Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Acts of violence

Every day the insanity of the world is spilled across the mass media and inundates the idle chatter of daily life. Now peace is a very serious subject to me but my experiences have built a very dark humour. Even though I work very diligently for peace there are some things that I must let go of.  For example, the most talked about subject of late concerns gun laws here in Canada and in the RUSA, due to the recent shootings in both countries.
In the RUSA the debate hinges upon constitutional rights to carry weapons. The hilarious part of that argument lies in the fact that the right to carry a weapon is an amendment, correction or a change to the original. Basically there was some patch work done on the original. Due to that you have to look at the context of when that patchwork was done. Then you have to ask if that repair is still valid or has it outlived its usefulness. The facts of the matter have produced one of the most violent societies in modern times. Add to that one of the most basic realities in peace theory which states that all weapons must be taken out of circulation so that the level of violence will decrease.  
However, the reality is that gun laws are not the issue because the shooting is being done by those that have no respect for such laws, nor do they care about the general safety of others. Producing more laws will change nothing, so the gun law debate is moot.
The major issue rests with the fact that such incidents were conducted with the ideology that no other viable option was present. This is a psychological matter on a community/social level as well as an individual level. The harsh reality is that such a level of violence may always be with us. This reality was made very clear last year in Norway. Also, such violence was the backbone of why Osama Bin Laden fought.
How do you deal with such violence?
In the case of the shooting in Norway, you have to understand that the people who conduct such acts usually have an understanding of holistic reality. They feel the connection of the individual within the context of the world society. For the most part this connection becomes too much for them to handle as they get overwhelmed with the vast expanse of such issues. When the mind becomes exasperated or overwhelmed a person has a tendency to lose all sense of control, which can and has resulted in outbursts of violence.
Such events are moments which show us how fragile peace is and how much work it is to maintain a peaceful society. Furthermore, such events should be moments of clarity for all of us to take responsibility for ensuring a peaceful society. As rudimentary as it seems the best tools are education, awareness, patience, accountability and a caring heart for others.
I admit that there is a very long road to travel for a society to collapse but it can also be traveled very fast. I do not have many answers but I do know what it is like to live in a society that is collapsing and has collapsed. Depending on how important a peaceful society is will determine how much effort or change the individual is willing to make. For most I trust that life will continue on as it has because peace takes a very long time to mature, especially when you are dealing with people.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Peace is a decision

Understanding where society and the individual (yourself) are both wanting to be/go and are going, is a crucial piece of information. For the most part, the world has held democracy and rights based structures as the holy grail of peace. In reality those two structures are by products of a peaceful society not spearheads.
For peace to take hold in society both the individual and the immediate community must trust and have respect for others. A rights based structure seeks to build a common law that is to be the focus of trust and respect. In most rights based societies the structure of respect and trust is carried out by the government and held within the legal system, (courts, police, prisons, etc…). The democracy portion is meant to enshrine the ideology that the individual is the power behind the government. This power is often stated as the one person one vote system.
As we have seen in Libya, Egypt, Paraguay, Burma and the list goes on, there is truth that the people do hold power. In each of the countries mentioned there was/is a divergence in vision between the people and the governments. One of the most interesting political situations that is not widely discussed takes place in Belgium.
“Following the last election in 2007, Belgium went without a government for six months because of the divisions and squabbling between Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. Three years later, the same conflict has brought down the government again. This is not a conflict where people will get killed," says the former deputy prime minister. "But it has the same structure as most big international conflicts – the clash of the rights of the traditional population with the rights of incomers."

No government for half a year in 2007 and again in 2010, “For a record 535-plus days since an election in June 2010, the country has had a caretaker government.”  http://www.economist.com/node/21541074

The major difference in Belgium is respect and trust within the individual and for the community at large. There is a strong understanding that violence is unnecessary and highly unwanted. There is a deep understanding that thought is an exercise in seeing options. It is also understood that such discussion is very volatile yet must take place.

In the grand reality, war is a brainstorming session gone wrong. The discussion and decision process moves from talking to killing when respect and trust are lost. The Belgium experience is an example of peaceful conflict and is a beacon of hope for all societies. As we look at fragile states we need to focus on the areas where trust and respect are lost, injured and destroyed. Peace is not about democracy or rights based structures, it is about how individuals and communities live together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where to start?

The other day I was working with a group that is dealing with a major conflict within its organization.  Now because we have the capacity to remember, there is no such thing as starting over. The memory of what has taken place will always be an issue for someone. As we discussed the issue of peaceful environments, it was made known that at some point there has to be a starting point for improving the current situation.
In many cases it is impossible to talk with everyone. However there have been attempts to do just that, which have been known as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. The same ideology applies for work place/organizational environments. Each person must be able to have an outlet to give voice to their realities. Even before such a task begins thought there is a very important step which is often overlooked.
The first step is to express the strong need for everyone to envision a peaceful future.  Also it must be made very clear there is no time frame for building a peaceful society because it never stops. What is also true is that people can not live with such a vague concept, there has to be limits, checkpoints, evaluation points and/or identifiable progress. Within the current situation, I have a few weeks to produce evidence. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get one person to envision a peaceful future.
For the most part people have an idea of what the future should be. As you begin to discuss this utopia there will be very common elements in the narrative as people explain their utopia. These common threads are the building blocks for the greater society. Not everyone will agree with every point but they will get to a point where the situation is pleasing to them, if not ideal. As the commonality is shared the next phase of resolving the conflict can begin.
The people will have a foundation to build upon which they all agree to. With that foundation you can begin to discuss various issues which cause friction. As tensions begin to rise you will have that foundational point to draw upon. In reality this phase never ends however, we live in a world of instant everything so time is pressure point, even though a false one.  
Within the international society time is always made an issue due to the desire to limit the damage. What is missed in this time pressure is the lack of trust needed to build a lasting peace. Most conflicts do not spring up within a few weeks or days. The hatred is often built up over years. Such a conflict can take months or in most cases years to play out.
Often an organization has only existed for a short period of time. In these cases there is the reality of outside influences, people bringing their personal lives into the group. In other cases there will be an emergent society or social clique within the work setting. The office gossip can and has ruined many companies. Drama is powerful, be careful.
The case I am dealing with at this moment does have two sides moving against each other. Very much like Syria but with no death toll, just emotional and character attachments. In both events pieces have to be moved around, ideology needs to be grounded and a way out has to be found.
The best resolution is often the one that comes from those that are in the battle. These are the ones that need to work things out. A prescribed/ordered resolution is like treating the symptoms of an illness while the illness is still going strong, in other words, lipstick on a pig. In the current case I am working there is no time frame but there is an expectation of quick resolution. The conflict may very well be solved within the time frame. What I like to remind people is that some of us are carrying hatred that began two thousand years ago and that hatred can very much be a part of a current conflict.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Protracted Conflict

How long can hate fuel a conflict? There are the religious wars between Islam and Christians going on for nearly two thousand years. The English vs French wars still have an ongoing issue in Canada. There is also the issues of racism. These areas of violent conflict are the areas in which we know must end. Societies along with entire nations of people have been killed due to the belief that one is better than the other.  Sometimes the conflicts are continued to seek revenge. There are circumstances that we have set up on purpose to ensure there is protracted conflict. One such example is the multi-party political system.

Conflict exists. How we perceive and act upon the emotions created from conflict will sway our opinion of conflict. Society needs an outlet for every emotion. Hatred, anger, frustration, aggression, desire, lust and love are emotions that fuel many of the protracted conflicts. The inability of society to deal effectively with these emotions creates drama. For many the drama of conflict is what life becomes as they get sucked into the mantras of, win at all cost or with or against. We can see the advent of attack adds, corporate spying/sabotage, pressure to over consume as indicators that a protracted conflict is both overt and subversive.

Each of us has to step back and truly understand the reality of what a protracted conflict provides and takes. The conflict of the information age brings with it many questions. Information such as Wiki leaks puts forth is labeled as secrets. However the reality is that the information is only secret to those that are not paying close attention to the subject matters, thus the drama begins. In this realm we are experiencing the balance of what we need to know as opposed to what we want to know. Need versus want.

In every conflict you have to look at the balance of need and want. Does a peaceful society need to have a specific religion or political party in power? No it does not, but some want a particular religion or party and that creates the drama for a protracted conflict. The drama will cloud the real goal of peace.

Often the phrase "perception is everything" is used to prop up the drama of a protracted conflict. Perception is deception, to use a different phrase, optics are all that matters. Each of those phrases points to the need to mask reality in order to "sell" something. In each case the drama will work and life goes on. Soon the perception becomes held as reality until the moment the fog of perception clears. Then the reality of the conflict is seen. This is exactly what took place in 2006 when the economic collapse was becoming very clear.

The world was sold on consumerism for decades. The impact of that consumerism has filled garbage dumps, inflated health problems, created ghost suburbs and brought down governments the world over. We have not seen the end of this conflict as the want for such a reality is still being sold. We are still being sold freedom, adventure, individuality, identity, and choice as a material possession. This is the very essence of the "you have look your best to be your best" ideology. In all truthfulness, how you look is not even on the list of needs and success does not care either. These are the items which ensure a protracted conflict continues.

In Syria the people are being held hostage due to the drama of international brinkmanship. Syria could have been avoided if the drama/perceptions of a few did not get in the way. Yet here we are now on the verge of a regional war all due to the protracted conflict of certain countries/ideologies. Such situations are life and death and yet the seriousness is lost in the drama of a protracted conflict.

On a personal level, I often get ridiculed and chastised for my views. However, after deep contemplation my views are always agreed upon, it may take decades for the reality to set in peoples minds. That is a protracted conflict.