The Republic of Bendora is an island nation surrounded by lesser islands like Renbel, Kula, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Laos and Canada to name a few. Fictitious of course, Bendora is the name of one of the case study scenarios we used in the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) Human Centered Security course. Our training design was hands-on and used made-up scenarios with real-world challenges. Newly designed to help those seeking to reframe security paradigms in their countries, this course tasked work groups to use conflict analysis and mapping skills. One starting assumption in Human Security include that nations are most secure when the needs of people (freedom from fear, freedom from want and respect for dignity) are the reference points.
This year at MPI we had a major delegation from the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation, and Peace in the Solomon Islands. During group work participants from five other countries tackled the Bendoran security issues which included clan tensions, an earthquake, outside meddling by foreign powers and weak governance. I observed that, in the minds of the participants, Bendora was imagined as an island nation among many other islands. The Bendoran mapping exercise proved the truism that our world is shaped by our perspective.
Sitting daily beside the sea for three meals a day, our MPI venue on the Philippine Island of Mindanao provided a tactile reminder of our geographic location. I have often thought about how the environment around us is but one influence that shapes our perception and experience. These filters, when applied unconsciously, are often a detriment to building peace. I wonder if art is the best medium to reveal hidden perspectives and once exposed these biases can be harnessed for peace. That was certainly the case for Bendora revealing its island nature.
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.
Communications skills are essential to transforming conflict. Reframing is the ability to distill charged, perhaps negative and loaded statements and see the essential needs of the speaker. For example:
“I hate her…she doesn’t respect me.”
As a listener, you might reframe that exclamation as:
“You have a need to be respected by her. What does respect look like if she were to give you the respect you need?”
Simple and basic stuff but I often find it challenging to get past the raw emotion to the core need. Yet when I do use reframing, I almost always immediately find the core need. In this case the need to be heard, to have ones voice matter in a conversation or dialogue.
Getting to needs and then helping each other meet those needs is essential to peace. Disregarding the needs of others is the surest way to start the little and big wars that plague our world today. Stay with me here as I make the leap of logic . . . true Human Security might just start with listening for the needs of others!
Outside the University is a Daabshiil Money Exchange. I am continually struck by how this bank is more like an ordinary block house with doors and windows wide open to the busy street in front of the university main gate. I once had to cash a check there and two guys, feet propped up on the counter, were lazily texting. Approaching them, I greeting in Somali language and they gave the obligatory laugh to the foreigner who uses broken and rusty vernacular. Cashing the check was as easy as countersigning it. They pulled open a drawer piled full of currency. Somali Shillings, USD and maybe other currencies from the Middle East and Euros. Having gotten my money, then walking away, I turned and noticed them back in standard repose. I am told that some of the money changers downtown just cover up their stacks of money and go to the mosque to pray when it is time. Security is that lax.
What kind of confidence does this place have that a bank or money changer can be so relaxed about security? Nowhere on earth do I know of another place like this. Could it be guns? There are plenty of old Kalashnikovs around Hargeisa from the days of war in the 80’s. But if it were guns that make for security the US would have NO crime. So it can’t be guns. Could it be prosperity? No it can’t be prosperity. Again, the US would be pretty secure and Somaliland would be the world of Mad Max. I think it has something to do with an intact social fabric that is eloquent and nuanced through an oral tradition. Somalilanders have a long history of clan interaction, recitation of connection through ancestry and an oral tradition as a conflict resolution mechanism.
At this time of stress over racial injustice, political insecurity, international terrorism, domestic shootings in the US, might we take a lesson from Somalilanders? Next time we are tempted to become overwhelmed with all our nation’s problems, ask a simple question of ‘who is my neighbor’ and how are our lives connected and intertwined?” Then respond accordingly as we are so good at doing. We know how to do this people!
I had the privilege of attending a conference in The Hague, Netherlands where civil society peacebuilding organizations and military leaders launched a new era of coordination effort around human security. The conference was held at one of the NATO Centers of Excellence focusing on Civil/Military Cooperation.
Lisa Schirch shepherded a three year process of collaboration with global civil society networks, police and military that has produced a very useful training manual that will enhance global human security. Human security is defined as freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity (Handbook on Human Security, 149).
One of the most referred to case studies was the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute’s engagement with the Philippine Military. Three representatives from that work were present. General (retired) Ferrer, longtime MPI facilitator Deng Giguiento attended and myself gave a case study of the process of MPI, as a civil organization, accepting the Philippine Military officers in the peacebuilding trainings. I was Deng’s co-facilitator in 2005 when General Ferrer first attended.
One of the ‘truisms’ I teach my students about the use of nonviolence as a change strategy is that nonviolent methods start by looking really irrational, even laughable at first. But after the conflict progresses these methods look more and more rational compared to the options of violence. So with that in mind, I want to float an idea about how to deal with ISIS that seems, at first, downright ridiculous.
Now one of the international concerns about ISIS and in general the deteriorating conditions in the Middle East is the loss of life. In her TED talk, The game that can give you 10 extra years of life, Jane McGonigal suggests 15 minutes into her talk that we can extend our lives by evoking powerful positive emotions. I thought of this recently in a Facebook posting circulating of a baby getting a backrub from a dog.
Now here is my idea…since the world has tried everything else, why not try dropping Youtube loaded IPADs showing baby animals, the antics and innocence of children and other heart opening videos. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but remember that the patterns we have in the US of dropping bombs on problems has a pretty poor track record and even looks rational at first but later on looks pretty irrational. Dropping Ipads would be cheaper AND boost our economy in the process. Start to look a little more rational? Since nothing else has worked, maybe it’s time to try some off the wall ideas and see.
In last posting I described a case study from group work that had parents favoring a son over a daughter. This case was further illuminated yesterday by using the simple conflict analysis tools of the conflict tree and actor mapping.
These tools made clear the effects on the individuals in the family as well as the family as a whole. The mapping of actors also revealed the costs of the conflict like siblings who don’t love each other, no respect of the parents and a lack of self-confidence in the girl. One frightening consequence of this conflict was that the daughter ran away, a dangerous prospect in an area of the world where human trafficking is a real problem.
So these simple tools, developed and refined over the past years in many places around the world from urban to rural in Africa, Asia and Latin America, continue to surface otherwise hidden faces of conflict.
In our training this week we have asked participants to think of case studies of real conflict that we could then use conflict analysis tools on. One that surfaced from a group looking at family conflicts was a family of four that included a mother, father and two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was rather lazy, did poorly in school and prone to trouble. The girl was a hard worker and good in school.
The father favored the boy giving him a nice cell phone (Samsung smartphone) and not making him work hard. The girl only got a GSM (simple Nokia) and had to wake at 4am to do chores. The participants seem to all be familiar with this case in some form or other.
We have only completed a simplified nested paradigm for looking at individuals, relationships and culture. I look forward to the mapping of actors and the conflict tree to see where the roots of this conflict lie.
A joint US, Thai and Japanese project begun in 1968, it produces electricity behind the massive 70 meter high dam. The reservoir behind the dam is 370 square kilometers of surface area. The electricity it produces is mostly for the Lao market but on occasion gets exported to neighbors. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nam_Ngum_Dam)
When it was filled, many people were displaced and one can see these communities on the hillsides surrounding the lake. Some of them are still identified by the utilitarianan names given during resettlement, names like village #10.
Today, the reservoir is a popular vacation spot. Before our training, which is a few km from the dam, we took a ‘dinner boat’ ride around part of the lake.