“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana (1906). p.284
Why is humanity intolerant of sociological differences? Why do Governments continue to ‘fight fire with fire’? How do peacebuilders damage the notion of neutrality when they engage in activism in support of movements that demand peace and justice? How can we break free from Eurocentric domination to create a more peaceful world-order?
Worldwide, the management of conflict is often poorly lead by those tasked with keeping us safe from war, violence, poverty, displacement, intolerance, and racism. Jolle Demmers (Demmers. 2012. Chapter 3) opines that social anxieties and frustrations translate into force and that structural and direct violence can have its roots in competing interests of those from varying social identities. Demmers also suggests peace is fostered and maintained just as quickly as violence is painstakingly dispensed. She says, “When we categorize our world and ourselves, we’re attempting to simplify the complex. This is at the core of our social identity and helps explain why people who feel a threat to that identity turn against each other.”
Governments are increasingly under pressure to protect communities from one another. In their mission to create safety and peace, they trade a common currency of fear and bigotry. It is ironic that to make people safe; our politicians rely on our most profound anxieties and insecurities to ingratiate themselves with an increasingly disenfranchised electorate. Governments that support this agenda trade negative peace with a fear, and their personal gain for others’ personal freedom.
Increasingly besieged by a declining vision and faith throughout communities, violence is exacerbated by the hubris, fear, intolerance, and greed of Governments, politicians, and agencies tasked with providing the people they serve, with safety, prosperity, and happiness. False peace is the fruit of a device that is every war-on-terror or act of civil disobedience.
The temporal wants of humans drive us faster and faster to a destination rather than a just-and-peaceful journey. With no earthly guide, as to the location of this destination, nor justification for the speed of the acquisition of temporal wants, humans have become increasingly impatient and frustrated by a lack of vision and faith. It is this frustration that is the germinating seed of violence, such as the 'program of complete disorder' opined by Fanon (p 35).
Conflict is managed variously. The smallest intervention toward peace is maintained by personal engagement – such as listening and talking. The most extreme being varying degrees of violence and war. These are polar extremes where one exists when the other is vanquished. Even activism appears in the spectrum. However, it does not feature on the list of cost-effective, less complex interventions toward peace (McKenzie, 2003. p 16)and regrettably, is closely linked to rising levels of civil disobedience and violence. Too many peacebuilders engage in activism to assert assumptions of peace and justice asserting that their brand of peace and judgment is the only answer worth considering. This is not to suggest activism itself is irrelevant. Activism directly focuses on the mechanism of protest even when that opinion promotes peace and justice. When peacebuilders engage in it, their engagement is misaligned with the maxim of suspension-of-judgment. The suspension of judgment is necessary for peacebuilders wanting to work between parties engaged in or protesting war, violence, poverty, injustice, and racism.
Franz Fanon suggests that revolution is the only answer to a new-world-order. I don't agree. A fresh hope of sustainable justice and peace can prevail. The answer lies in a multi-dimensional approach, attending to strategies both top down and bottom up. Coordinated by a culture of the collaboration between nations, communities, families, and people assisted by peacebuilders.
Peacemakers and synonymously, peacebuilders are advocates for the promotion of wealth, comfort, and safety through the arts of temporal and sacred righteousness. In their neutrality, peacebuilders are not absent of human feelings nor personal values of peace and justice. Neutral peacebuilding rises above the complexities of right and wrong and draws from the temporal experiences of men and women who become expert in the arts of managing conflict and faith in the sacred texts relevant to various religious beliefs and practices. Peacebuilders embrace restorative living for the benefit of the people they serve. Humble in their existence, and firm in their conviction they quietly work without fear or favor for all of humanity.
I opine the path forward is not in treating others in a way they have grown accustomed to being treated. It is no smooth journey as there will be dangers and disappointments. A safe and prosperous existence supports a vision where peace and justice combine with human temporal wants with the sacred word. When peacebuilders fail to practice what, they preach, the resulting corruption may render the peacebuilder ineffective. In passing judgment, the building of peace is not humble nor neutral to the needs of parties engaged in conflict. So, the management of conflict requires the suspension of judgment and, to increase capacity and capability toward sincerity, trust, and resilience throughout the system.
To find peace between violent parties; intolerant ethnic identities; there is required, fresh innovation of conflict transformation suggested by scholars such as Lisa Schirch (Chapter 1. 2013). In her book, Conflict Assessment and Peacebuilding, Schirch opine that transforming harm to security requires four dimensions: Personal (changes to individuals); Relational (interpersonal change); Cultural (Change to social and community norms and patterns) and, Structural (Institutional, structural, and system change). She says, “[Peacebuilding] process … helps move toward asking the right questions and making informed choices.”
The neutrality of the peacebuilder is paramount. Peacebuilders must know their place in the transformation is an advocate for process only and not be an advocate for any one side.
To break free of the shackles of Eurocentric domination, the transformation of conflict by peacebuilding practice is best undertaken from a strictly neutral perspective. When peace and justice form the foundation of a safe-haven where there is no racism, poverty or war, then the architecture gains its strength from a vision and faith in a purpose greater than the sum of all men, past, present, and future.
We can indeed learn from the past to create a future unlike the cultural abuses of our forebears. A new world order can surely be achieved out of peace, security, and well-being. Yes?
Demmers, J. 2012. Theories of Violent Conflict. Routledge.
Fanon, F. 1961. The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press.
McKenzie, C. 2003. ADR bulletin. Volume 6, Number 1. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from http://www.cmnz.co.nz/content/files/ADR_-_Paper_by_Colin_McKenzie.pdf
Santayana, G. (1906). The Life of Reason. Charles Scribner's Sons.
Schirch, L. 2013. Conflict Assessment and Peacebuilding Practice. Kumarian Press.