Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Peacebuilding and Arts: A Political Agenda

Part IV: Sectors within the Peacebuilding Community

With a strong collective of peace activists and artists organized, lobbying for change to the DC congress may be a worthwhile endeavor. While congress and the American people rush to put out the immediate fires caused by costly wars and an economic depression, thoughts around long term sustainability gain ever more importance. It is the peacebuilding communities' chance and responsiblity to gather the wide network of activists around common goals and to share our vision for a more peaceful world.

If we assume that a) all foreign policy decisions to engage the international community in violence come from our government institutions of Congress and the Executive branch, and b) are largely based off of public needs for a strong economy and a secure nation, we as peacebuilders must understand these tenants as well and find the truth and value in them. Just as the idealist expectation that everyone will one day become socially responsible engaged citizens is false, it is also unrealistic to assume that we as a nation do not require fundamental needs of economic stability and physical safety. The peacebuilding sector must honor both of these facts.

When I speak about the peacebuilding community,I am referring to a massive array of organizations and areas of focus. Many people who work within this sphere may not even realize it. I believe peacebuilding is a proactive nonviolent approach to developing and empowering society, both socially and economically, to sustainably exist by using creative means to counter and/or resolve conflict. When we draw the definition out to this level, the number of peacebuilders expands dramatically. While the sector really is limitless and reconstructed to include new areas of focus every day, the ten central areas of interest for me include: environment, technology, education, gender, communication, poverty and hunger, youth, democracy and governance, microcredit, and veteran's affairs. Although this list is not exhaustive, it speaks to me to be the central areas that contain the most powerful advances in the creation of a more peaceful world.

Environment: As America works to find alternatives to oil and gas, which has driven so much of our interest in the politics of the Middle East, alternative forms of energy stand to play a leading role in peacebuilding.

Technology: Innovations in technology offer humanity the chance to develop and connect in ways never before imagined. These tools can be used to strengthen and build our economy in a multitude of ways. A number of innovations in transportation and communication through technology have been discovered in the research and development of defense. Where can the engineers and technology community engage as peacebuilders?

Education: Peace education was pioneered by Betty Reardon in the late 70's and continues to grow exponentially. While education is not often viewed as a direct capital gain, it may be worthwhile to explore both private and public school systems that teach peace education and the level of demand from parents for students to attend these schools.

Gender: The connection between women with both economic strength and peace has been a central arguments for much of the development world's focus on gender development. Pray the Devil Back to Hell is just one example of the power of women in conflict resolution.

Communication: Responsible media coverage of war and politics is in high demand. Media outlets are known to use violent messaging and irresponsible tactics to make profits. As access to Internet increases and information abounds, power plays are shifting and there is great opportunity here to create and aggregate communities of peace online that teach media literacy in a conflict resolution context.

Democracy and Governance: As we work to forge partnerships and compromises across political party lines, the art of dialogue can be an incredibly huge asset. If the 112th congress had been able to effectively communicate, be heard and be listened to in a safe non threatening environment, the recent debt ceiling crisis may have been avoided.

Microcredit: Many people do not realize that the microcredit initiative began and continues to thrive as a profit based model. Offering a larger market with more funds to entrepreneurs embarking on socially responsible initiatives would incentivize people to initiate business models that are sustainable, environmentally sensitive, or peacebuilding focused.

Poverty and Hunger: Discovering and implementing effective socially responsible ways to feed the entire planet may alleviate many instigating factors for conflicts exacerbated due to a lack of resources.

Youth: Investing in peacebuilding activities for youth is literally investing in our future. With an eye to long term peacebuilding in youth education, youth sports, youth arts and all other youth sectors, we are building a new future where alternatives to violence come second nature.

Veteran's affairs: Veterans have sacrificed much for America. Politics aside, we owe each and every veteran the time and energy needed to make sure they are healed and ready to reintegrate into society. As James Hilman states in his book A Terrible love of War, "The veteran needs a rite de sortie that belongs to every initiation as its normal conclusion, making possible an intact return. This procedure of detoxificiation, that gives meaning to the absurd and imagination to the oppressive facts, should take as long and be as thorough as the rite d'entree of boot-camp basic training." The military community should collaborate with the peacebuilding community to develop a three month program mandatory for all soldiers who were in combat to process their time at war.

These sectors lay the foundation for a normalization of a peacebuilding society that understands the danger behind making hasty decisions to resort to violence. This society does not avoid violence but has developed a palette of alternatives to explore before making that choice. We understand that economic security and safety are important and make conscious decisions to achieve them without becoming violent.

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