November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website, traprockpeace.org, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.THIS SITE NO LONGER REFLECTS THE CURRENT AND ONGOING WORK OF TRAPROCK PEACE CENTER, which has reorganized its board and moved to Greenfield, Mass. To contact Traprock Peace Center, call 413-773-7427 or visit its site. Charles Jenks is posting new material to PeaceJournal.org, a multimedia blog and resource center.
Peace Building and Conflict Transformation
Taught by Paula Green, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, at Hampshire College, January 16-19, 2001
Sunny and I attended this four day workshop last week, and it was an amazing experience. We discussed the complex idea of conflict transformation, as well as the (seemingly) less complex concept of what conflict actually is. In order to really learn all of these theories, and to understand the practice involved in real life, we participated in numerous exercises each day. Here are brief descriptions of a few of my favorite exercises from the workshop.
Paula taught us this simple technique for analyzing conflicts. First we identified the parties involved in a particular conflict, and then we wrote down the needs and the fears of each of those parties. One of the best things about it was how easy it became to identify the common ground that the various parties shared. When the entire class was working on it together with Paula's guidance it was easy enough, but once we split into smaller groups and did a conflict analysis on our own, we realized how hard it is to decided who all of the major parties are, and how easy it is to fall prey to stereotypes about different groups and what they need and fear. It also reminded me how hard it is to be fair and non-judgmental, even as an outsider coming into a situation you were previously not involved in.
This was a continuation of the conflict analysis exercise I was just writing about. We used the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as the focus for this exercise. Starting with two "artists", most of the class members took on roles of various individuals who would be involved on all sides of the conflict, which the artists then placed in poses which represented their current feeling and position in the conflict in relationship to all of the other players. In our example, we had religious leaders and activists on both sides, an international peace activist, a U.S. congressman, a Arab diplomat, a Holocaust survivor, a Palestinian refugee, a member of Hamas, and a U.N. peacekeeper. Once all of these people were positioned, Paula went around and tapped various players on the shoulder and asked them to speak about how they were feeling (as their characters in the conflict). After all of this, we tried to see if there was anywhere in this entanglement that movement could take place. We worked on it little by little, and all of the scattered players slowly ended up standing very near to one another. This seemed like great progress, but when Paula went around and asked feelings again most of the players were still fearful of something, and only a few had undergone a change of heart or intention. It was amazing to watch the situation and relationships transform, and to try to see plausible ways to make a difference in the conflict. On the downside, it also served as a reminder of how much personal pain and injury and fear are involved in any conflict.
The Mayor and the Activist
For me this was the most challenging and enlightening activity of the week. We did a role play based on a true story from Croatia, and this was the situation: an international activist was working at a children's center in a city, and after being there for several months the teenagers voiced their desire to have a place of their own, outside of the children's center. The activist looks into various options, and eventually finds a well equipped building to use. Unfortunately, this building happens to be very near to the cease fire line that divides the city, and the activist has to ask the mayor of the city for permission to open up the building. The role play is of the meeting between these two individuals. I was playing the activist, and a very feisty woman named Mary was playing the mayor. The mayor was convinced that the activist was a dreamer with her head in the clouds who really had no right to be in the city at all, much less trying to do things that were controversial, and so I had to try to convince her that I had been doing research into what was realistic and feasible, and that I was not trying to make trouble. The situation was adversarial from the very beginning, but eventually we were able to find some common ground, and to each agree to certain tasks that we would do. This exercise made me realize that quiet persistence works just as well as outspoken debating, and is perhaps more effective at times. It also reminded me that attentive listening is the most important part of both communication and conflict resolution/transformation. This role play was the most enlightening for me because I really did feel like I was that activist, and I experienced the struggle between wanting to defend myself and fight back, and knowing that creating more conflict would only make the situation worse. Figuring out how to channel all of that excess energy into listening and trying to reach a conclusion was really difficult, but very rewarding in the end.
This isn't related to any particular activity we did, but I just wanted to share some of Paula's wise words that really struck me.
-The problem is not conflict -- conflict itself is neutral -- the problem is the management of conflict.
-Conflict is not caused by the essential or fundamental differences between people -- it is caused by the power imbalances based on those differences.
So, there are a few of my thoughts about this last week, and some of the things that really affected me. If you want to learn more about Paula's work, check out the web site for the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding.
- Mavis Gruver, Traprock Intern Written January 22, 2001
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