Sunday, June 12, 2011

Peacebuilding and Arts: A Political Agenda

Part II. The Politics of Peacebuilding

"Deep in the heart of natural inclusional principles is an acknowledgement of needfulness, but not neediness as a fundamental condition of life. Needfulness is associated with spatial receptivity, and is a natural source of deep compassion for self and other through acknowledging that every bodily form has an intangible core towards and around which energy gravitates and circulates. The receptive influence of this core extends continuously throughout and beyond its energetic boundaries, always thirsting for more energy, more life. Neediness, by contrast, is a rationalistic notion of unilateral dependence upon others, interpreted as a ‘deficit’ or ‘negativity’." --Alan Rayner (Image and quote taken from Needfulness article)

Living in Washington DC over the past five years has offered me a unique perspective into the way peace and war are really created. While each individual must look to their own heart to find peace, the macro level of policy making must never be underestimated. Much of the US foreign policy that exists, does so based on the nationally-perceived neediness. In a country founded on economic liberalism, politicians and lobbyists eat and breathe based on financing and needing more. Financing the next election often drives the interest in particular issues and bills and laws that ultimately become monetized as well through appropriations committees on the hill. And each campaign needs to be bigger and better than before. Each new bill needs to increase the economy in robust ways.

And rather than spend my lifetime criticizing the flaws of the system, it is rather interesting to notice how an artist and peacemaker can coexist in a system that seems to, by definition, have no place for them. Neither art nor peace have much of a precedent for money making as a central motivational force.

While the economy drives our policies domestically, most people do not get into politics for the money. Money may ultimately motivate much of their work, but it does not trump all. Values of social justice, equal opportunity and other moral issues also motivate much of what goes on in DC. As Alan Rayner outlines in his article "Needfulness" quoted above, the differentiation between needfulness and neediness must remain an ever present struggle for humanity in our efforts to create a more peaceful world. Politicians in DC struggle with this on a daily basis, as do their constituents.

And with this understanding, I look to our nation's capital as an artist and peace activist.

The economics of art and peacebuilding are important areas of exploration, with the caveat that profit is not always the central motivating factor in political decision making. As American politics continue to learn from past mistakes, and make ever more room for "needfulness", the hope lies in the middle ground between profit and responsible decision making; in the understanding that while we may have human needs of security and prosperity, they may not need to come at the expense of others.

Part one: Art and Peacebuilding

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