There's something about the current BLM's protests and counter-protests that has me both worried and optimistic at the same time. To be fair however these two feelings are usually found at times of crisis and uncertainty. It's often been stated that the written Chinese character for "crisis" is made up of the individual characters for "danger" and "opportunity". This feels like the perfect summation of the situation and the times we are in. The opportunity is that old hurts are acknowledged and repaired. The danger is that many new ones are created instead. The opportunity is that citizens are educated in the historical (and contemporary) failings of government policies. The danger is that more people are mis-educated through social media by those who would seek to pursue their beliefs through whatever current debate best-suits their objectives. The opportunity is we grow as a society and a human race. The danger is we allow our baser instincts to dominate and add to the catalogue of human misery.
Perhaps it has always been thus. Perhaps BLM and its associated campaigns have always been there, just to a slightly less visible degree. Perhaps I have only truly woken up to what's at stake now. Only in the last week I've had two small (miniscule even) conversations along these lines. I've had one wider family member accuse another of being racist (as it turns out I fundamentally agree and fundamentally disagree with that particular assertion for that particular individual in that instance). And I've also struggled with a conversation with my wife, one where ironically we both held exactly the same beliefs, were saying exactly the same things but, because we were both in such a rush to get out what we wanted to say, we could hardly hear each other. Even as I write about these tiny moments (and they were tiny in the overall scheme of things) I can feel the flutter of emotion rise. Small communication breakdowns you could call them. No collateral damage thankfully. Multiply those microcosms one million-fold however and put thousands of people together on the streets, as is what's happening? Different ball-game I think you'd agree. Or is it?
As I watch and read about what's happening at the moment (full disclosure I've also joined an on-line circle to educate myself more in all these matters) one question above all keeps coming to my mind. What is it we want? What exactly do we want the other person/other side to say or do? Can we picture it? Can we imagine them saying the things we want them to say? (Ok that's more than one question, that's four questions, but they're all an attempt at saying the same thing). Did my two relations know what they wanted from each other? Did my wife and I know what we wanted from each other? I suspect we all did, we just weren't able to recognise and articulate it in the moment. I suspect we just wanted to be heard. Maybe we wanted the other person to change their view also but, first and foremost, we wanted to be heard. This undoubtedly is what all the various protesters of the various campaigns want too. They want to be heard, to be understood. The next and obvious (to me anyway) question is "is it working?" Are you getting what you want? And is doing more of the same going to get you nearer or further to what you want? (Ok that's three more questions, what can I say, it takes me a while to get ideas out).
Lest you think I'm trying to put people off protesting here, you couldn't be more wrong. What I'm interested in is your choice of strategy. There's many available of course, not just social media and street protest. No doubt some people are giving great thought to their strategy at present. But there's one that, for the most part, is being held back in my opinion. One that has been shown to change the course of history repeatedly. Occasionally I hear or see it in action and it blows me away that more people don't use it. Of course, like all great "weapons", it takes a bit of getting used to. It needs calibrating from time to time, a bit of maintenance too. But, used well, it has the power to alter history, to bring down regimes as diverse as aparthide and the Soviet Block, to unite warring neighbours and relations, to heal PTSD and all sorts of health problems. In a line, we need to listen more. And by this I don't mean listen to our "own side". That's easy. Instead, we need to listen to the "other side". Furthermore I'm not suggesting we do this because it's the "right" or "Christian" thing to do. Although you could present those as valid reasons, I don't think that argument will carry much weight in the current climate. Right now I'm suggesting it as a logical, strategic and tactical maneuver. Listening is how all conflicts end anyway. So let's skip to the end please. The evidence shows that non-violent resistance has double the success rate as violent protest. Again this is not fuddy-duddy stuff. I can do that too but not today. In this instance, I'm reverting back to my previous incarnation as an engineer over 20 years ago. Follow the evidence. Listening is better because it adheres to basic human values we all hold dear, but it's also better because it gets you what you want faster than shouting the other person down.
Perhaps the reason we don't do this more is back to what I said earlier - we can't do it. Or we haven't been fully trained, yet! I've illustrated two simple examples from my own family this week. Listen is simple but it's not easy. We think listening means agreeing? It doesn't. We think we just have to listen until we get the chance to respond back. That's not listening, that's waiting. We think listening means interpreting the world through our eyes. It's not, it's about interpreting the world through the eyes of the other. Why are they behaving like that? What's driving them? Not easy. But doable. The role models are all around us, past and present - Mandela, De Klerk, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Hume/Adams/Ahern/Blair/Reynolds/Major, Rory O'Neill, Martin Beanz Warde... Why not add your name to the list?
That's Restorative Practice
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I also work for a restorative justice project. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP/RJ, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.