, and 38 countries in the low HDI group, or up from 46 and 49 countries respectively in 2010 (United Nations Development Programme). Pandemia has pressured the world to build a non-existent public health system during a global emergency.
Countries that have fared worse from pandemia seem to historically invest less in the economics of health and heritage. The charitable “throw money at a problem to make it go away” seems the prevailing go-to. Instead, develop community-driven approaches that will transform the health and places where people live, work, learn, and play (see Lupton). Further, structural ostracism drives competing poverties of our time. That’s the result of an exploit-discard system that fails to honor the requisite laws of reciprocity and action to enact whole systems visions in organizations by authentically dialoguing and learning from each other (see Institute for 21st Century Agoras; Özbekhan; Warfield & Teigen; Weisbord; Weisbord & Janoff). In the United States, states that held higher scores in wages, worker protections, and right to organize laws also showed longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates, and in no states did the minimum wage approach a living wage for a family of four (Oxfam). Few states have passed paid sick leave, paid family leave, or fair scheduling laws, such as increase the minimum living wage, worker protections with equal pay laws, workplace protections for pregnant and breastfeeding workers, job-protected paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, or repealed laws that undermine collective bargain (Oxfam). These lack of supports depleted systems instead of replenishing them to be healthy and resilient during pandemia.
Systems have increased noise because we’ve failed to validate them in all their guts and glory. When abuse systems fail to validate the people who suffer by them, then you hear more noise. Pandemia reveals domestic terrorisms we’ve ignored. For instance, women and children required to stay at home do not always experience safe or loving homes. The primary challenge involves placemaking housing. The “red line” neighborhood design harms groups of people from continuing and living peaceable, healthful, and happy lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as a public health risk that needs screening and intervention (CDC; NNEDV; WHO). Aggression and violence characterize too many close romantic relationships, such as with coercive controlling violence (also called intimate terrorism) (Coker, et al.; Regan & Durvasula).
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey revealed a sustained high prevalence of offenders committing more than 4.2 million intimate-partner-related physical assaults, rapes, and stalking annually against women, and 3.2 million physical assaults, rapes, and stalking against men (Black, et al.). Of those whom offenders harmed or killed, 20% were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, co-workers, law enforcement responders, or bystanders (Smith, Fowler, & Niolon). Seventy-two percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female (The Violence Policy Center [VPC]). In six months of another study, 313 suicides occurred with a total number of people who died as greater, or 691 (Smith, et al.). More people died from murder-suicide than from suicides alone leaving children parentless, and so contributing to the global orphan crisis (see Christian Orphan Alliance; Dave Thomas Foundation; DW; Show Hope; SOS Childrens Village; VPC).
On a typical day, more than 20,000 people call domestic violence hotlines nationwide for support services from 1,694 out of 1,873 (90%) domestic violence programs that participated in the survey (National Network to End Domestic Violence [NNEDV]). These programs have served 72,245 survivors in one day with 40,470 adult and child survivors in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs. 31,775 adult and child survivors received counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups (NNEDV). On one day, local domestic violence programs educated 24,030 individuals in communities across the United States. Advocates provided 1,240 trainings that addressed domestic violence prevention, early intervention, and more (NNEDV). These programs provide necessary life-giving aid to families in need of support to so many people and communities.
One in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (CDC). A woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds, the presence of guns in a home where domestic violence is a problem increases the risk of a murder by 500%, more than 200,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines every year, and abusers severely physically harmed one in five women and one in seven men (Young). An intimate partner has stalked one in seven women and one in 18 men during their lifetime until the survivors felt fearful or believed that the stalker would harm or kill them or someone close to them (CDC). Husbands or partners murder on average three women per day in the United States, and abuse or batter a woman every nine seconds somewhere in the United States (STAND!).
Yet, when women and children report abuse we find a similar tragic story. Few listen. Those who do often inflict a second wound of invalidation, such as by asking for more work, proof, examples, and education, the dual-burden of survivors, minimizing, and scapegoating, of the harm that an aggressor has done to them. The second wounds those among us, could be inflicted by any of us unawares, should you choose to confide in someone you thought a safe person (see Channing Brown). The second wounds keep a person or people in triage for generations. Trying to survive while those around us do not see, hear, or understand. It’s “safer” to outsiders to stay on the outside, and push the sufferer back into the pandemia milleau. People on the “outside” who deny the abuse can often stigmatize, and even blame, survivors for presenting this laundry list of symptoms. This rejection often happens in the circles that the survivor seek for haven, such as ideologies with militant (alleged safety of political vote) or religions with hyper-headship models of men “over” women and children (alleged safety of church) (Holloway; J. Taylor), and I add, children (childism).
These figures entrench a horrifying limen time for survivors stuck in-between life and death in part because of a failure of the sectors, ideologies, and structures to validate and respond by alleviating and transforming suffering to thriving. These health crises inside our homes expands its belly outwards to a national policy from an administration and following that cherishes militant masculinity over democratic engagement, public health, and public safety. To that point, pandemia exacerbates gender inequalities, such as women comprise 70% of care workers, 92% of women in poorer countries work informally, and women provide 75% unpaid care with cuts to elder and child care in public health systems keeps women at home, which increases likelihood of domestic violence globally (Bonnet, Vanek, & Chen; Graham-Harrison, et al.; Oxfam; Singano; Wanqing; WHO). Ninety percent of the world’s students now stay home from school, with the poorest children and girls often suffering without access to school feeding programs or distance learning technologies (Giannini).
The way we talk about violence against women and children matters to validation. Jackson Katz stated that men need to step up to address domestic abuse at a Ted Talk that garnered 1,983,555 views as of November 2018, and 30,000 tweets (see J. Brown; George; Katz; Kingston; Lin; Thompson). The passive voice of “violence against women” lacks an active agent who makes a choice, and we render a political act of erasing the survivors and elevating the offenders (Arcus; J. Brown; Katz; Henley, Miller, & Beazley; Kingston; Lin; Thompson). Similarly, the way we discourse survivors of racism and pandemics matters. Combined with structural ostracism, such as racism, people of color experience public health crises at a greater disparity than their white counterparts (see Hampton & Gullotta). The way we listen to them matters to soothe with action of validation. Pandemia feels louder and more painful because we’ve not corrected the context, or existing systems of structural abuse.
Pandemia Reveals Another Minority
We are all the ages we ever were.
Pandemia has exposed childism, too, another phobia that perpetuates structural ostracism for the function of powerholding place and wealth. Pandemia has impacted children with nationwide closures that are impacting over 60% of the world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized closures impacting millions of additional learners, or 1,186,127,211 affected learners 67.7% of total enrolled learners 144 country-wide closures (UNESCO). Children suffer the adversity of being home with an offender who abuses them.
Pandemia has exacerbated trending demographics of children and elders. The U.S. Census Bureau projected that elderly will outnumber children for the first time by 2035, rendering children a minority population (Overberg & Adamy), or a symbol of generations of marginalizing a people group to maintain a way of life. These population gaps coincide with a global shift in major religions projected by 2035, and largely assessed by trends in birth rates of Caucasian and Arabic populations (Pew Research Center). Disparities among generations and power-holding of resources undergird these population shifts.
Pandemia has razed health disparities that collide racism, sexism, and childism into public health crises to rescue, such as the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis. For instance, obstetric violence against women during labor and childbirth harms Black women at over 200% more than their white counterparts, and arguably kills women over age 40 eight times more than women under 25 years old, where mortality rates have risen from 7.2% to 16.9% from 1987 to 2016 (CDC; Health Resources & Social Services Administration; Herrera Beutler & Krishnamoorthi). In 2016, the president signed into law a requirement for all States to collect data for five years to understand the quantitative answer as to why the medical system mortally wounds or harms women in childbirth (see Health Resources & Social Services Administration; Young) from systems that invalidate women and children as deserving of support and place.
People enraged over mask-wearing or worried about school delays need to realize that children have long dealt with cultural biases against them, such as that they don’t feel pain, that they’ll recover quickly because they’re resilient, that they’re vectors of disease (fear of contagion), that they need to be sick to boost their immune system, that if they tell you someone abused them that they’re lying, and a host of other adult dismissals to keep the factory-line world of work going undisturbed. For instance, children who’ve been orphaned, such as by a parent who died from covid-19, struggle to meet developmental milestones largely due to a lack of meaningful interaction. Toddlers need safe and consistent adults to regulate big emotions or talk about complex experiences, and trauma hurts development (see Glennen; Meese; Snedeker, Geren, & Shafto; Tabor; Welsh & Viana). Adopted children suffered developmental delays in language and social skills and health problems because of the lack of meaningful social interactions with older children and caregivers in institutions or orphanages (see Glennen).
The notion that a white supremist society “saves” international children, or Black babies for state-assisted adoptions fueled by the mass incarceration and maternal mortality morbidity crisis, runs afoul with how disastrously we treat them and their caregivers structurally and culturally, and here at home literally and figuratively. It’s the interaction principle in the context of safe love that helps children to grow and continue. There’s a limit to how schools can serve children, and young adults, to prepare them for the world of work, to drop them off for the eight hour work day, because these fuel the exploit-discard of their parents’ struggle.
A lack of affordable, accessible, meaningful, healthful, and safe childcare in the United States contributes to the crisis of a lack of a caregiving economy (see Child Care Aware(R) of America). Pandemia strains systems for basic needs, too. Child food insecurity exists in every county in the U.S. with a population under age 18 (Feeding America®). More children live in a food-insecure household than do the general population, or the staggering number of 12,938,000 people suffering food insecurity in the United States (Feeding America®).
By all appearances, the militancy of the United States cuts out everyone who is not “fit” to survive, who does not fit into the idealize-exploit-discard wedge. The unpaid caregivers, again, become the heroines of the day, often women in charge of the water and food security for their families, or the stay/work-from-home dad with a parent penalty in pay (O’Connell; Sawhill & Cuddy). Perhaps children are the real hero/heroine in pandemia’s revelation because children have managed to be brave through these abysmal cracks in their nest.
The invalidation of abuse happens to children, too, perpetuating the cycle, such as boys who witness IPV are 30% at risk for perpetuating it as adults, and partners stalk over 6.6 million people per year, men (41%) and women (66%) (STAND!). Exposure to interparental violence (EIPV) in toddlerhood/preschool, but not in infancy, predicted both IPV perpetration and victimization at as a young adult (ages 23, & 26-32) (Narayan, et al.). Toddlerhood/preschool may be key developmental periods to intervene and deter long-term effects of EIPV and IPV across the transition from early adulthood to adulthood (Narayan, et al.). IPV also causes women and children to become homeless, and about 70% of men that abuse their partners also abuse their children, and 50% of men who assault their wives assault their children (STAND!). Heartbreakingly, nearly five children die every day as a result of child abuse, and more than three out of four are under the age of four years old (see Roberts, et al.; STAND!). In the United States 2010 census, Americans did not even count about five percent of kids, or 1 million children under the age of five (United States Census Bureau).
Globally, children make up about a third of the world’s population, yet suffer from a wide range of loss for a variety of causes (Show Hope). The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund [UNICEF] reported that 153 million orphans exist worldwide, and most orphans (83%) are classified as “single orphans,” denoting children who have lost at least one parent. Children with no parents comprise only 17% of the total number (26 million), or “double orphans” (Darago).
Children around the world lose one or both parents to HIV/AIDS violence, conflict, corruption, poverty, and war (Show Hope), and now, pandemia. One out of every ten children risks growing up alone (SOS Children’s Villages). Children orphaned in these situations suffer from hunger, lack of access to education, child labor, health challenges often related to malnutrition and disease, early mortality, and displaced as migrants, refugees, or missing, and pandemia exacerbates these risks (see SOS Children’s Villages). For example, 65.6 million refugees in 2016; half of them were children 45 percent of whom came from Syria and Afghanistan, over 250 million children are living in countries affected by conflict, one in four of the world’s children live in conflict or disaster zones, where conflict forces on average 20 families to flee their home every minute (Show Hope; UNHCR; UNICEF). An estimated 17.7 million children lost one or both parents from AIDS mostly in sub-Saharan Africa (UNICEF).
In 2017, there were about 15,000 deaths every day of children under the age of five (WHO). Leading causes of death in under-5 children are preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. About 45% of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition, or about 3 million young lives a year, where 69 million children worldwide who suffer from malnutrition (UNICEF; WHO). 2.7 million babies die every year in their first month of life and a similar number are stillborn (WHO). 5.6 million children under the age of 5 died in 2016, equivalent to 11 children every minute (UNICEF).
Developed countries are not immune to the orphan crisis, given human trafficking, hunger, policies and procedures that displace children from parents at the border, and the foster crisis. In the United States, there are more than 23,000 children age out of foster care without families of their own annually (Dave Thomas Foundation). 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone (WHO). In Germany, 5,835 refugee minors disappeared in 2016, 555 of them under the age of 14 (Myers). Internationally, sending countries have increased restrictions on foreign adoptions, which decreased 59 percent since 2004 (Christian Alliance for Orphans). Countries lose orphans, or make them orphans at the border, and conflict reduced the quality of life for 28 million children by making them homeless (DW). The United States doesn’t own the supremacy problems globally if the structural, political, and cultural abuse and neglect of children indicates.
Pandemia has revealed the structural disparities of generations for survival of the supremist. Structural reform means strategies for reducing health disparities for minorities, which now include children (see CDC; Pew). The childism-sexism-racism triad kills Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) mothers two to three times more from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women, and this disparity increases with age (see CDC). These numbers of the “significant mistreatment” or violent birth, pregnancy leading to morbidities and mortalities with the United States ranking last in “developed” countries for maternal health (Borges; CDC; Chuck; Herrera Beutler & Krishnamoorthi; Diaz-Tello; WHO). The idealize-exploit-discard cycle of economic supremacy harms youth at the onset.
The method of ostracism isn’t new. It’s coded differently depending on where and when you’re born in the world. Any structural reality that threatens continuing threatens future generations. In India, about 15.12% of women encounter labor reproductive violence during childbirth, and more so among Muslim women than Hindu (Goli, et al.), or those socially disadvantaged due to how a cultural and economic system has coded them. Back in the United States, on average 700 women die per year, or two per day, for childbirth related causes with some perishing during the postpartum period due to neglect of a system that won’t care for their physical or mental health (CDC; Herrera Beutler & Krishnamoorthi). Key barriers to shared decision making for the oft-overused caesarean section include existing cultural norms of expert model of doctors and acquiescence of women, which can lead to legal challenges, overuse of medical intervention, and obstetric violence (Borges; Diaz-Tello). The outdated archetype based on supremacy of doctor-as-savior becomes a heuristic, which risks harm to the system by oversimplifying it. Public health as a currency wields the phobias as deference to an ableism that can survive supremacy, barely, or who we can exploit-discard at the factory, at home, or in the streets, and these replaced by ideologies to justify them instead of ideals to overcome.
Pandemia exposed these discard cycles that ostracize people from continuing themselves and their heritage. Pandemia has revealed these structural and socially acceptable ostracisms of our time. Ostracism from support circles of course plays to the game of abuse as control and isolation, that exploiting of a person, yet the insanity of treating them as though they do not exist, or have a right to, with low regard, low respect, and contempt. Society normalizes unhealthy behavior so people may not understand the abusive dealings of their partner even if they sense something off (see One Love Foundation). The tool of violence, the guns of white supremacy specific to the United States (Carney), means it’s socially acceptable to commit violence at every sector because of ideological wars that reduce heinous crimes of racism, sexism, and childism to socially acceptable methods of place-hoarding instead of place-making and sharing.
In all this, we have not lost that this is an election year in panic. The deployment of ideology increases divide, which increases risk of rupture to pandemia, born out of a false duality of a two-party system as opposites. Many Americans regard their choice of candidate as a defensive vote against the opponent instead of their proactive support of a favored candidate (Pew Forum). Ideology becomes a weapon in times as these. The 2016 election showed that ideologies have become at war between competing poverties. The efforts to secure the current administration seem more a push to power-hold a way of life than a faith with a militant structure that assaults and oppresses black lives with slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality (Coates). Racism hasn’t gone away because we’ve entrenched and normalized it in discriminatory policies and anti-black thinking (Kendi). As with other -isms, including childism, racism amounts to population control to secure wealth. It’s structural ostracism as iron cage to support the prevailing supremacy, or in this case, white domestic terrorism.
Economics of Structural Ostracism or Heritage
These symptoms of injustice root in an economics of ostracism. Midway through my post graduate program I attended a workshop facilitated by two black people with our city police department and the nonprofit partnership for which I served. The turning point for me was when a black woman shared how with great passion of anger and fear, that she wanted her son to graduate high school and make it home alive. That was her lived reality every day, fearing whether her son would make it home and if he made it home would be able to finish high school. Soon to become a mother myself those fears hit home for me. I’m acquainted with the pitfalls of trying to heal from systems that ostracize and abuse, and those that inflict a second wound.
Hearing her speak made prior years of engagement click for me. I understood after I sang the black anthem with my fellow high schoolers at assemblies, and listened to speeches on unity in diversity. I attended that diversity workshop at Seattle University with my Black peer, and felt the angst of why my church merged when I was 18 years old away at college. The church on a hill sold under the assumption that the formerly white church couldn’t reach the neighborhood because the demographics had changed. It was difficult to afford the cost of the large building and utilities, and the new and buzzing mega churches offered catchy programs for youth complete with espresso machines in the fellowship hall.
Supremacy evokes a trigger word for ostracism. The tendency to design systems that ostracize to prefer the continuing of some over others. Other writers may do better at proving the abuse cycle of ostracizing systems that validate oppressors over sufferers. Ostracism upon ostracism infringes upon people’s right to eat, drink, work, propagate, continue, and breathe for their human life. Ostracism blocks people’s ability to continue because it weighs them down, and prevents them from accessing the resources that they need. No wonder the distress of late feels crushing and sounds painfully loud. Economies do not function on their own as some abstract, lofty entity outside of us; we create and drive them. Ostracism guards the status quo as the grumpy cat ready to nip you if you step out of the expected role.
This coding is not new. Jesus claimed that the “love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10), and overturned the table of the money lenders in the temple because “my father’s house is a house of prayer for all nations, and you have turned it into a den of robbers and thieves” (Matt. 21:13). Love of money and unjust economics a false religion make. The overlap of religion and economics and resulting injustices is what makes the “love of money the root of all evils” (1 Tim. 6:10). It’s become so normal that we don’t see it and it’s become entrenched and even our churches (see Kobes Du Mez; Rah; Woodley & Sanders).
Pandemia unearthed the empire of militant masculinity, and likely the toxic femininity that supports it, the other tools of white supremacy, out of places of worship because the gospel of Jesus invites all people, and intersects the crucible and the celebration, the suffering and the joy, and not one at the expense of the other (see Kobes Du Mez; Rah; Woodley & Sanders). The ways that religion has bed-fellowed with ideology and politics by missing the spectrum of being for a person’s life for a person’s family, and inflicting that second wound by being silent or defending those who abuse with ostracism.
Pandemia has revealed these “tares with the harvest” of classism and extremism (Matt. 13:24-30). Weed out too many tares at once, and the system, intertwined with false company, collapses. The exploit-discard abuse of the economic system possibly correlates to why the virus has killed more men than women (see Weiss). The widening wealth disparity globally risks further instability, and pressures community organizations to provide more workers for more people to meet more needs, and to provide new services to respond to ongoing problems (Raymond; see Rosko). Namely, 62 people hold more wealth than half of world’s population, and by 2020 one percent of the world’s population will hold more than half of the wealth combined that the remaining 99% held from 2014-2016 (Elliot; Hardoon, et al.; Peck). This extreme inequality drags economic growth, and decreases the amount of quality jobs and resources, which rises to instability and violence of extremism as more people compete over poverties and feel threatened to defend their way of life.
The United States may have fared better during pandemia if we had existing economics and structure that validated health and heritage for all. The American dream sets us up for consumerism that perpetuates the structures of inequality we have made to oppress people groups to secure our wealth. Hands-off capitalism strangles because it has encoded the -isms revealed by pandemia. In contrast, Jesus’ hands-on approach, while an emotion of anger, turned the money tables over at the temple (John 2:17; Mark 11:15-18; Matt. 21:12-13; Psa. 69:9). Jesus didn’t mince words because he elevated the vision of his father’s house being “a house of prayer for all nations,” a limen and hospitable space (John 2:17; Mark 11:15-18; Matt. 21:12-13; Psa. 69:9). Jesus resurrected the greatest law the love of God and neighbor as ourselves, and not money (Mark 12:31; Matt. 22:34-40). One increases violence; the other comforts (Rev. 21-22).
As with now, the upheaval revealed how people use money to ostracize each other from basic needs and safe love to the point of a norm bolstered by entangling religion, commerce, and the many -isms. Our economic woes arise from the violent ways we inflict our survival upon others to the point of displacing them, ostracizing them from their basic needs and loving welcome that they need and deserve. Economics have coded ostracism to survive a few. We can choose ostracism or heritage to continue. If it’s not on the budget, then it’s not valued. Budgets set vision for the future as a guidepost for expenditures and deposits per a tracking system.
A task of leadership involves developing economic codes that better serve health, life, learning, contribution, and heritage because we can’t legislate hearts or change attitudes. Set aside political and cultural ideology, which serves a function as the flipside of the dual-sided coin of ostracism and phobia, and call to mind a different currency, an ancient one by which we survived, that economy of community that acts on suffering with compassion and care because we all struggle on a spectrum, and we do not carry the same burdens (see Rosko). The function of wealth and ease, while other population groups struggle provides this privilege unawares to those who live by it, without understanding the suffering involved (see Hill).
We can learn from our fellow suffers as if on a spectrum. For instance, unity among feminism needs dismantling of racism also, and it’s white blindness on how to address race, class, sexuality, and gender; women’s issues go beyond one singular method to increase wealth, or population control of childism, to community leadership over basic needs, such as food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care (see Kendall). The exploit-discard relic of the factory line has beset white and black Americans in two separate arguably competing economies (Baradan).
In contrast, the currency of compassionate communitas (Rosko) with commitments to neighborliness can rebuild the bedrock of democracy as constituents gather at neighborhood centers, and engage in civic dialogue continues to inform calls to strengthen American democracy (Parker Follett). Neighborliness expresses the heart of the greatest law of faith to love God and neighbor as self (Mark 12:31; Matt. 22:34-40). Neighborliness, then, makes an ideal for the “We” story is a living democracy we govern ourselves from the base of the pyramid instead of the top. Increase survival of all, and not a few.
However, as with any -ism, phobia works for an economic advantage of us-versus-them to enforce the ideology of ostracism’s exploit-discard, and otherwise power-holding resources from current and future generations as a form of population control as a long lineage of white rage in the name of protecting democracy and fiscal responsibility (see Anderson).
At the root of all economic injustice is childism, or the threat to continuing. Let the joy and tears of a child be our teacher. I daily walked with my son strapped to my belly postpartum down the in-filled street past ditches and broken sidewalks. Sidewalks a levy in my city of $3 per year per household could provide for everyone, or the city could share from other cups in the budget weighted towards property protection, but not health. Health has become the new safety.
I encountered a grandmother with her two great school age children.
“It’s a lonely time,” she said her face expressing her yesterday.
I often tell people that pandemia has required behaviors of most of us that a few of us, namely caregivers, sufferers of ostracism, survivors, have already been doing, struggling to stay well. We can choose ostracism from or connection with basic needs, safe love, an integrated life, meaningful work, learning, play, health, and so on. Those struggling now struggle because we’ve reinforced an economy of ostracism instead of heritage to continue. Staying at home, working from home, walking from home, watching out for hygiene concerns in childcare facilities, advocating for ourselves against violence during labor or postpartum, educating people who won’t listen, and assume the worst of us because of their privilege.
Pandemia has ushered a new era of health economics because of the neglect and invalidation we paid to each other and the systems that support, ideally, our lives and continuing. This new economic system invites sufferers, sectors, leaders, and organizations to design a system that supports the most vulnerable, the centermost ring, while all sectors surround that ring in widening circles to have its back. An economics of heritage protects those inner circles; whereas, an economics of ostracism exploits and discards them in-between the margins.
Placemaking by Collective Validation for a Borderline System
At the crux of validating responses in this limensphere lies the Platinum Rule, or “Do unto others as they’d like done unto them” (Allessandra & O’Connor). Borderline systems’ trigger chaos invalidating people’s reasonable responses to ostracizing or abusive behavior or structures, such as racism. A system that honors the innermost rings wires in the opposite direction. Borderline systems trigger the attention, and possibly adrenal response, this regulated system with invalidation. My interpretation of borderline systems, not individuals or an allopathic licensed diagnosis of individuals, borderline systems marked by erratic extremes between highs and lows often in short amounts of time with varying recovery in-between.
Borderline systems resist change because they don’t respect the autonomy or boundary stated, and struggle with the separation in-between. Borderline systems prefer chaos to force the system back to status quo. Borderline systems defined by characteristics of entitlement-abandonment/neglect, exploit-discard behaviors after ideation, drops in mood before and/or after peaks in conflict, exhausted lapses in-between hyper-vigilance and resignation, possible penitence or quasi-amends, and the cycle triggers again to a stuck self-fulfilling feedback loop. Paradoxically, the separation that borderline systems try to avoid via control worsens as pockets of ostracism erupt for self- or group- preservation.Validation offers a pathway through, and that with a pace of grace that slows the interaction down, while transcending the high/low extremes with a vision for what’s beyond the, or outside of the, borderline system.
We find a task to rearrange the circles of influence to respect the voice of the one rendered most vulnerable by the ways that the system has marginalized them. This task means that we, the archetype of experts, find a rite of passage to exit the system that we’ve benefited from, yet has harmed others, and release control of them so that they can pass safely through to a new way that integrates the vision for healthy futures with an economics of continuing.
The exploit-discard for ostracism, with ideology as the ideation phase, describes the extremism of our times. Pandemia has enlisted us all, willing or not, to choose or resist a collective empathy, compassion, and validation. Collective validation as a practical action of empathy can help move the lament forward into a we story where we in vision of future that touches the heart with inspiration and aspiration, with story and hope, with motivation and neighborliness, and with a heart for what equity for all will mean.
Ideology as ideation cloaks a borderline system. Lost in ideology, which buttresses systems of ostracism, it seems we’ve lost a civic vision, and that, too, has festered before covid-19. A horrifying irony of the echo of the “powerful death rattle from America’s White Supremacy” (Ali, 2016). The reasons complex with one to add: the common response to the second wound, or the invalidation of people when they cry foul to an abuse system. Individuals who abuse derive their power from a system that fails to correct them, and resists the changes required to support the sufferers. The tale as old as the friends of Job, who blamed, gaslit, and theologized their contempt of him for his suffering, and Cain, the brother of Abel, “am I my sibling’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:1-13; Job 4-23). Yes, we are.
Efforts of integral leadership work if they resonate with validating ears. Four hundred years of imperial paternalism have not served the masses with an allopathic for profit health system. We know that people of color and mothers suffer worse outcomes for health, and you can map those pre-existing conditions based on where they live in the neighborhood, and those maps reflect the implicit segregation that still exists in our cities.
Possibly unsettling for academia, we’ve a task to dismantle methods of inquiry that no longer serve, and listen to our peers for new ones. A lengthy reference list or verbose details to convince us if we’re open to validation. Research about the world of work only works if the nest is safe and stable enough to study. Invalidation inflicts the deeper more painful and lasting second wound that injures the entire system. The second wound of method such as blaming or scapegoating the sufferer, gaslighting, and percepticide that deny people their story that something awful has happened to them, and that demand undue burden of work and proof on sufferers instead of respond to their pleas for change. Ignoring sufferers increases risk to public health and safety, and leaves a void to fill or return to status quo. We’ve not yet matured past the slavery attitudes in the world of work. Advocacy and action become the new research deeds.
We’ve centered the narrative on a white male savior lens of leadership, a mask of hubris not transformation, that inflicts a second wound of insisting people explain a rational argument to give data and prove their case when they are the ones suffering the most, and at the hands of those demanding that argumentation from them. The many modes and techniques to monetize leadership delivery only go so far. It doesn’t matter the quality of argument or posse-grouping of references if we fail to hear and respond to the essentials, and if we do not return benefit, the requisite law of reciprocity, that possible outcome of validation, to the communities we serve.
We drop what no longer serves, and listen to what populations our economic code has marginalized, or in our case, black, indigenous, immigrant, and people of color intersected with women and children tell us. The need to listen also goes to the children and women who suffer in silence in their homes from that same spirit of superiority that inflicts harm upon them. They too suffer worst in pandemia through stay home orders. Yet their stories sound too similar. We’ve just not listened to validate them. It’s not enough is enough; it’s enough is too much.
Times of chaos, such as a pandemic, force rearranging in a short amount of time partly because we cope with a system in-between change and resistance. In 2015, I wrote reflections from a crisis management workshop that Saybrook University faculty facilitated for Saybrook students and employees in my city (Rosko, 2015). During that time, we talked about what hinders quality crisis management. One of those hindrances is a lack of listening to the warning signs. The task of leadership shows up by envisioning a society of thriving systems designed for heritage of connecting and integrating the stories and voices of people who have been communicating information to the system for a long time.
We can, with an appreciative lens, regard this pandemic and its unrest as an opportunity to do better starting today. One way involves painting visions at the local level with regional partners to improve the resiliency and neighborliness of a public health, and city design in American society that corrects the margins arranged in concrete columns and rows. This process starts with an honest awareness of the harm of supremacy over a black indigenous people of color and an honest look at the misuse of economic codes to disadvantages people.
By this token we have not fully become a sovereign nation or finished the job of the dissolution because we brought over the economic biases as a system of colonies by using slavery to build a country for some, not all. Here the split politically happens from competing poverties. To transition from pandemia and its underbelly of structural ostracism, we need to work towards a more integrated and holistic vision for public health and civil rest. We commit to better listening and integrating the stories of people marginalized by our economic code because the task of integral leadership is to heal, and do so with a collective validation and compassionate commitment to collaborate and unify for solutions the honor and respect the people greatest impacted by those who have abused them with a system of supremacy.
Phobia serves ostracism not integration. Terror Management Theory (TMT) describes how fear motivates people to power hold resources and cultural beliefs buttressed by group identification, e.g., ideology, to disadvantage people deemed not like them (see Abrams & Hogg; Burke, Martens, & Faucher; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon; Greenberg et al., 1990; Hogg & Abrams; Rosko; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski; Tajfel, & Turner). A false security in extreme times. The pendulum swings from appealing to those who abuse power, to efforts at nationalism to leave it (see X).
Pause and Performance of Limensphere
We pause to resurge liminality as a framework to rewire our economic code and health systems, such as by employing ritual and rites of passage to validate suffering and provide a pathway for people to reconnect with themselves and each other (see Thomassen). Economic codes originate in what we project into currency, and systems of ostracism or heritage. Economics about human nature become multidimensional (Skinner) and depend on self-interest and ritual that transcends the modern discard of them (Tarde; Thomassen). Strife, loudness, and abuse distracts as resistance to change, and the work required to accomplish change. The system becomes louder to catch our attention. It matters how we discourse our discipline to adapt and respond.
The limensphere comes from these multiple dimensions. Initially, the first realm of society is the structured, hierarchical, politico-legal-economic realm that differentiates, and marginalizes, people. The second realm is the liminal or unstructured, rudimentarily structured, or amorphous boundaried communitas, where people who experience marginality and inferiority fall under the dominant realm, and pass through to create another, belonging nowhere and everywhere with hopes to land somewhere. This multi-leveled experience creates tension, and a liminal space (Turner; van Gennep). The movement through the multi-dimensions of pandemia address the structural ostracism, need for validation and healing, and the transformation needed on every identity-based sector, person, and group.
Limensphere respects the boundaryless ideation of borderline systems while respecting the autonomy of individuals and groups to need a personal and communal identity. Limen invites a passage through threshold experiences triggered by ostracism, e.g., structural marginalization, as people craft meaning of what has happened to them while reconnecting with others who’ve similarly passaged to the other system. Together we, not us versus them, or me/I, create a system hospitable to their identities and needs. They validate themselves, and by gathering together, validate the new group.
Navigating limensphere invites us to new identities and methods of being in relationship with each other. Pandemia eerily calls us to pass through this rite of pain, this threshold of limenspace, to another room where we notice our shared suffering and take action together to alleviate it. We walk through the threshold leaving fear and former rigid ways behind to a new promised land. “See I am doing something new,” a watershed of rivers in deserts and gentler byways through scenic landscape beyond the terrible (see Isaiah 43:19).
We’ve new-old liminal task between a healthful response. Enter limensphere to suffer with people by validating their stories and the context as harming them. It’s not a task of militant fighting against injustice as if still a superior hero leader distanced so still segregated. It’s a task of being in relationship, and then walking towards change during the tender and urgent moment. The partner task becomes to co-suffer, to listen and gauge a person before speaking, to set down the superiority of knowledge or position, and to recognize the requirement put on people to live in-between multiple planes of knowledge of their own heritage, and pass or behave as what phobia we’ve coded as supreme to survive. We can idealize a new code tempered by the validation of context, suffering, and the stories of the people moving through limensphere.
Ideally, if we create dimensions from this research we can identify the new code. If we all wear a mask, then we protect ourselves. That’s how magnitude of a pandemic works. A liminal space invites, and requires, compassion to passage through to communitas because of the suffering involved from transitioning from oppression and ostracism to a new identity, purpose, and community. This staying power of presence to co-suffer ostracism becomes the new mobility, compassion becomes the technique, and the Holy Spirit the technology, and grace and mercy with repentance and forgiveness because of love of neighbor becomes the supreme methods that trigger turning points towards healing. This healing includes groups of faith that have fragmented socially, spatially, and racially instead of encouraging genuine communion between disparate groups and individuals (Jennings).
Certainly, we become more ourselves if we let the life in-between fear and faith transform us in our crises (see Urbaniak Reid). Liminal practices that renew and restore include lamentation, confession, and forgiveness (Morrison). The only way to freedom is to start imagining a better future with questions such as, “What is your origin story? How do you heal yourself? Imagine a world where you are loved, safe, and valued…” (see Marin). To do that, we let the future truth of knowing Jesus and each other impact the present reality (Mason). Söderlund and Borg suggested that ritual and temporal dimensions as it relates to process, position, and place revealed by work life, such as during multi-dimensional pandemia. Research that integrates these worlds becomes a liminal task of ritual. The ritual to perform, commit to performance, learn as understudies, study written works by liminal authors, listen and time a performance to interactions with affected populations, wardrobe changes, and so on.
Pandemia challenges us to check our agreements, and craft new ones. This is co-crafting the transformative power of limensphere. The multiple levels of limensphere bulge at three dimensional, because when people enforce systems of ostracism, they implicitly agree that competing poverty should be the prevailing norm, that the method of ostracism and abuse are economic currencies to get ahead at the expense of lofty others, that only our generation has the right to continue, that other people’s children and heritage don’t matter, that conquering and controlling others is the only way to be safe from them, and by this agreement sense futility and despair in the world of work that we earn or accomplish only what harms future generations, and is rigged. Until we change the turn from the imperial paternalism attitude towards black people, we have not fully become a sovereign nation from our predecessor.
Passaging Limensphere to Placemaking
The threshold of pandemia cracks beneath a pause in time as we placemake with steps towards compassionate communitas through limensphere. We validate context by envisioning a future beyond what realities limit us now. Placemaking for community involves relying on the people of the community as the experts, creating a place instead of a design, finding partners, observing how people use place, a guiding vision, starting with what is light, quick, and inexpensive, persisting through resistance, combining form to support function, identifying the real issue (not money), and persist placemaking because the work continues (Project for Public Spaces [PPS]). Recovery from pandemia will happen as the limensphere embodies its transition in public places.
PPS wrote that,
The missing link is for advocates, government agencies, and the civic sector to break out of their usual silos of discipline and sector and to apply these strategies in tandem with other public health, social service, and economic stimulus efforts. If we accomplish this, public space can be the frontline of our recovery, places to safely access food, health resources, employment, social infrastructure, and much more.
We know that placemaking works in the reverse. Racism as intentional place-taking, instead of placemaking, of “de jure” segregation of housing and financing that prevented Blacks from participating in housing during post-World War II, and the school boards, authorities, and neighbors who forced them out if Blacks did move into white neighborhoods (see Desmond; Rothstein; Tisby). These place-takings sound familiar to the implicit tension between for- and non-profit partnerships working to solve human and social crises of our times, such as houselessness (see Rosko).
The programs that provide human and social service solutions exist because of the greed of place-taking and resource hoarding of a few from the many. These ideals need basic needs and safety met first, or in tandem, with progress as we reopen. Much of that needs to happen structurally, and because it won’t completely, neighborly. The United Nations requested funding for 250 million people in April 2020 facing starvation, and the estimated 12,000 deaths per day due to food shortages (Makary; Oxfam, personal communication, July 9, 2020). Shareholders of food companies took $18 billion, or 10 times the United Nations requested funding (Oxfam, personal communication, July 9, 2020).
The “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” may as well read in reverse because the solutions are available, and yet the people who can make a difference are choosing wealth over human lives. That’s why the leadership crisis of pandemia will require of us to set aside our favorite theories and toolkits, and instead address structural justice so that we can have the luxury again, the health and safety enough again, to gather and do the work to which we’ve committed our vocational lives. Shortly after the American Revolution, and long before the United States acted upon the Emancipation on Juneteenth in 1865, Wilberforce led the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade until Parliament signed the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 three days before his death.
Note the time span rigidly unflexing; whereas, the grace of limensphere. United States leaders around the same time, perhaps besides Lincoln, struggled and persisted far less so. George Mason, acclaimed father of the American Bill of Rights, and neighbor to George Washington, verbally decried slavery, but would not act on abolishing it citing economic reasons, presumably in part, the inheritance to his heirs (Broadwater; Copeland & MacMaster; Horrell; Rutland; Wallenstein). Not much has changed in our times with companies off-shoring work in sub-standard shops and above standard profits, not paying taxes, and consumers procuring goods from companies we know have poor employee care relations. It’s a love-hate for the convenience and cheap”er” price of goods versus the exploit-discard system.
Neighborliness and spirituality often passage us through crises by providing the human-divine connection to bridge what we don’t know or have with who we love. The 30 to 35 million estimated Black American and Immigrant churches can teach us the intersection between suffering and celebration if we humble ourselves and let them (Rah). From the grass to the empty tomb still have joy amid suffering becomes the liminal miracle of faith that does not bedfellow with ideology or politics. The quick, light, and inexpensive placemaking fix: Be neighborly by choosing one of three CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of being a vector, and several actions below to transform in limensphere.
Then we can “reopen,” and stabilize the borderline systems that wreaked havoc with the ball of wax of pandemia. We wear seatbelts and helmets, and may be fined if we don’t. We don’t consider these limits an offense to our rights because we accept, most likely, the common gain to our health and safety. It’s “We the people,” not “me the people” or “only my people” or “only my wealth margins.” Don a mask shows the symbol and ritual that you care about the people you’re near. The quick identification of our communitas. The new-old placemaking of our times passaging through limensphere.
I’m passionate about empowering churches to partner with each other; in the past, I supported partnerships with churches, non-profits, government agencies, and a municipality for human and social service solutions. Pandemia shook up a rift that already existed. Ideology and religion make poor bedfellows. For instance, white evangelicalism has arguably entrenched itself more in cultural norms of toxic and militant masculinity than the gentle Savior of Jesus who suffers with us (see Rosko). Replace ideology with a genuine love of neighbor, and a thriving public health system, and we’ve a start.
Spirituality can springboard us beyond rigid structures, and land us safely in limensphere. If Christians unite on practicing justice by dismantling racism, and caring for those in need, such as by simply wearing a mask, then possibly we can find Watson’s encouragement that faith, repentance (of supremacy) and forgiveness can bring. To accomplish that, leaders need to immerse themselves in the environments and lives of people different from them to build intentionally multi-ethnic organizations and churches (Loritts).
Placemaking as the nest of our shared lives means making amends with the lives that we’ve hurt with the broken structures that we’ve neglected by repairing them. Being antiracist starts with “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination” to avoid the denial of the crisis of racism, and to drop the superiority (Kendi). This capacity-building steps us into limensphere for the communitas dimension where we stay in relationship with an integrated and not segregated other. As it turns out, healthy relationships and social connection improve our health and wellbeing (Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital; Mejia). “‘We all share a responsibility for a unified strategy to improve the affairs of ‘We’ in ‘We the People…”” (Rosko).
Validating to Integrate Compassionate Communitas
Leadership research can also pivot during pandemia. We turn unexpectedly to methods of validation to passage us safely through this limensphere. To start, validate and solution the debilitating impact of the “second wound” by validating the stories of survivors, and integrating them with structural, cultural, and social support. Validate the context of suffering, the stories of suffering, the ideal visions towards a better future, and a vision for heritage of continuing.
Listening to validate means creating inroads in-between the margins, a limen space that placemakes compassionate community as the currency of our times to see us through. Pandemia, from its nascent platforms, sounds as a borderline system that copes with invalidation by extreme and erratic highs and lows. The “peaks, spikes,” and desired “flattening of the curve” provide language that describes the chaos, harm, and challenge to coping with a system rendered unstable in the moment due to human, environmental, and/or situational triggers.
Linehan, author of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Fruzzetti described validation techniques to engage a borderline pattern, or one of high conflict and dysregulation that can entrap a person or relationship in maladaptive coping as the painful status quo. Dialectic Behavior Therapy originally supported borderline personality disorder, and now helps people in a variety of situations to better regulate and cope towards healthful outcomes. This framework, while intended for interpersonal relationships, can offer discourse to build validating responses for systems change. The validating messages that we can give to people who have suffered disproportionately from pandemia, which so happens to include people who have suffered from racism. My paraphrase and integration of pandemia into the levels below are as follows:
- Level One: Be open and pay attention with active listening;
- Level Two: Offer accurate reflecting and acknowledge the expertise of the sufferer;
- Level Three: Articulate experience or behaviors such as trauma or overwhelm;
- Level Four: Validate previous learning or limitations, such as what is understandable for that person in that situation to respond a certain way;
- Level Five: Normalize behavior or experience, which is not the same as justifying it, but follows from Level Four;
- Level Six: Treat the person as valid with radical genuineness, such as see the person versus the behavior or pattern or in analysis, and within a relationship.
The level of validation needs to match the situation and needs with the behavior to facilitate change and learning (Fruzzetti & Ruork; Fruzzetti & Worrall). Ideally, these levels respect the sufferer at all interactions as Rogers’ unconditional positive regard. Validation acknowledges the feelings behind a person’s response as a distinction in the lament of especially in Black people who have suffered at the hands of structural racism.
The absence of validation rifts open the wound to a second deeper wound that’s more difficult to repair. We defer to the innermost ring always in all ways. The validation doesn’t go to the abuser or offender structure or individual. Plenty of people and norms already do that, especially those for whom abuse serves an economic function.
Compassionate communitas validates people in their distress. Compassionate communitas provides affective and spiritual steps as a caring response for how people collectively move towards a whole system (Dutton, Lilius, & Kanov; Dutton, Roberts, & Bednar; Dutton & Workman; Dutton, Workman, & Hardin; Frost; Frost, et al.; Kanov, et al.; Turner). Compassionate communitas validates the systems and sectors suffering, and dials down the distress that dysregulates for lack of skill, structure, or belief in self or system regulation.
Communitas invites safe passage from systems that ostracize to systems that heal because communitas with compassion tempers the pain and distress invoked by a borderline system, and offers a visionary way to inspire change. A central finding visualized a patch work handcrafted quilt as a metaphor for compassionate communitas to validate participant faith-based visions of hospitality to connect beyond sectorial interests and to manage diverse partners in a society that pressures them to design for separation, e.g., structures of ostracism in our existing economic code, by meeting basic needs with safe love so that people can thrive (Rosko).
Rosko interpreted the nine dimensions of compassionate communitas based on the theoretical definitions from the literature: collective responding, noticing suffering, feelings of empathy, action to alleviate suffering, communicating concern, sense-crafting, ritual and rites of passage through transition, supporting marginalized experience, and transforming suffering into a personal or communal identity that expresses complex wholeness. These nine steps consult, coach, research, and write about transformation from pandemia to post-pandemia as a passage of kinship for a health system that responds to the implicit requirements of thriving to validate basic needs with safe love (see Rosko).
Previous research revealed that the ideal vision of faith-based cross-sector social partnership for people who support this type of health system involved themes for partnering via safe and loving collaborative relationships with each other and with other sectors to support the fullness of faith and life and of thriving and flourishing of all people (Rosko). This thriving serves as the holistic solution for all people in society need to share at the table to meet the needs of each other through their hospitality of giftedness and safe companionship (Rosko). Compassionate communitas passages through limensphere for healthy heritage for all.
Transforming to Wholeness with Storied Systems Design
I facilitate, consult, and coach the method of storied systems design to integrate the stories of people and organizations as they partner across sectors for holistic change (Dogwood Group). Sometimes the typology of stories can vary depending on the need. Often, I’ve found a need for a transition from “me-to-we” stories and future stories to transcend individualism and to empower people to the vision that they want to act upon in their organization (see Denning).
One task of integral leadership includes integrating, synthesizing, and acting upon the stories of suffering from people, and responding to the symptoms that the system has been showing us. Storied Systems Design (Rosko) offers one approach to provide safe passage through pandemia. In my research and consulting I synthesize compassionate communitas as one transformative process. Storied systems design offers transformative process to inspire change safely. We can conduct idealized systems design for action steps owned and enacted by the “whole room” (see Banathy; Weisbord & Janoff).
Questions to the room can include: What would you be doing instead with your time if the world were completely just and free? What healthy future do you envision? What kind of world do you envision your children living in as adults? What do we need to do now to make that world a reality? What action steps will you commit to taking back to your organization, neighborhood, or sector? What just future do you envision?
Turning point or springboard stories can help people to understand the change in their motivation and understanding of what needs to happen next. Instead, Adams encourages listening to the stories of black and brown girls, for example, those voices often ignored to marginalize people because those stories teach about life. To do so well, we first face the reality that we’ve ignored, dismissed, minimized, and silenced Black lament (see Dyson). We notice privilege, personal and social realities in race, culture, and identity (Hill). Then, engage in creating a more just society, and commit to non-violence. Grapple with the shift of post-World War II from mob violence against Black and African Americans to structural violence from the police, judicial, and incarceration system (Alexander; O’Brien). Confront apathy, stop microaggressions and well-meaning attempts that hurt people of color and perpetuate anti-Blackness, and let Blacks lead in these change efforts (see Channing Brown).
Storied systems design research can better integrate creative arts beyond a piecemeal approach towards partnerships because stories can provide the safety, the limensphere, the inspiration and aspiration, and the dialogue for motivating people to collaborate towards holistic solutions, and even systems change. These validate, and ease passage.
The symptoms of pandemia happened long before pandemia. Pandemia has offered the painful chaos to pay attention, to notice suffering, to collectively respond to suffering, to empathize with the suffering of others, to commit to action to alleviate suffering, to communicate concern, to sense-craft the above, and, more than that, to transition from marginalized experiences to a transformed and complex wholeness (see Fernandez; Rosko; Turner). Storied systems design, and other visioning methods, offer passage above constraints via an ideal so that people can integrate solutions towards the system that they desire in the future (Banathy).
This logic sounds as Turner’s movement toward wholeness and away from marginalization. Pandemia has revealed who our society, and world, has marginalized. Storied systems design can support liminal experiences of people marginalized, and can prevent crises of the future (see Ackoff; Ackoff, Magidson, & Addison). For instance, the for-profit and non-profit divide perpetuate the woes of our time; we need a new economic system that better supports the spiritual, aspirational, and caregiving needs of our time (see Rosko).
Stories can provide safe passage by sharing value with idealized systems design for democratic contribution of each participant, and by safeguarding participant needs for returning to their sectors with a successful design, or one that means something to them, matters to the moment, feels authentic to them, empowers their autonomy, includes variety, allows observations to unfold, and heeds their courage to care (see Adler & Hansen; Ashby; Boulding; Clemson; Christakis & Bausch; Dye & Conaway; Hester & Adams; Peirce; Stelter; Stelter & Law; Stelter, Nielsen, & Wikman; Tsivacou; Turrisi; Warfield; Warfield & Teigen).
Implied we hear a need for ownership and respect of contributors who will design and implement the plan successfully; otherwise, the action plan can fail (see Christakis & Laouris; Institute for 21st Century Agoras; Laouris, Laouri, & Christakis). This engagement needs participants to enact their vision in their organization (Özbekhan) by dialoguing and learning from each other to ethically and successfully implement their action plans (Institute for 21st Century Agoras; Warfield & Teigen).
Possible questions include, if we envision a thriving state, then what does that look like? How does that thrival translate for people? What do you envision as a healthy future? What do you envision as a just future? What do you envision as an ideal economy? Politic? Neighborliness? How do people to pass through pandemia to a healthy future? Questions as these can invite insights and conversations to empower us to continue with a new purpose.
Integrating Actioned Spirituality Across Sectors
Limensphere invites spiritual integration of action steps across sectors with the amorphous nature of liminal boundaries and anti-structure because no one institution can fully hold the holy (Lane, 1986). We’re long overdue the language of validation which can start with an apology that recognizes the harm and hurt our way of life has inflicted upon our neighbors, and validate without defensiveness or justification, and with the commitment of action steps to do better. An economics of heritage births us out of limensphere to continue new with validating behaviors that soothe birth pains from exiting a borderline system. This born anew cries for passage from the me to we story as the caregiving code of leadership during pandemia.
Pandemia has dredged the real culprit beneath the mess, or the structural contempt of the continuing others. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the dream of little black girls and boys and little white girls and boys playing together, holding hands, and continuing takes on new meaning (King, Jr.). The economic and structural factor showed a crack in time of justice, and a spiritual vision a way forward. If chaos led to order, then it’s from the revealed realities that we choose to change towards a more coherent and life-giving narrative.
We birth new ways of practicing an economics of heritage and community together. Notice the integration in the supreme law of love of “we”: “as ourselves.” A spiritual lens allows us to integrate the limen, that space in-between, that we name a modern label of transition, but that does not go as a tidy line in-between columns and rows. Limen, a transition through identity personal and communal, becomes less defined over time until a sense of coherent narrative of me-to-we takes place, and we begin anew. Unjust practices often trigger a person to exodus a system that no longer serves, but harms, as a farewell act of oppression, tries to make the person not exist by excommunicating them. We find this method at work across all -isms put to the structural abuse of disparities. Leadership during pandemia casts a communal and compassionate gaze by noticing that these disparities make it harder for some people groups to survive and continue, and then responds with collective change.
We can commit to action steps to begin anew. Faith based communities often stand in the gaps that economies fail to bridge. For example, the hospitality of meeting people’s basic needs while on pilgrimage, and as an act of defiance and cultural solidarity, or displaced to a new country, and beginning anew and welcoming others with a business to make food and celebrate people’s shared needs (Ibraheem & Mierau; Mierau).
Solutions need to be community- centered, driven, and owned. The cheaper you go the more cost to someone’s way of life. We need to dismantle culture and language around a business habit that offshores funds to avoid paying taxes, that offshores people to pay cheap wages to increase profit margins, that calls corporations people to throw big money at candidates, that wants to privatized everything and invest billions of dollars into space programs while kids and our streets go hungry and kits in our school people murder with guns for the gun violence epidemic. This superiority mindset and slavery economy discards people’s lives, and this habit doesn’t stop at the factory line. We retire this exploit and discard pattern as the narcissistic/borderline milieu. We need radically different ideologies, or drop them altogether, than hyper-conservatism and neo-liberalism has perpetuated the problem of structural inequality by fighting so fiercely to defend the programs that are the symptoms of it.
A sharing economy seems a decent place to start. Children know that we survive by sharing. Consider the boy who shared his lunch with Jesus when the adult disciples said for the people to go away and feed themselves (John 6:1-13; Mark 6:30-44), and the children of an experiment who shared equal portions of their desserts that were doled out in unequal amounts (Oxfam, 2018). Early Christian language promoted a strong communal bond of surrogate family members (Acts 4-6; Ascough; Land). This group defied cultural norms of -isms to share resources, which freed them to worship God, and tend to those with needs.
The ideals for compassionate community played out as a response of many to the needs of those who suffered from being marginalized from their basic needs and safe love (Rosko), which freed them to worship, a form of thriving in limensphere, together. Release the illusion of economic advantage by structural oppression of ostracism, and work towards health and good will for all so that people possess the ability to be able to produce, learn, play, and do the wobble in the streets with joy instead of fear (see Zech. 8).
Community leaders have long engaged my city to adopt community policing strategies that need to go beyond relationship with youth to tangible legal language in ordinances and funding of community health interventions that include and integrate the stories of those most affected, in this case black, indigenous, immigrant, and people of color. Partnerships can emerge to bring together implicitly segregated people groups, such as congregations of churches and nonprofits seeking to save people from the competing poverties of our time.
Fund carers instead of relying on them for low pay or unpaid work, such as stay-at-home parents, teachers, healthcare workers. Integrate integral health into insurance codes. Make a spectrum of health care options that aren’t based on the white-savior complex of urgent, expensive, fast, and, well, white. Draft agreements and peace treaties to collaborate over action points. Resolve, and move forward in a new way. Use storytelling, art, and the power of culture to inspire positive change. Fight back the fear, anger, and hate with creative in-roads to stabilizing and meaningful, not status quo, change. Northern Ireland, South Africa, and a lawyer in south central Los Angeles have succeeded with similar efforts (Advancement Project; Do Good LA; Landow & Sergie; Rice; The Intersector Project; Tutu). Invest in people continuing, such as updating city ordinances, public health and safety protocols, community health interventions, and supply chains of businesses owned by women and people of color.
Governments can establish and inform communities on reporting processes, hotline numbers and support systems available to deal with a wide range of violence (Singano), and beyond reopening frameworks for schools to address these concerns for children (see UNESDOC), such as embrace an ideal of continuing heritage for all by rebalancing budgets and cultural priorities that support life, such as nutritional security, which needs sanitation, clean water, childcare, healthcare, time to feed children each day, and protect them and the mother from disease (L. R. Brown). Seek greater understanding, listen openly, respect Black and affected populations as autonomous leaders, and commit to change. Keep trying, show up, be in relationship, write and pass legislation even at the ordinance level, and for goodness sakes, outlaw the use of tear gas to disperse crowds exercising their fourth amendment right to assemble. Treat with respect those devoting their health, energy, and time to assemble a new neighborhood structure, such as CHOP in Seattle, Wash (see Carlton). Stop reporting on these crises by criminalizing those who protest, and instead validate the suffering and the need for change. Hold leaders accountable to validate.
Stop suppressing votes. Issue an apology, pay reparations, rebalance the budget to at least fifty percent going towards categories related to basic needs and safe love, such as community health initiatives, mental health counseling, food, education, and sidewalks in neighborhoods formerly in-filled on red lines. Do away with division streets in America.
Create a public-funded and elected departments of public health, education, and community safety. We don’t need a privately funded secretary of space, or a sixth branch of the military as the department of space, or a $1.8-$2.5 billion wall (see Alvarez; David; WSJ Staff). Create a memorial for them, for art can inspire memory and hopefully change, and do better for future generations to not have to deal with our plugged ears. Provide and fund meaningful work for youth, and budget community health responses beyond police to non-violent disruptions.
Discourse changes from reporting on “violent protests” to “violent supremacy” or “violent ostracism.” If you feel uncomfortable with the protests, choose one action to peaceably improve it so that the rest of us can stop protesting, pandemia can stop spiking and dropping like the borderline system that it is, and we can locate some peace and clarity to move forward.
Sectors and leaders can do a variety of actions to improve health systems as an economy in our post-pandemia world. Oxfam International recommended that governments issue cash grants to all who need them to survive, rescue businesses responsibly, suspend and cancel debts, issue $1 trillion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) for a global economic stimulus, increase aid of 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to support the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, adopt emergency solidarity taxes on extreme profits, wealthy individuals, speculative products, and activities harmful to the environment. Nation-states may resist or embrace these strategies depending on their ideological leanings.
Governments must create a more equal society by prioritizing ordinary workers and small-scale food producers instead of the rich and powerful (Oxfam). Ferrer and Butt suggest addressing inequality of gender, care, and poverty to improve post-pandemia Britain, such as by supporting carers by investing in a social care system that protects all people, elevate the carer voice in policy-making, improve the safety net, such as adequate funding, child benefits regardless the number of children, living allowance, improve job retention, especially for women that norms penalize and require to stay home and do caring jobs without social or financial support, and statutory sick pay, and end poverty for carers paid and unpaid.
That’s commitment. That’s also transformational placemaking of limensphere. On and on a growing list to proactively respond to the pandemia of our times. Even if it’s one simple take away or action. Wash hands and wear a mask: rinse and repeat.
Aligning the head, heart, and hands remains a faded echo for humanity (see Nizer). If anything we can regard a hidden blessing in this pandemic to be “woke” for all the lives lost. We can do right by each other and our families. Whatever we do, validate and integrate holistic change. We transform our adversity to a leadership lesson to engage others and to care (Kouzes & Posner). Perhaps these efforts towards validating whole systems through story and dialogue can build an economy fit for health and a nest fit for continuing. Perhaps this transformation spare us from what Freire alluded to, the pendulum swing from one oppression to the next.
Conclusions and Future Pathways
Future research can collaborate with populations to design an economic code that honors heritage and health for all, and with a new discourse that refuses to give notoriety to pandemia or marginalization. Instead, learn how the personae and communitas define themselves with language that describes them based on newfound identities, hopes, and visions born from limensphere to raise our new society. To succeed as a healthy system, sectors need to concede the merit of thriving and heritage for all.
For generations people and families have tried to cope with the disparities of public health and economic systems that do not serve them or the barest minimum of continuation of their heritage. Integrating the community leaders already on the ground, and the existing motivational and aspirational works, such as Black Liberation Theology, and works that solve health disparities and findings about rural and tele-health systems, these are a start, yet we need something more, a coherent narrative from a shared vision, that radically changes the way we see our futures together, and we need everyone “in the room” to envision, story, validate, and commit to action plans (e.g., whole systems, see Weisbord; Weisbord & Janoff).
Storied systems design provides one way to envision and language this change. The process of compassionate communitas through storied systems design seeks to develop a (1) holistic structure that (2) validates the sufferer, and (3) envisions and (4) designs sector and society based on a (5) vision for a more (6) healthy and (7) hopeful (8) future derived from the (9) voices of those who have suffered the most (see Rosko, 2017). We need a new structure, and to do that, we need to pass the mic. We do what we’re not used to doing: Stop analyzing, stop advising, listen, and, good glory, find relief from deferring instead of vocalizing.
It’s the task of transitioning a new kingdom.
We know ideals because of the painful absence of them in practice (see Rosko). Ideally, pandemia invites us to pass through this rite of pain, this threshold of limensphere, to another room where we notice our shared suffering, and commit to action together to alleviate it. Storied systems design invites us to build a new narrative and solutions plans around the stories that people share with us for their future vision of the world, and to dismantle what limits us now. The promise of change invites us to walk through the threshold leaving fear and former rigid ways to a new life. “See I am doing something new,” a watershed of rivers in deserts and gentler byways through scenic landscape towards a kingdom after the terrible (see Isaiah 61, 63).
We’ve clues in a faith that needs to return to an image of kinship. Scriptures that describe the church as a body of Christ with each other with “equal concern” for unity (1 Cor. 12:12-31), where the “greater gift” or “more excellent way” is love (1 Cor. 13). The early church adopted this belief into an economic structure that no longer marginalized people. They sold their goods, shared, and created service teams so that they freely and equally worshipped (Acts 1-4). They passaged through the fire of leadership that transformed them from the competitiveness, power-hoarding, harm, and fear of in-group survival towards a compassionate, caring, healing economic system that validates the context, vision, and stories of suffering (see Carey; Solomon; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszcynski; Sprecher).
The limitation to these approaches may be our essential response: slow down, contemplate together, and elevate the authority and wisdom that a sufferer of pandemia offers us. If we don’t, we delay repair, and risk further rupture for future generations. The World War II generation that chartered the church of my childhood, including my grandmother, wanted to stay, and stay some did with the Korean church, which then became a Black run church with partnerships in the community to reduce violence. Pandemia, in its time-warped way, has rolled this ball of wax through generations.
Still, there’s hope.
People have also been working on a more hopeful way for generations. We’re all in limensphere now, and we’ve a choice how we walk through it. My son and I celebrated Juneteenth this year masks donned and physical distancing with 700 other people from our region, and a registered 46 churches who marched against the violence against People of Color. This peaceful rally salved the second wound under the banner, “The Church will Not Be Silent” with churches also marching in the southside of Chicago (McFarlan Miller; Radiant Covenant Church). Fear drives much of the spikes in pandemia. Love calms it down because “perfect love casts out fear, and fear has to do with judgment (1 John 4:18-19;Cummings & Harris).
We each and together find ways to slow down from an adrenal pace of militant ostracism to better nest the tender nascent of our beginnings, and build a world that children can continue, too, beyond ourselves. We to heed the heartfelt pleas of those who’ve struggled for generations to be heard, and commit to change.
The tasks of integral leadership during cascading health crises, as it turns out, isn’t to lead as savior. It’s to passage through limensphere to validate, repair, and then heal. We adopt a we mentality and soften hearts to heal and better respond (see John 13:1-17; Matt. 13:9-16). We commit to continuing a living system that embodies the heritage, ideals, and stories of the people who live with and for it daily. We heal, and our children learn to do the same.
Take heart. We can passage through anything when we’ve love.
Dena Michele Rosko, PhD, MA resides in Renton, Wash. with her family, and integrates writing with content for storied systems design for health, community development, civic engagement, and ministry. Dena serves as principal of Dogwood Group, a practice that integrates coaching, consulting, development, creative, and heritage services. Dena enjoys walks, hikes, long days at the beach, and park days with her preschooler, and gardening at their suburban homestead. You can learn more about her work or connect at https://www.denamichelerosko.com/ and https://www.dogwoodgroup.io
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