For me, discussing ‘creating peace’ without naming ‘ending violence’ would be to jump to solution while neglecting to acknowledge there is a problem. It would at least be misleading, if not dishonest.
I admit this at the risk of being judged—imagining my peers tsk-tsk’ing that I’m ‘focussing on the negative’ rather than ‘attracting that which I want to create’!
Recently, my partner and I gave an inspirational workshop to a group of young people. I shared the concept that acknowledging ‘what is’, is neither positive or negative and encouraged them to be careful about ‘judging’ in that manner. I’ve found that with more and more people subscribing to ‘new age spirituality’, it seems there is a growing refusal to see what is happening for fear of ‘giving it too much energy’. However, by overlooking or outright denying what is we actually contribute to perpetuating the very things we don’t want.
A colleague once shared a new way of speaking ‘consciously’. This new ‘language’ included speaking of things as though they already existed… at the end of the discussion, the topic of patriarchy arose and she insisted that the patriarchy no longer existed!
Have you ever had a family or work situation where everyone avoided the elephant in the room? More often than not, avoidance contributes to building more tension and/or resentment and takes significantly more energy than acknowledging it and then moving on.
I think the primary reason why people avoid reality is simply to avoid the feelings of discomfort that go with it and by ‘giving in to their feelings of discomfort’ they prevent themselves from taking positive action (which can, indeed, be uncomfortable).
The Dalai Lama, in Ethics for the New Millennium, said that we must ‘recognize that the failure to act when it is clear that action is required may itself be a negative action… inaction is attributable less to negative thoughts and emotions as to a lack of compassion. It is thus important that we are no less determined to overcome our habitual tendency to laziness than we are to exercise restraint in response to afflictive emotion.’
Through avoidance, people insulate themselves from reality… then when something ‘negative’ does happen, such as a local teen committing suicide or the man in Connecticut shooting and killing 20 children and 6 adults, most of us are overcome with shock and disbelief that anyone could do such a thing. Really?
Let me get this straight… we live in a culture where we are regularly bombarded with violent words and violent imagery on television, movies, and video games; we send soldiers to invade other countries ‘in the name of democracy’ and they kill other people’s children (we spend enough money on invading other countries, that if spent differently, we could easily eradicate hunger and poverty). Why, then, do we condone such behaviour country-wide, but act shocked when an individual commits an act of violence? Is this not simply a reflection of our society? Our country, alongside the USA, is regularly responsible for parents in other countries experiencing intense grief over the killing of their children. Not 20 children, but thousands.
Do you see the disconnect? How can people in this culture not experience cognitive dissonance with these conflicting messages?
So let’s talk about solution. How do we go about creating peace? I humbly suggest, with eyes wide open. Recognize what needs to change and begin now.
Start at home. What kind of self-talk goes on in my head? How do I speak to my spouse… my children? From there, I can then reach out and affect my immediate sphere of influence—friends, extended family, etc. Then on to my local community, and continue reaching beyond that.
Let’s look at three examples of how we can get involved with creating peace in our society.
Let’s start with the issue of bullying in the schools. Bullying is a learned behaviour. It is within our homes that children learn how to interact with others. Children emulate the behaviours of their family unit—whether healthy and functional or unhealthy and dysfunctional. Sure, children can learn from teachers and guest speakers healthier ways of interacting, but if they go home each afternoon and the adults in their lives continue to demonstrate that violence is how one deals with conflict (name-calling, fighting in sports, wars and so forth), we shouldn’t be surprised that such behaviour is reflected in our children. The ‘healthy’ messages need to be consistent. Find a teacher who is willing to champion the cause, teaching respectful attitudes toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own. Give children real tools that they can practice with each other. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—find those who have already developed successful tools, such as Barbara Colorosso’s book, Kids Are Worth It.
Another issue is that one in three women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Men rape. However, rather than accepting that and moving to solution, our culture avoids naming the problem and focuses responsibility on the victims. University campuses, self-defence courses, etc. teach women how to ‘avoid being raped’ rather than teaching boys and men respect and equality versus entitlement (ie: not to rape). Volunteer and contribute to your local women’s centre. Check out the work of Jackson Katz (see interview here as well as Katz’ 10 Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence).
Another example: there are now over 500 missing and/or murdered First Nations women in Canada, 137 in BC alone. On just one stretch of highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert, now named the ‘Highway of Tears’, at least 18 women have disappeared—17 of which are First Nations.
This particular issue encompasses sexism, racism and classism (to name just three). There are already many existing groups and activists who are working on this particular aspect of our culture and more who take on individual facets—government funding for such organizations is all but dried up. Join and volunteer with an existing group at either a community level or tackle the problem provincially or nationally. Start a letter writing campaign, the more people who rise up and demand that this is unacceptable, the more likely that we will create change.
Imagine a culture where neighbours take the time to get to know one another, help each other, look out for one another. Imagine a culture where children are safe wherever they wander. Imagine a culture where women can feel safe, wherever they are. Imagine a culture where the vast majority of its citizens refuse to allow their governments to bully other cultures—demanding our troops come home. Canada should move away from peacemaking to it’s traditional role of peacekeeping. Wherever you choose to begin creating peace, begin now.
Among other things, Nicole Shaw is a farmer, feminist, artist, founding member of the Bowen Road Farmers’ Market, and volunteers her time to publish this magazine.