I was able to consolidate all my previous blog postings from the previous 2 sites and will use this one going forward. Feel free to brows the old postings via the key words and stay tuned for further thoughts.
The Peacemaker in Residence position was eliminated at Etown College due to strategic realignment. I am no longer at the college Please message me if you want an updated email address.
Fright Futures – Bright Futures
8 June 2019
To continue with my series of what it would look like to imagine a bright future (rather than a dystopian one) I offer another story starter called Animal Wisdom. Imagine a world where wisdom was EVERYWHERE and our living, breathing friends in the animal kingdom had a special ability to share the deepest secrets of the universe to help us find our way.
The ability to communicate with animals had been something that Jessica had kept as a closely guarded secret for the first few years of her life. From her earliest memories she knew what her dog, Rusty, was thinking. From protecting her from traffic as a toddler to the unease she read from Rusty’s demeanor toward untrustworthy people, Jessica seemed to have a natural animal connection that extended way beyond her pets. Jessica remembered the first time she communicated an intention to a spider that had inadvertently bungie jumped from the ceiling, to dangle in front of her face. Rather than panic, she calmly set the intention to assist the spider in finding a more appropriate venue to spin a web. Quick compliance and cooperation between the two resulted in a violence free encounter and a spider-free home.
Animals trusted her partly because Jessica was able to respect the animals for their inherent nature and needs. Jessica became the bridge to communicate the intentions of the humans who were frustrated with the inability to make their needs known to the animal kingdom. As Jessica developed her abilities and shared her insights, people of all persuasions sought her out to ‘solve’ animal conflicts ranging from ground hogs digging up gardens, to an agitated and confused orca that threatened tourist boats.
Jessica was not the only one who woke up to latent gift of hearing the subtle voices of the natural world just outside the urban jungle. The new discipline of ‘Human/Animal Mediation’ turn out to be the biggest field of study for the incoming class of 2045 in Liberal Arts Colleges . . .
The human race is the only species (that we know of) that is capable of imaging its own frightening demise in such technicolor detail. In fact, looking at most science fiction produced today, a dystopian future where the world has been shredded by war, scorched by nukes and/or dominated by cruel and vicious despots is the norm. Science fiction tells us what the future will look like in some jolting ways. Author Arthur C. Clarke predicted satellites in geo-sync orbit decades before that became reality(1). Isaac Asmov wrote about the 3 laws of robotics as ways to keep robots (think AI) serving humanity instead of the other way around. (2) Kim Stanley Robinson wrote of how mars was colonized with the cycle of power, domination and war predictably following. (3) This last one has yet to play out although it is clear we will colonize mars . . .
Does it have to be this way? What I suggest is that sci-fi writers have a huge role to play in helping humanity imagine that we will ‘get it right’ in terms of bright, happy futures filled with dignity for ALL. In this blog series I will suggest paragraph book starts with ideas that could be expanded upon to imagine a bright future on this planet. Here goes with my first Bright Future sci-fi starter. . .
The Cost of Denial
By the mid-2020s it became clear that the political cost of climate change denying made running untenable. In fact, in the 2024 presidential elections, not a single candidate in any of the 6 parties who fielded a congressional candidate had a record of silence, if not outright denial, of the so called ‘climate debate’ at the turn of the century. Such was the tsunami of unanimous demand from the populace for leadership to act!
Image from Wikimedia commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robot-clip-art-book-covers-feJCV3-clipart.png
A guest blog I wrote for Global Partnerships about using simulations and scenarios to teach peace.
Things got really tense in Dapat when young John killed the neighbors chicken. In fact, tensions broke out to the point where the lowlanders blockaded the highlanders, threatening to kill any who crossed into their territory. Some tenacious villagers from the highlands succeeded in bringing the two sides together to negotiate a settlement. And then we stepped in and called a halt to the whole thing.
Called “The Chicken War”, this fictitious scenario was one of the simulations we use regularly at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI), held annually in Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines. Written several years ago, it starts with a young highlander innocently throwing a rock and killing a neighbor’s chicken, which sparks simmering tensions into wholesale war. All too real in its narrative, we regularly cast participants as community leaders, police, apathetic citizens, and peacemakers. Also like real life, there are those present who just don’t want peace.
At MPI we often run these simulations after spending a few days analyzing conflict, learning new models of peacebuilding and viewing nonviolent tactics of conflict transformation. Our pedagogical philosophy at MPI is to not only present new theories and skills but to develop learning situations whereby participants can practice these new skills and then reflect on the gap between intentions and actualizing peace.
I want to address an apparent incongruity in the diagram in my last post. Thank you, Amy, for bringing this up. In previous posts on “The End of Enemy”, I have advocated for reimagining language that supports and reinforces peace. The use of the word “warrior” in my onion diagram may seem like a contradiction in terms when harnessed with a nonviolent model. As someone deeply committed to peacebuilding and nonviolent change I have come to terms with this word warrior. So in my thinking I have already rehabilitated the word but made a leap of logic in so doing. Let me elaborate on my thinking.
I am convinced that the role of a warrior is a masculine archetypical stage of formation. This is the life stage where mountains are climbed, rivers forded and dragons are slain. This is passionate kinetic energy focused on external struggles and even sacrifice. However, if it is not shaped and molded by elder wisdom, and grounded with the nurture of deep connection, it can easily perpetrate violence, death and destruction. This is the imbalance we see in the world today. The gift, in all the pain of the struggle for water protection in North Dakota, is balance returning to the earth and all her relations. The unity we see at the Standing Rock Camp is evidence of that.
What I see in the #NoDAPL Movement is the Lakota Sioux Tribe and indeed all First Nations tribes struggling for dignity and respect for treaties they have honored but the government as not. It is a struggle for acknowledgement that the United States has waged genocide against them. In all of this I see elders reaffirming that the struggle will be waged nonviolently. THIS is shaping the warrior energy into activism, peaceful means of protecting water and protesting the pipeline which has desecrated their sacred sites. One of the Water Protector Camps is called the Red Warrior Camp. The #NoDAPL movement is redefining the word warrior within the context of a nonviolent struggle and I deeply honor that.
- Interlude to the Present
I am currently in northern Thailand giving a series of talks on peacebuilding and human security at the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace (IRCP) at Payap University. I experienced a wonderful example of the positive/creative language I have been blogging about when Dr. Suchart Setthamalinee, IRCP faculty, invited me to the local mosque for Friday prayers. The message, brought by a student, urged the faithful to “resist retaliation and embrace forgiveness because forgiveness is central to life.” He implored “when someone does evil to you and you retaliate, the evil they have done comes to you. But if you don’t return evil for evil then the evil stays with them.” With those simple yet profound words the Islamic community in Chiang Mai reinforces the tradition of neighborliness and unity which has characterized interfaith relations here.
Chiang Mai Thailand is a place where the major religions have a long history of natural co-existence. As I chatted with the leaders of the mosque, however, I became aware that the historical mutual respect these leaders have toward each other, is under stress from global attitudes and realities. Many times in our conversation the term ‘Islamophobia’ came up.
It strikes me that the normative impulse for humans to get along with their neighbors can be understood as a kind of passive co-existence. The globalization of division, hate and exclusivism is challenging the interfaith sphere in Chiang Mail to become active co-creators of harmonious living. Can we imagine communities where we more than tolerate each other but embrace the notion of thriving together in our diversity? The mosque in Chiang Mai can!
I had the honor of addressing the Somaliland Ministry of Education staff. Invited by the Director General, I spoken on the strategic nature of peace education and posed a series of question as they shape their curriculum writing to include ways of strengthening peace through primary and secondary schools. As an outsider, I can only ask key questions but the actual content of the curriculum must be generated through a strategic reflection process by those who understand the culture and country dynamics.
After my input, the discussion was animated around how to deal with the role of clan in Somaliland society. What does peace education mean in the context of increasing political manipulation of this cultural reality?
One comment in the discussion was that “some nations deal with tribalism, some like the US deal with racism. Here in Somaliland we have clanism.” The strengths of the Somali culture to promote peace are, in the same brush, the potential weaknesses. Those cultural facets include identity derived through the clan system, deference to the elders for important decisions and the unbelievable security (in a personal safety sense) most in the country feel.* Peace education’s primary task is to reinforce that which builds the greater common good and resist those elements that cause division.
*Somalia and Somaliland rank as the lowest on the HDI so human security, as measured by the basics of life, is sorely lacking.