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 the 1960s, for 9 years, the US conducted 580,000 bombing runs over Laos as part of a covert campaign that was kept hidden from the US Congress. Hundreds of millions of baseball sized munitions called ‘bombies’ were dropped on Laos with a sizable percentage which didn’t explode. 45 years after the last one was dropped, the duds called Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) continue to kill about 100 persons a year in Laos. These UXO also wound and maim hundreds more a year. I urge you to watch the video on Bombies found here on Youtube.
Recent Accident Report with Bombies
In the capital city of Vientiane, an information center called COPE is educating thousands of Lao youth who have not grown up with the legacies of that war. Documenting the heinous act of bombing, the drive to ban cluster munitions and coping with limb loss by victims of bombies are all part of the displays in this center.
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.
Who knew that giving a Samsung over a Nokia held such meaning?
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)
Dinner on the lake with MCC Staff Siphon, Khamsa, Manisone, Wendy and Bee
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.
I type this on a 14 hour flight somewhere over the North Pacific flying between Washington D.C. and a connection stopover in Tokyo. It is on these long haul legs that I enter the ‘nether zone’ where I am neither here nor there and all I have is my tiny seat and my thoughts. Well, I also have unlimited violence served up on a 5 inch screen as continuously as I want to expose myself to it. By the time I get on my last 6 hour leg to Bangkok my mind is numb from fatigue and so that is definitely not creative time.
I am grateful for battery technology that gives me computing power for a large portion of the flight. This is the time when I tend to design much of the next training or find the creativity to write the next blog series.
I am amazed at the psychology built into airplanes. 350 people packed into a tiny space for hours. More than once I have gone a whole transoceanic flight without talking to the person sitting beside me. Being an introvert that is not difficult but I do sometimes feel guilty about such aloofness. In peacemaking, connection is a key human need yet I allow silence to prevail.
I’ve had a Twitter account since 2009 but only a few weeks ago really learned to use it. Before that I could not think of one use for it in education…it seemed such a frivolous waste of time. But students use Twitter with more regularity. I was shocked to hear that Facebook is ‘so old fashion.’
Just because the trendy new gadgets that frequently vie for our hard earned dollars show up in our classrooms with each new batch of students, doesn’t mean that if we have them too, our teaching will get any better. Clawing ones way up the learning curve is only the front end of successfully using technology in Education.
But once I actually figured out how to use Twitter and hear others share how they are using it, I begin to let my imagination run wild and came up with a few uses. A few examples are below…
Does anyone under age 25 read email? Twitter could be used to supplement class announcements and reminders.
It could be used to have a whole class scavenger hunt where sending an assignment relevant picture, retweeted article or research link wins points.
Lastly, I could keep my class apprised of my travels should they, or you the reader for example, be interested.
Hea good buddy, my Twitter handle is @JonRudy. While traveling this August, you can find my tweets at #jonslaotrip3
It is gratifying to see a thread of the content that I developed and presented at Etown College and/or MPI being woven into a training conducted by someone else. In a recent training with religious and government leaders, some of my former students facilitated a module on identity I had recently taught them.
Of course the peacebuilding materials I develop are not truly my own. I stand on the shoulders of giants who have formed and given the foundation for my development as a facilitator. The content I use is woven from the fibers of a myriad of trainers and trainings. The wisdom and experience in this field of peace is cumulative and I add a small measure of tint to the already vivid colors in the strands of knowledge.
Because the educational model I am immersed in is a learning model, the wisdom of thousands of participants in peacebuilding training from literally a hundred countries is collectively added to the tapestry of peace education. So while I might have my own unique way to present the modules being taught, the fabric of content connects us all past, present and future.
“I don’t know” is probably the most informed and honest thing I have ever said to students in response to some questions they pose. The limits of my knowledge and understanding are revealed with stark clarity the more my experience tempers my knowledge. It is as if for every truism I find, there is an equal and opposite truth. Admitting I don’t know something is not admitting I know nothing. It is simply saying that I have not plumbed the depths of paradox (mystery). Richard Rohr, Franciscan Spiritual writer, reminds us that:
…each of us must learn to live with paradox, or we cannot live peacefully or happily even a single day of our lives. In fact, we must even learn to love paradox, or we will never be wise, forgiving, or possess the patience of good relationships. http://allsaintschalloch.wordpress.com/34-2/
So perhaps education is not so much about knowing what we know but learning to live in harmony with the unknowns, the unknowable and the mystery that is so much more vast than ALL human certitudes and assurances. Perhaps admission of my limits is the beginning of true peace.