Monday, July 4, 2011

Peacebuilding and Arts: A Political Agenda

Part III: The Weakness of Reactionary Peacebuilding

For over five years now, I've attended peace demonstrations and war protests in D.C. seeing the crowd shrink and grow in direct reaction to the message shaped by politicians and conveyed through the media. I have noticed these events have become more protest and less demonstrations. The real power of these rallies is the moment for like-minded people to gather and celebrate the collective creative energy that is so essential to sustainable change and peace. Instead, I have seen less and less of this, and more and more of anger and egoism. Politicians and activists shout angrily through loud speakers as the words become dulled by repetition. Friends tell me they don't go because they leave feeling worse than when they came and it feels like a waste of time. I don't blame them.

I wonder, what our rallies would look like if rather than shaping them as reactions, we organized them as celebrations; celebrations of peacebuilding and the amazing places and people in our great nation that work everyday to create a thriving sustainable economy and society using creativity and innovation to cultivate peace.

Rallies for peace do not have to be in direct relation to the wars at hand. Rallies for peace can be celebrations of the pro active choices that we make every day to treat the environment with respect, to buy locally, to forgive, to engage in civil society, to vote for socially responsible bills and politicians. Peace is not a protest. Peace is the creation of a society that can live within its means. Peace is the balance between prosperity and sustainability. If we accept the premise that much of America's wars are motivated by greed, then peace is a simple pursuit to lessen the need for more. Rallies for such a cause do not have to be in defense. After all, the reactive, immediate need for defense is the very thing we are working to transform.

What is the intersection between artists and activists when we look at it in this context? In Part I. I spoke about the precarious dance between arts and peacebuilding. It is not easily achieved. I think however, that given the right framing, the artist and activist can work together incredibly well.

How many driven activist organizations spend too much time on their work and lack a a strong marketing campaign. And the marketing campaigns that are out there, are too often motivated by the need for money. Understandably so. A volunteer-led community of artists donating their time to craft messages of activism through mediums of art has the potential to bring a new wave of peace rallies to D.C . Artists, when motivated by something of meaning and personally inspired, can communicate the essence of peacebuilding to the greater community in such a powerful way that an "ask" for funding will not even need to be woven into the message. Painters, poets, dancers, thespians, puppet makers, singers, musicians and acrobats can collaborate with socially engaged activists to understand their mission and shape a piece of art to reflect this. The collection of these pieces of art, the celebration of this work is what a peace rally must look like. The connection of artists and activists to merge mission with craft can open up doors of creativity and power on a scale that would bring people out of their house to see and participate. Imagine a mall full of artists and activists that have worked together to create expressions of peace. A true rally for peace, motivated proactively by the pursuit for peace.

Part II. The Politics of Peacebuilding
Part I. Art and Peacebuilding

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