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One man's idea for the 'greatest PTSD healing curriculum' in America
Activist and Big Think reader Roy M. Arce explains his idea for a new community policing team and how it can halt vicious cycles of PTSD and homelessness.
- Roy Arce is a U.S. veteran with PTSD whose traumatic experiences with police led him to draft a proposal for how communities and police can work better together.
- A new kind of police response team – made up of at least one police officer and a trained community peace representative – would be part of what Arce calls "the greatest PTSD healing curriculum" in the U.S.
- This civilian proposal would also seek to treat homelessness in one of the country's most affected regions.
A note from the editors: We came to know Roy Arce because he is persistent. Admirably so. His emails reached us at a time when we are refocusing on building a Big Think community. We want to hear the big ideas on our readers' radars.
Roy didn't reach out to us alone. He estimates he's spoken to almost 400 people, from police officials and politicians to the leaders of tent cities in Oakland, California. Roy has had a dramatic set of experiences. He's a veteran with PTSD for whom one minor interaction with the law spiraled into extended contact with the criminal justice system. Now, he has a detailed set of ideas for how the policing system can become more human, and how homelessness in his community can be addressed. We spoke to him about his big idea for change.
Big Think: Let's start by talking about PTSD. It seems like it's America's invisible epidemic.
Roy Arce: PTSD is no joke. PTSD to me can be the product of being in the military, or it can affect any human being at any time. A car crash, divorce, loss of job, no family, drug abuse, gangs, head trauma from life and sports, etc. One form of PTSD I would like to bring up is the PTSD produced by bad community policing dynamics. We all suffer from this – we suffer as individuals, as a community and even economically on local, city, state and country levels.
The community-police relationship has been broken for a long time. It's so disconnected that officers out of the Chicago PD have been committing suicide while on shift or on the beat. That fact is horrible! Our police departments need our help and we should give them the help they need by providing better tools and more community involvement.
We can work together (we meaning the police and the community) to hopefully fix it. I am in no way saying the criminal justice system needs to be replaced, but it has lots of room for improvement. We must stand together on a common platform and speak up for the voiceless. I was the voiceless before. Thank you for this – I am eternally grateful and will always be eternally grateful for this opportunity.
Big Think: How has PTSD touched your life, personally?
Arce: Regarding my PTSD, I have two kinds. One is the military PTSD; even though I did not see combat, I became a different man. The other is what I call street PTSD.
Growing up in Oakland as a little Costarican kid was tough. I've seen dead bodies in the street. Seeing one of your friends get shot in the neck and then crawl under a car to rest and die is not cool for anyone, and no person dealing crack or heroin should have to experience it either. I didn't deal crack or heroin yet it was all around me when I was younger. I have bagged heroin; I did it for three months but never sold it. I had a big change of heart at 14 and stopped that behavior. My friends all continued and all are almost dead or have disappeared.
There are beautiful things out there yet imagine what it's like to not ever have left your community and the only thing you know is crime. We have to do more for the people, the broken souls who have lost hope in society because, at a point, I can guarantee you, society turned its back on him or her. Whatever causes PTSD in the community doesn't matter, what matters is that we are the ones who get to fix it.
"There are beautiful things out there yet imagine what it's like to not ever have left your community and the only thing you know is crime."
Big Think: Tell us your idea for a new kind of policing team.
Arce: In Alameda County, policing has lots of room for improvement. I have concentrated my efforts and research in the City of Oakland.
We need a community policing team. Every call that comes in should get at least one police officer and one community peace team representative (CPTR). The CPTR would join the program though a new app like Uber and would have to be trained and certified. The CPTR's responsibility would be to better address situations. The individual would be equipped with tools to be able to divert the situation from a hazardous environment to a more mediated and controlled situation. I truly believe that most of the minor offenses facing our police officers, which turn into these incredibly bad situations, can be overturned by a more proactive, peaceful and understanding way of policing. The names for the community policing team I'm thinking of proposing are the Street Marines or Road Runners or Street Sweepers (influenced by MLK) – but I'm open to other ideas.
The point is to bring options, other sets of eyes and fresh feelings to hopefully mediate the policing of homelessness and 5150 incidents. Our target is to better address, process, and manage LGBT youth, homelessness, and any minor offenses.
Please let's not forget all the PTSD these situations are causing. I believe addressing bad community policing dynamics is for the benefit of all. Hopefully we can put together a safety net program to assist our officers with better community policing.
A high-level view of Roy's proposal for a Community Police Team to divert prison processing and PTSD for minor arrests and charges.
Credit: Roy M. Arce
Big Think: What made you draft a proposal and start talking to legislators?
Arce: I haven't been an angel yet I know we deserve better than what the current system is providing. My experiences at Santa Rita Jail have all been unpleasant and a waste of time. First of all, the population is mixed. We have killers and murderers mixed in with minor offenders. I am not scared, yet those conditions were a bit disturbing.
People are going to jail for minor or felony offenses yet are receiving almost close to zero rehabilitation opportunities. In no way do I want to sound like I am excusing bad behavior. People are voluntarily doing bad because they don't have the tools they need to get over the bump they might be in. The police right now, instead of being more proactive, are making things worse because of lack of empathy and soft skills training.
Big Think: PTSD and homelessness appear to be deeply connected. Can you explain the second part of your idea to tackle street PTSD?
Arce: If you stand long enough on East 14th Street and Fairmont in San Leandro, you'll be able to see what I am talking about; people who have nowhere to go, not dressed to face the weather conditions. It is sad. Why not have a sanctuary place for these type of folks?
It is everywhere – young and old, straight or gay, they're part of a vicious circle in which they do not have the means to get out of it. These good people doing bad things end up dead or, even worse, getting abused by the streets, taking PTSD to a whole different level.
I decided to really look at the issues and try to come up with the best way to address homelessness. My idea is to create a few sanctuary towns in northern California for animals and humans to coexist and at the same time cure PTSD with an overload of empathy and soft skills training. Why not? Sometimes we must just do it, just like Nike says. If people are in camping conditions in the city, why not give them the option to camp in the middle of a beautiful forest, to heal with and by Mother Nature? The GDP produced would be exotic fruits, vegetables etc. – self-sustainable sanctuaries to treat the broken of our cities. I would talk to the president about this.
There are enough experts within just the Big Think network alone to put together the greatest PTSD healing curriculum. I really believe we can do this – bring the tools our community needs to better get along and heal from prior PTSD. Empathy and unconditional care would be the key for the success of this pilot program.
Big Think: How are your conversations to make this proposal into policy going?
Arce: 95 percent of the people I spoke to are 100 percent on board, from the Governor's Office to the Chief of PD Oakland to LISC to Big Think. The 5 percent against were concerned about the funding and how the politics will work.
I've spoken to the people in the street. I believe I would not have a problem pulling 300 people a year off the street for the rest of my life and helping a team rehabilitate them to the point of being game changers in any industry they choose to join and receive training in. I quit my career as a steamfitter to try to make this happen. It might just be me dreaming again – yet why not? Can someone answer the question?
If you are interested in helping Roy gather support for his proposal or you want to learn more, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
In more than a dozen countries as far apart as Portugal and Russia, 'Smith' is the most popular occupational surname
- 'Smith' is not just the most common surname in many English-speaking countries
- In local translations, it's also the most common occupational surname in a large part of Europe
- Ironically, Smiths are so ubiquitous today because smiths were so special a few centuries ago
Meet the Smiths, Millers, Priests and Imams - the most popular occupational surnames across Europe.
Image: Marcin Ciura<p>Although very few people are smiths by profession these days, there are millions of Smiths by surname the world over. It's the most popular surname in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, as well as the second most popular surname in Canada and the fifth most popular one in Ireland. And they're a thriving bunch, at least in the U.S.: the 2010 Census (1) counted 2,442,977 Americans called Smith, 2.8% more than in 2000.</p><p>Curiously, 'Smith' also is one of the most popular surnames across most of Europe –translated in the various local vernaculars, of course. This map shows the most common occupational surnames in each country. By colour-coding the professions, this map shows a remarkable pro-smith consistency across Europe – as well as some curious regional exceptions.</p>
‘Smith’ popular throughout Europe<p>'Smith', in all its variations, is the most popular occupational surname throughout Europe. Not just in the UK, but also in:</p> <ul><li>Belgium (<em>Desmet</em>) and Luxembourg, (<em>Schmitt</em>);</li> <li>France (<em>Lefebvre</em>), Italy (<em>Ferrari</em>) and Portugal (<em>Ferreira</em>);</li> <li>Slovenia (<em>Kovačič</em>), Croatia (<em>Kovačevič</em>), Hungary (<em>Kovács</em>), Slovakia (<em>Kováč</em>), Poland (<em>Kowalski</em>), Lithuania (<em>Kavaliauskas</em>), Latvia (<em>Kalējs</em>) and Belarus (<em>Kavalyov</em>);</li> <li>Estonia (<em>Sepp</em>); and</li> <li>Russia (<em>Kuznetsov</em>).</li></ul>
‘Miller’ on top in many Germanic-language countries<p>'Miller' is the most popular occupational surname in many Germanic-language countries, but also in Spain and Ukraine (perhaps because the grain in both countries is mainly in the plain):</p> <ul><li>There's <em>Müller</em> (in Germany and Switzerland), <em>M</em><em>ø</em><em>ller</em> (in Denmark and Norway) and <em>Möller</em> (Sweden);</li> <li><em>Molina</em> (in Spain – the map also shows the most popular surname in Catalonia/Catalan: <em>Ferrer</em>, i.e. 'Smith'); and</li> <li><em>Melnik</em> (in Ukraine).</li></ul>
Clergy surnames rule in the Balkans<p>Catholic clergy must remain celibate, so 'Priest' as a surname is rare to non-existent throughout Europe. Except in the Balkans, where Catholicism is largely absent. Here, the Orthodox and Islamic clergies have passed on the title from father to son, eventually as a surname, to popular effect. Orthodox clergy are addressed as <em>papa</em> or <em>pope</em> (which means 'father' – so the surname rather redundantly translates to 'father's son'). Islamic teachers or imams are known by the Turkish/Persian term <em>hodzha</em>. An overview:</p> <ul><li><em>Popov</em> (in Bulgaria), <em>Popovic</em> (in both Serbia and Montenegro), <em>Popovski</em> (in Macedonia);</li> <li><em>Popa</em> (in Romania); </li> <li><em>Papadopoulos</em> (in Greece); and</li> <li><em>Hodžić</em> (in Bosnia-Herzegovina), <em>Hoxha</em> (in both Kosovo and Albania).</li></ul>
Landowners and other professions<p>Austria and the Czech Republic have different national languages but are neighbours and share a lot of history. Could that explain why they have a similar most popular occupational surname, for 'landowner'?</p> <ul><li><em>Huber</em> (in Austria) and</li> <li><em>Dvořák</em> (in the Czech Republic).</li></ul> <p>Just four professions, that wraps up all but five countries on this map. Those five each have their very own most popular occupational surname:</p> <ul><li><em>Bakker</em> (in the Netherlands): 'Baker'</li> <li><em>Kinnunen</em> (in Finland): 'Skinner'</li> <li><em>Ceban</em> (in Moldova): 'Shepherd'</li> <li><em>Avci</em> (in Turkey): 'Hunter'</li> <li><em>Murphy</em> (in Ireland): 'Sea Warrior' </li></ul>
Even more Smiths<p>Judging from the popularity of these surnames, your generic European village of a few centuries ago really couldn't do without a smithy. It was a much more essential craft even than that of the miller (or the baker, who put the miller's flour to good use) – except in the Balkans, where spiritual sustenance apparently sated a greater need. On the outskirts of <em>Anytown, Europe</em> live the shepherd and the hunter, the skinner and the pirate.<br></p><p>A bit too simplistic? Perhaps not simplistic enough. This map could have been dominated by even more Smiths. As the original poster explains, he always picked the most frequent version of an occupational surname, even if multiple variants point to a more popular alternative. </p><p>In the Netherlands, for instance, people with the surnames <em>Smit, Smits, Smid, de Smit, Smet </em>and <em>Smith</em> collectively outnumber those with the surnames <em>Bakker, Bekker, de Bakker</em> and <em>Backer</em>. So, the Netherlands could be considered another win for 'Smith' – except that the variant <em>Bakker</em> is more frequent than any other single variant.</p><p>Same story in Germany: added up, there are more people named <em>Schmidt, Schmitt, Schmitz </em>and <em>Schmid</em> than <em>Müller</em>. Ditto for Spain: <em>Herrero, Herrera </em>and <em>Ferrer</em> together outnumber <em>Molina</em>. Also in Finland, where <em>Seppä</em>, <em>Seppälä</em> and <em>Seppänen</em> together have a higher count than <em>Kinnunen</em>. </p>
Smiths in other cultures<p>'Smith' was a crucial occupation in other cultures too, judging from the familiar ring it has in these languages:<br></p><ul><li><em></em><em>Demirci</em> (Turkish)</li><li><em>Hadad</em> (Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic)</li><li><em>Nalbani</em> (Albanian)</li><li><em>McGowan</em> (Gaelic)</li><li><em>Faber</em> (Latin)<span></span></li></ul>
Other most popular surnames<p>Take note, though: 'Smith' may be the most popular surname in in the Anglosphere, this map does not mean to show that its variants in French, Russian and other languages also are the most popular surnames in the countries marked grey. They are merely the most popular <em>occupational</em> surnames.<br></p><p>As this sample of most common ones for each country shows, surnames can refer to a host of other things. Personal qualities or physical attributes, for example:</p> <ul><li>Russia: <em>Smirnov</em> ('the quiet one')</li> <li>Turkey: <em>Yilmaz</em> ('unflinching')</li> <li>Hungary: <em>Nagy</em> ('big')</li> <li>Italy: <em>Rossi/Russo</em> ('red', in northern and southern Italy, respectively)</li></ul> <p>Another option: the origin of the name-bearer (be it a place or a person):</p> <ul><li>Sweden: <em>Andersson</em> ('son of Anders')</li> <li>Slovakia: <em>Horvath</em> ('Croat')</li> <li>Kosovo: <em>Krasniqi</em> (refers to the Krasniq tribe and their mountainous home region)</li> <li>Portugal: <em>Silva</em> ('woodland')</li> <li>Latvia: <em>Bērziņš</em> ('little birch tree')</li> <li>Estonia: <em>Tamm</em> ('oak')</li></ul> <p>But sometimes, even for the most popular ones, the exact origin of the surname is lost in time:</p> <ul><li>Spain: <em>Garcia</em> (originally Basque, possibly meaning 'young', 'bear' or 'young bear')</li> <li>Finland: <em>Korhonen</em> ('hard of hearing' or 'dim-witted'; 'village elder'; 'proud'; 'upright'). </li></ul>
Smith popularity theory<p>So why exactly is Smith – and not Miller, for example – the most popular surname in many English-speaking countries? The theory propounded by historian C.M. Matthews in <em>History Today</em> (July 1967) probably also holds for the other-language variants so popular throughout Europe:<br></p><blockquote>"The reason for (the) multiplicity (of the surname 'Smith') is not so much that metal-workers were numerous as that they were important and widespread. On the skill of the smith, both rich and poor depended for the most essential things of life, the tools of husbandry and the weapons of hunting and war. Every community in the land must have one, every castle, every manor; and so distinctive was his trade that he would seldom need another name".<em></em></blockquote><p>That does not mean all people with the surname have a forefather who forged iron into weapons and farm tools. Especially in North America, 'Smith' was adopted by many people precisely because it was already common – as a secret identity or to blend in, for example by natives, slaves and immigrants.</p>
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.