Monday, May 30, 2011

The Common Enemy: Racism and the Military

In context: The following blog is not intended to disrespect or dishonor Memorial Day. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I believe that as a nation we must honor those who have died by questioning systems of violence and working to create a more peaceful society and military, where less people have to die to defend our nation from the perceived and very real threats that we face.

On this Memorial Day, I was listening on NPR to a story of the first black woman to fly fighter helicopters. You can listen to the story here. It is a cool story in the sense of equality within the United States military. During the most previous military peacebuilding dialogue that I facilitated, this issue of racism in the military came up. One of the vets in the group said he felt really frustrated by society's stereotype of the military being racist. He said that the amount of friendships between black and white soliders was incredibly high and that a lot of guys (and gals) going into the military with racist tendencies were transformed because of their service. He said that when people are placed in such close surroundings and forced to defend each other at all odds, the sense of brotherhood (no mention of sisterhood?) and friendship is immeasurable.

A peacebuilding member in the dialogue, after listening carefully and affirming the story, explained their concern surrounding racial issues in the military. They explained their concern pertains to the "othering" when talking about the "enemy."

I agreed with this concern. I remember guys in my brother's unit used to call Jason the "haji lover". "Haji" is of course the term used for a Muslim taking the pilgrimage to Mecca. It has also been used as a discriminatory word for the indigenous peoples of the Arabic countries the US military occupies during times of war. Jason's fellow soldiers called him "haji lover" because he was always giving candy to kids and trying to engage in conversation with Afghan citizens. This "othering" of the enemy is nothing new within US military. We can trace it all the way back to the massacre of the Native Americans with such terms as: injun and redskin.

I do not believe that the military as an institution necessarily promotes this behavior. I imagine all soldiers going into a combat zone such as Iraq and Afghanistan receive some cultural sensitivity training. My hope is that as the military realizes the power behind counter violence tactics, they will spend more time training their soldiers on conflict resolution tactics. While "othering" the enemy may be a powerful combat tactic, it cripples our ability to effectively promote a non violent and peaceful society.

Happy Memorial's to a world where security and safety can coexist with compassion and tolerance.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

30: The perfect place to be

Just got an email from a co worker about turning thirty. I loved it. So here's to being thirty and all the magic that comes along with it. Not sure who wrote this but it's lovely.

"Perhaps no single number more fully embodies the essence of the rhythmic fluctuations which characterize human affairs than that of the number 30. Its significance to the realms of finance, economics, physics, mathematics, astronomy, and religion is integral to a full comprehension of each field, and almost mystical in its import.

While the number 30 has many significations, its most fundamental significance is the fact that it is the number of the circle, or cycle. The circle, it will be noted, is the geometric expression of absolute completion and infinity. It symbolizes the continuous, yet fixed, nature of life, energy and matter along the timeline. It is the shape of every planet in the solar system and the fittest representation of all time cycles as the clock itself (being in the shape of a circle) testifies.

The clock also provides a fitting analogy to our examination of the number 30. Besides being the ultimate embodiment of the cycle (which governs the affairs of every life-form on earth), the clock is divided into 12 sections, or hours, upon a circular face. The circle itself is 360 degrees (a completed cycle in geometry), and 360 divided by 12 yields 30. Therefore, 30 has a special significance in the cycle of time.

Thirty is also half of 60, the number of seconds in a minute and the number of minutes in an hour. It forms an integral part of the measure of time itself. Thirty is the number of days in a month, and three times 30 is equal to one quarter of the calendar year. In the realm of finance, the quarter has a very important meaning in the analysis of corporate earnings. As such, it forms the backbone to financial cycle analysis since identifiable cycles of stock price fluctuations tend to occur in quarterly increments.

Thirty days times 3 is also the division of the calendar itself into four (the number 4 representing temporal completion) equal sections. It also forms the basis of the four seasons of the year and therefore is important to the agrarian economy (without which life could not exist). The farmer must plan his tilling, planting, fertilizing, and harvesting activities along these four quarters (30 x 3), with each quarter representing a timeframe integral to the success of his crop. Therefore, the number 30 also forms the backbone to understanding the commodities market as well, and is a central component in the analysis of supply and demand.

Since the cycle (of which the number 30 is an essential feature) cannot be expressed as a complete circle along the timeline, it takes instead the form of an S-shaped curve, or sine wave. This is nothing more than a bisected circle, or cycloid, with both halves connecting to form the completed circle in price and time (though not in actual form). Using this as a foundation for the understanding and interpretation of the cycle, we will proceed along this channel.

The number 30 can also be expressed as 10 x 3 (10 being the number of ordinal perfection and 3 the number of divine completeness). This mathematical structure further underlines the special importance of this number. Thirty is also the number of probation and preparation. A man, before he is fit for success, very often must toil at his trade until he reaches the age of 30 before he is ready to advance and apply all his wisdom and experience with great success. Thirty also has a theological significance since we read in Scripture that Christ was 30 when he began his public ministry on earth. In biblical numerology, the number 30 is also representative of blood (the essence of all life) and the price of blood. For example, Christ was sold by Judas Iscariot for 30 pieces of silver."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peacebuilding and Arts: A Political Agenda

I plan to write a series of blog posts over the next few months that will serve to explain a larger goal I have in mind of connecting the peacebuilding innovators and artists to communicate, express and lobby the US government and people for systems of peace and economic sustainability. The series of blog posts are meant to explain this thesis in further detail. I reserve the right to make amendments as I write. This is a work in progress. This is something that has been forming for years. I am eager to get it out into words.

Part 1: Art and Peacebuilding

Art and peacebuilding are odd bed fellows. Peacebuilding requires political will, it requires lobbying, it requires an understanding of the politics behind war and the economic systems America thrives on. It requires time and patience. It takes flexibility and planning.

Art on the other hand thrives in the present moment. In the insanity, in the blink of an eye, in the spontaneity of restlessness, in the space where honesty and abstract collide. It emerges only on its own accord and cannot be harnessed or calculated. It cannot be systematized and institutionalized. Art does not angle or lobby. Art does not care about politics.

In the the world of peacebuilding, true art is rarely achieved. Too often strong agendas overshadow the subtlety and magic that makes something art.

And in the world of art, real peacebuilding is rarely achieved. Artists recognize the dead weight political agendas can have on their work and often avoid them completely.

And yet, in this space where art and peacebuilding coexist, the power for social change is great. Finding the right balance between the two will forever remain a passion of mine. It is not an easy thing to do.

Part Two: The Politics of Peacebuilding