Archive | September, 2010

peace ???

8 Sep

Classes have begun, which means a few things:

1. I will have more to think about

2. I will have less time to write on this blog

3. I will be eating a lot more $5 footlongs from Subway. Since the powers that be decided to install a Subway on the first floor of the Elliott School, I somehow can’t avoid them. Try as I might.

But since this is only the second week of classes, I’ll use this precious free moment to toss around a few things from one of my classes.

One of my classes this fall is Intro to Conflict Resolution. It’s going to be a doozy. And depressing. I’ll report back on this in three months.

Here’s what we covered today: 1. What is Conflict? 2. What is Peace? 3. What is Violence?

Don’t answer too quickly.

Conflict will involve two groups, and their pursuit of incompatible goals. As well as attitudes and beliefs. And behavior. And a context.

Peace: is it the absence of violence? Is peace to be maintained, or is it to be obtained? Is peace stopping war? Or is it building a just society? And these terms – “peace” “just society” – are laden with political beliefs. What I perceive as just may fly in the face of what another group perceives as just. But somehow, this doesn’t stop us from chasing after these things.

Violence. This is defined by some of our readings (Galtung) as the cause of the difference between what we can potentially achieve and what we actually achieve. If the world has the means to cure malaria, but does not, and millions die each year of something that could potentially be cured, this is violence. If we did not have a cure, it would not qualify as violence. But who is the agent of violence in this scenario? Who is to be held accountable? With this definition, there will always be violence, as there will always be groups of people who are not achieving what they could potentially achieve.

At this point, this just begs more and more questions (which I’m not opposed to). Because as our professor pointed out, the entire field of conflict resolution is partly about answering the question: how do we change the future? How do we not only stop current violent conflicts, but also change structures that can escalate beliefs and attitudes into violent behavior? How do we not only make peace, but also build it?

And the scariest part is that, as was pointed out in my last class, things can always get worse. And you can always make things worse. International intervention in Rwanda prior to the genocide in 1994 is an example of this. I might also argue that the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement may be another example. Tread lightly, with fear and trembling.

So on that note, I leave you with a song from le meaningful band de jour: