Week 11: Three parts – A. What does it mean to, “Find the pump handles,” when referring to public health concerns?
B. What is the role of the disaster mental health professional and / or crisis intervener?
Chapter Ten Courage to Commit
The Social Covenant
We are able to exist in this country of ours because of the way we act. The words in the Constitution of the United States of America only work if all citizens are willing to apply them. They must apply them to all aspects of our interaction with each other. Each of us has the responsibility for what we do to support our relationships, the privileges afforded us, and the freedom we are so nobly granted. We often talk about constitutional rights. We must never forget that there are constitutional responsibilities that coexist with these rights. To forget this tells only half of the story and portends poorly for solutions to our common problems. The social covenant with which we are so graciously endowed must be understood and accepted by all of us. The words mean nothing unless we are willing to act as though they have real meaning. We, all of us, give the covenant that meaning. No matter who you are or where you are or what you are, the responsibility for this fragile society rests with us. And, it will sink and disintegrate like other societies before us if we fail to recognize this important factor.
Children learn to sing the words of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which ends with “land of the free and
home of the brave.” How do these children understand and relate to these words as they move through life? How do they define “free” and “brave?” Immigrants undergoing citizenship are often more knowledgeable of the United States Constitution than the average American citizen. Our children, regardless of color, race, religion, or heritage, are entitled to the best guidance their elders can offer them. The children depend on the seasoned grown-ups to teach right from wrong, trustworthiness from dishonesty, empathy toward their peers, and respect for teachers, neighbors, family members, and police. Children need straight answers and reliable models. Our current society lacks the integrity to take on that responsibility. It is finally being reported that the protests are designed to publicly acknowledge the plague of social inequality in our land. Are we too late? Are our citizens too entrenched in their comfort zones and afraid to risk?
There are those times when someone makes a statement that seems to encapsulate the foundations of what is most needed to discuss. One such statement by Henry Reagan seems to speak a very basic truth: “Good cops are made by the world they police.” Publius Terrence put his thoughts a different way: “It is a wise man who uses words before resorting to arms.” And, Thomas Jefferson said, “Those closest to the people serve the people best.” Good cops, their world, use of words before arms, and closeness to the people all devolve into the observation by Peter Sandberg: “Two monologues do not a dialogue make.”
We must be able, able and willing to talk to and with each other regardless of the differences that may exist. If this cannot be done effectively, nothing good happens, nothing changes, nothing of value is obtained to manage the conflict that we experience. While no one of us is responsible for all the perceived atrocities in our communities, all of us are, and must be, responsible for finding ways to ameliorate these problem areas. Demanding monologues will not accomplish as much as responsible dialogue. Sitting together, disputants with disputants, can offer the high-level possibility that something positive to all sides can be accomplished. We must listen to each other. More importantly, we must let the other side of the conflict know that we hear them. The solution or solutions will probably not be 100% for either side or for each and every disputant. However, the result can be more than either had before examining the possibilities. This takes work. It takes more than demonstrations. It takes more than righteous monologues and controversial complaints. It takes more than justifying unacceptable behavior. It will probably take time. Maybe even more time than we think it should take for such obvious issues. Conscientious involvement, however, regardless of how long it takes, may yield greater change and problem resolution than those more visible activities that occupy so much of our time and efforts. Think about it. Dialogue may actually get more done than demonstrations or other physical behaviors. Probably, this is what most of those who are justifiably discontented really want for themselves, for their children, for their communities, and for their country. The way we do things is of vital importance. We have what we have in this county because of how we guard it and protect it. Either we will be part of the positive and needed changes that must take place or we will end up destroying the constitutional structure that allows for the possibility of those needed changes. Think about it again. And again. What we have at our disposal are just words unless we bring those words to life in a productive way. Otherwise, we may lose it all. Consider that 70% of the whole is more valuable than 100% of only a part. Maybe we have to give in order to get.
How the Social Covenant Varies
Each person not only influences the social covenant, but their ideas are also a microcosm of what the covenant should accord to their experiences and values. Think of an individual and their ideas regarding a social covenant as a contract they have with society. When that person encounters others in society with their contract, are they willing to be flexible? Are they an excellent negotiator who will leave all parties satisfied with the encounter? Are they narcissistic, believing that only their way is the right way?
One reason among many why the social covenant is so complex, while really being so simple, is
because of the many components that influence it. The social covenant can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Geographical location can have a great deal to do with the covenant. The following are some factors that influence this covenant:
• Educational system • Stability of the home life • Morality of the home life • Work ethic in the home • Economic situation in the home • Parents’ interaction with the child. Are the parents giving the child worthless information about their own role in society so that they believe this worthless information above any other? Or have the parents or meaningful persons in the child’s life told them nothing about their obligation to get along with others in society? Have they abandoned them to figure it out for themselves, using only the examples they experience as a guide?
• Influence of the criminal element in the neighborhood • Nutritional guidance • Types of stimulation toward valuable learning experiences • Is the person, especially a child, always in survival mode? • The extent of personal pride and confidence, and sense of accomplishment of the individual • Do they have goals, or are they adrift like a rock in space waiting to destroy the first thing that is hits?
Social Contract vs. Social Covenant
A report of the World Economic Forum added emphasis to this discussion and analysis of the social covenant. The social contract, on which we all rely, seems to be broken in our society. Social trust is at an all-time low. Inequalities are most evident. There is even a problem distributing our limited resources and many live at extreme poverty levels. Our world and the world around us make these issues even more difficult. There seems to be a lack of trust. This lack of trust seems to be in our politics and businesses. Maybe this is one of the main reasons that the sense of participation in our society is, or is being, undermined. At these times, survival become more important than solidarity.
How we deal with each other relates to, and depends on, our values. This is directly related to the social
covenant needed today and that needs to be evaluated and reevaluated. The social covenant recognizes the dignity of the person regardless of race, gender, background, and beliefs. It recognizes that the importance of the common good must transcend individual interests. Additionally, we must be concerned not only for ourselves, but also for our posterity.
The challenge for all of us is to develop and promulgate these values both personally and
collectively. Talk is not enough. These values must be brought into public life. These can be used to direct our decision-making. This is critical to our survival. They serve as our guide. A basic requirement of our social covenant is moral courage. Philosophical consideration will not be enough to strengthen our covenant. Trust must be restored. To do this, a sense of personal and mutual responsibility must also be restored. The stakes are
very high and must be recognized if we are to maintain our democracy as more than just fragile words on a document page. We cannot do this alone. We must, and can only, do it together. The following are some nonexhaustive points that are likely to be included in the social covenant:
• Agreement on basic, universal values and ethics. • Consensus on the need to reflect these values in a country’s legislation and regulation, and in the international agreements that define countries’ duties to each other.
• Educational systems that are open to all and that foster equality of opportunity. • A goal of providing good-quality jobs for all those who need them. This focuses in particular on jobs for nongraduates, increasing access to technical education, putting in place apprenticeships, establishing a proactive tax and incentive system, and ensuring industrial strategy is fit for this and the next century.
• Fair rewards for hard work and contributions to society. • Adequate security for savings and assets. • A commitment to reduce inequality and to keep income and rewards within fair bands at the top and bottom of the scale.
• Stewardship of the environment and a commitment to preserving natural capital for the benefit of future generations, as far down as the “seventh generation,” which indigenous people use as a moral metric.
• Stable, socially useful and accountable financial sectors. • Increased opportunities and social mobility. • The promotion of human well-being, happiness, flourishing, and freedom to live a valued life as key societal goals.
• Adapting new ways to measure progress at the national, company, and personal levels. • Measures to ensure personal privacy and public transparency in an increasingly digital world. • Engaging the next generation in designing new models and practices.
(World Economic Forum, 2014) How the Social Covenant Relates to Policing Competence
If we are to recruit for police service, and if the characteristics we look for are compassion, charisma, and confidence, to mention only a few, and if we are to select these recruits from the current pool of applicants or potential applicants, to what extent can we expect to find suitable applicants who have such traits?
How do we test for those traits? Can the desired traits be taught? What level of competence in those traits is acceptable? Competence is not akin to any of the traits of compassion, charisma, and confidence. Competence is
the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. Competence suggests that a person is consciously fulfilling an obligation to meet a demand. In reality, we want recruits who have a good heart and a natural willingness to mix with and to help others positively. In other words, compassion, charisma, and confidence are natural parts of their being because they learned from the influences in their life, both good and bad, and properly put them into perspective, thus naturally strengthening their core values. They did this without thinking, and not because society demands it; they did this because they have learned and they know in their heart-of-hearts that it is the right thing to do. When compassion, charisma, and confidence are a natural part of their being, it settles their spirit, there is no inner conflict about what is right or what is wrong. They have a superior conscience that helps them, rather than torments them.
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