I haven’t posted in a long time, and I don’t know if anyone reads this anymore, but I have a good peacebuilding friend who needs some help. Please take a look at this link, and donate if you can:
I haven’t posted in a long time, and I don’t know if anyone reads this anymore, but I have a good peacebuilding friend who needs some help. Please take a look at this link, and donate if you can:
Just came across this guide. Thought I’d share.
The guide is rooted in the practical experience of its authors and of the ten social media users we interviewed as part of the project. We are not trying to present social media as the answer to every problem a researcher might experience; rather, we want to give a ‘warts and all’ picture. Social media have downsides as well as upsides, but on balance we hope that you will agree with us that there is real value for researchers.
This guide will show you how you can use social media to help your research and your career. Social media have big implications for how researchers (and people in general) communicate and collaborate. Researchers have much to gain from engaging with social media in various aspects of their work. This guide will provide you with information to make an informed decision about using social media and enable you to select wisely from the vast range of tools that are available.
Given the buzz in the media, you may feel that social media are aimed at teenagers and mainly used to discuss celebrity culture. But this guide will show you how social media offer researchers an opportunity to improve the way they work. One of the most important things that researchers do is to find, use and disseminate information, and social media offer a range of tools which can facilitate these activities. The guide discusses the use of social media for research and academic purposes, rather than the many other uses that they are put to across society.
This guide will show how social media can change the ways in which you undertake research, and open up new forms of communication and dissemination. The researchers we interviewed in the development of this guide are using social media to bridge disciplinary boundaries, to engage in knowledge exchange with industry and policy makers, and to provide a channel for the public communication of their research.
I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought it was time for a good old fashioned rant… :)
Though I have a lot of friends who consider themselves anarchists, it’s a philosophy that I’ve never fully been able to agree with in any real sense. I often find myself in great debates over the practicality or some underlying, glaring contradictions that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. It’s not that I don’t see the problems with the way the world is currently being run, nor that I am brainwashed or don’t appreciate (and hope) for the idea of erasing the hierarchical subtext of our world and creating a more just society in its place. It’s the method of getting there that most worries me. The particular rise I see in the “F#*$ the police”, let’s-start-a-violent-revolution-to-overthrow-the-government-type of anarchism is quite troubling to me. Having experienced what happens in the absence of a functioning state first-hand, I fear the shape that would arise from such a drastic situation and see alternatives that are not so abrupt that I feel could be just as, if not more, effective.
Most of the anarchists I know believe in creating consensus-run societies. Herein lies one of my greatest problems with the whole philosophy of the violent revolution type of anarchism. Consensus right now does not favour a violent overthrow. Society does not consent to this. How can one expect to build a consensus society on the back of silencing another’s objections entirely? How does this inevitably not lead to more hierarchy—as those who have had their objections bulldozed over now become the ones who feel oppressed and ignored? I am not talking about the objections of those top elites in power, but rather, those of Joe Average; the vast majority of everyday persons who object. Those who will likely have a drastic change of life in the transition that they may well feel resent towards. Consensus doesn’t mean we all have to fully think everything is the best decision, but we do have to consent.
History has demonstrated repeatedly what can happen when a small group of people feel they know what is “best” for society and violently take matters into their own hands to try and change the situation via revolution.
Thinking practically for a minute; if all governments were tomorrow overthrown, what would happen in the world? What shape would the new, new world order take? How would society transition? Would essential services still run? Who would ensure that they do? Would it become a free-for-all in the streets in some places during the transition?
Obviously, if one believes in the ideal of consensus—then each community would be left to decide what shape this would take amongst them-selves. This leads to a seemingly never ending list of questions within my mind. Does the power vacuum created in the fall of the state lead to a crisis situation wherein a new power struggle takes place? Do those who led the overthrow get power-hungry once they have toppled the government? Do those freed from the previous system, those who were imprisoned by its rules rejoin society and how do they do that? How does society respond to those who refuse to live by consensus choices or laws, the psychopaths and the killers and such? If the world becomes decentralized, and communities become responsible for themselves, what happens to those communities without access to essential resources? Do we form some kind of global consensus on issues that affect us all? How does that take shape? Would we have to send representatives from our communities to share our objections and consent on the global stage, thus replicating government forms all over again? What happens to all the people who are currently reliant on capitalist global trade? Would their positions (and livelihood) just cease to exist in the breakdown, and what would their role in society now become? Would they be resentful of the change, having a complete upheaval in their way of life? What IS working in society right now? Do we have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, as they say. Is there anything worth keeping in the current system? Each question leads to a new series of questions with endless possibilities, many of the likely ones far worse in my mind than our current reality.
The status quo is violence. We, as humans, have invented so many forms of degrading, hurting, killing and maiming each other and our violence comes in so many forms; it is engrained in us that violence is the only “real” response. That oppression cannot be overcome by any other means. That the only way to respond to violence is with more violence. That perhaps, in reality, everything is violent. We cannot imagine a world without it. Perhaps there is no way to even be completely non-violent. Can we at least strive to reduce the harm as much as possible?
People are becoming more aware of the world around them. For the first time in history, the world is truly connected. It is possible to see live events from someone’s cell phone on the opposite side of the globe, to share ideas instantaneously. The technological advancements over the past hundred years are astounding. We began creating and creating and not immediately realizing the side effects and in the search for the almighty dollar, cheaper became more important than quality or overall consequences, especially when someone distant bore the brunt. We are growing consciousness and if you look around you—things are s-l-o-w-l-y changing right now. The corporate world is desperately trying to keep us placated, while others have been growing test communities with alternative economies and ways of life.
People are creating and innovating and trying to make great changes in the systems all over the world. And they are making things better. Instead of bullying our way through to change, why don’t we do our best to build consensus among those around us that change is desirable by demonstrating what’s possible. What is working. What can work. And educating on what doesn’t and why it doesn’t work for everyone.
We as humans are capable of great change. Numerous times throughout history we have seen a radical change in morality and norms. Slavery was not so long ago thought to be a natural state of humanity. Though it still exists, it is no longer a morally acceptable practice in the vast majority of the world and there are numerous laws outlawing its practice. So why can we not change the hierarchy and inequality too?
How can we drastically change the system, without necessarily breaking the system?
Government and society’s systems are intricate and complex—there is no one answer that will work universally. Practice out what works and what doesn’t in test communities all over the place. When something works, share it widely among other communities. There are already test communities popping up all over the place. They need more funding, more awareness and more ideas to be successful.
Some key things I think are necessary for drastic change and necessitate further investment, development and testing:
• Teaching peace and investing in peace on a global scale. Teach it from early childhood in every classroom, techniques such alternative dispute resolution and other conflict management strategies. Reinforce conflict resolution skills all through school and workplaces where possible. If we can spend trillions of dollars annually on militarization, we can surely spend billions on peace. Peacebuilding projects around the world are currently sparse and severely underfunded.
• Gradual reduction/retraining of the current armed forces into national guard/emergency services roles. Army functions retrained into civilian-based defense facilitators and other non-militarized functions.
• Reform the judicial and penal systems to focus on actual rehabilitation and positive reintegration into society for current offenders. Try alternative dispute resolution and alternate forms of justice in future grievances, particularly in “non-violent” crimes. Review current societies’ laws via some form of consensus. This includes local, regional, and global laws.
• A complete overhaul/creation of corporate law that favours the living world over profit.
• Restructuring local and regional governments so that they become more direct forms of democracy.
• Massive investment into the research and development of sustainable communities.
• Investment in basic needs over luxuries.
• A complete overhaul or creation of new international structures.
• Re-thinking spaces. Let cities feed cities. Rethink how spaces are connected, how they are accessible, how they blend into the environment around them, how they use energy, how they use water, how they interact with humans and other living species and let’s invest our time and our energy in that direction in the future.
This morning on the way to work, I came across a situation and was left thinking of what responses were possible.
An obviously drunk man of about 30 carrying an open tall can of beer in his hand came up to a younger (maybe 16-18 year old) boy and started belligerently berating him on the subway in between stops. He threatened the boy that he would find and later kill him. That revenge is sweet. All sorts of angry banter. The boy sat quietly, looking down at his phone, earphones in, mostly trying to ignore him.
The man then swaggered down the subway car, stopping at least 3 times to yell at other passengers, his voice growing with each passing taunt and his aggression level clearly rising.
The boy looked up at me and the numerous other passengers in the vicinity as the man turned his back and just shrugged his shoulder and shook his head and mouthed– I don’t know him at all.
At first when I saw the confrontation– I had an assumption that the two males knew each other– and had perhaps had some previous violent background (such as gang affiliations), but as the man continuously walked up and down the subway car continuing his anger on other unsuspecting passengers, I realized that this was not the case.
I thought about the possible responses to this I could have taken and weighed each option over in my mind.
The man’s growing anger was clearly making the passengers extremely uncomfortable. The boy seemed seriously concerned, as did the other objects of his anger. Would it escalate? Would it come to the man becoming physically violent? The car sat in silence, people nervously exchanging glances outside of the man’s gaze—and others burying their noses deeper into newspapers, books or electronic devices.
The man had a beer in his hand– so he obviously got past any “security” on the TTC; did he have a knife or other weapon in his pocket? Would he be willing to use it should the situation escalate?
Would any other passengers speak or stand up against his abuses?
Would the man get off at the next stop?
Would anyone alert TTC authorities?
If I said something, what would I say? What would/could I do to de-escalate the situation?
In the end, I did nothing and I felt disappointed with myself at this response. I exchanged glances with other worried passengers, and watched as the belligerent man got off at the next stop.
Situations like this happen and often times fear holds us back from action. Fear held me back from action this morning. I was afraid that my doing something would escalate rather than de-escalate. I thought about trying to calm the man down, but ultimately thought against it, worrying that his response would turn violent against me. Sometimes there is no reasoning with people because they are emotional beyond reason. I don’t know this man and what he’s capable of.
What would you do/say? How would you respond? How can we step in to de-escalate violent confrontations with strangers in our lives? Is avoidance the best policy?
During the last two years, I have truly enjoyed writing my This Week in Conflict reports, but alas, the time has come for me to take an extended, and perhaps permanent, break from it.
My goal for the reports was to learn more about what was going on in some of the more obscure conflicts on our planet and try to share that news in the most concise way. The real challenge I found was trying to get at the reality of the situation via news reports, and to try and verify the content. One thing I found was that frequently, 90% of the news I was coming across was a summary of one original report. Another difficulty came in trying to find more views of the situation, particularly local views, especially when I don’t speak the language(s) in that area or region. I thank the many people who sent in news stories, accounts or content to help me better understand.
Another setback of constantly reading bad news and reporting on it is the moral and emotional toll it takes on you. Though there were many positive stories on peace over the years, the vast majority was on the violent aspect of conflicts. Sometimes the stories were difficult to stomach.
The biggest challenge however, I found personally, was to try to be neutral over conflicts I had seen on the ground and lived through. I found myself remembering the situations I had lived and being much more selective with my choice of news stories to try and ensure a balance in what I wrote. I’m not sure I always succeeded.
My knowledge of global affairs has increased greatly to an extent that I started to recognize patterns in the conflicts. I began to expect to see stories on certain types of violence and abuses in certain regions. I would have loved to do a more thorough backgrounder for each of the countries/territories/areas if I had had the time. The layers are so deep—I think it would have been helpful to have started with that just so I would have been more prepared to know where to look for stories and content.
I’m back to living in Canada again, after several years in the Ivory Coast/Cote d’Ivoire. I’m happy to be home. With any luck, I will be returning to school again in the fall, but this time, with a direction in peacebuilding, and a more positive outlook on how the future can look.
Maybe for now a peaceful world is only a theoretical utopia studied and philosophized about in the academic world, but so is the ideal of capitalism, or communism or any other global system we’ve thought of before. For the longest time, I felt that the human world was doomed; that we would just continue to be violent with each other until the end of our time simply because it’s “human nature”. It’s not human nature. Humans are actually mostly programmed towards positive social behaviour. We spend most of our day collaborating or working or talking or sometimes even just tolerating others. It’s a necessary part of society.
Peace studies is only still in its infancy. Since really delving into it over the past year or so, I have found that I now envision other options. I can see a distant future with better systems, more happiness; a world where resources are more equitably shared and perhaps even a world where all have enough of what they need to not only survive, but thrive. It will take time, little by little, but I now see it as a real possibility; human beings actually working together for the betterment of our species and our planet, instead of fighting amongst each other and destroying all of the world’s wonders.
There will always be conflict. It’s unavoidable. When it happens, we can choose to be violent, we can choose to see ways to transform the conflict non-violently, we can choose to try to avoid it altogether; there’s a whole host of responses that are possible. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to choose how to handle the conflict around us. Human emotions are a powerful thing. Giving people options by teaching and constantly reinforcing more positive conflict resolution skills in our societies, especially from childhood, to me is of utmost importance to take us in this direction and something I hope to seriously study and be more a part of in the future.
As I move on to the next, hopefully more peaceful period in my life, my priorities have changed and so I must give up this daily writing on conflict to move on to new ideas. I will still write in the blog, but likely less regularly and hopefully more positively from now on.
Thanks to all my kind readers and those who sent many thoughtful comments my way over the years to help make the reports better! Your assistance has been much appreciated!
Peace to all!
I am still currently ill and as such will be holding back the This Week in Conflict Reports until I feel better.
In the meantime, I have been having the great pleasure of taking a course at Transcend Peace University and as such I am currently reading Johan Galtung‘s new Peace Economics: From Killing to Life-Enhancing Economy that is due to be released later this year (please be sure to buy it when it comes out– it’s awesome and well worth the read!). This short essay was one of my assignments from class where I summarized many of the concepts from Part 1 of the book. The book discusses some of the causes of the current economic crisis, and discusses paths to alternatives systems that would be more life-sustaining and peaceful.
The economic crisis is far more long-running and far more complex than the simple narrative widely splashed across the media would have us believe. The dominant global economic system, hypercapitalism, is focused towards capital and growth, often at the expense of the welfare of human beings. In this system, there is a necessity for people to have a minimum level of purchasing power simply to satisfy their basic needs. Some live well below this level, others have such great wealth that they can’t possibly spend all they have within the real economy (made up of cycles of production-distribution-consumption). Instead they invest their surplus into the finance economy (made up of the buying-selling cycles of financial objects—with no end consumption), essentially betting with other people’s money, pocketing the gains and letting others take any losses that occur. This allows for magnificent growth in an economy that is based upon pure speculation and non-material products. As the finance economy has grown wildly, it has created a large gap between the growth of the real economy and the growth of the finance economy, increasing with it, the likelihood of an eventual crash as the two widen even further apart.
The inequality within this system goes farther than simply the difference in wealth. It encompasses inequality in military force, political power, and cultural values that are based upon attributes, actor interactions and the structure of the system itself. The cultural values of society legitimize the political power, that authorizes the military force, to protect the wealth of the super rich, who reinforce the cultural values; completing the vicious cycle that keeps the poor poor and the rich rich. Equalizing the system creates a better chance of dialogue among the population, creating better opportunities to find real solutions and increasing the likelihood that those solutions will be more equitable.
Essentially the economic crisis can be broken down into four separate crises. For those at the bottom of the wealth spectrum, the crisis manifests as the (1) under financing and the (2) undersupply of affordable necessities. For those at the top of the wealth spectrum, the crisis manifests as the (3) overfinancing and the (4) oversupply of normalities and luxuries. The crises all feed upon each other, with a crisis at the top creating a crisis for the bottom, and a crisis at the bottom, in turn creating a crisis for the top. The media has directed almost all of its attention to the crisis of only those at the top of the wealth spectrum to the detriment of real dialogue on the overall system, since discussion upon the financing of unprofitable goods is somehow an absurdity, but a system that allows people to starve is not.
A system with a floor for economic activity that ensures that basic human needs are met and a ceiling for economic growth, ensures that excess wealth is redistributed to where it is necessary, lessening the gap between rich and poor, between the real economy and the finance economy, and hopefully stop some people from starving while others live in lavish hedonism. An economy based not upon individual self-benefit, but rather upon ensuring that needs are met, and supply of basic needs is sufficient before enriching ourselves with normalities and luxuries.
Dear readers, hope all is well!
Just a quick note to say that I have been feeling ill and so am taking a short break from the This Week in Conflict reports to rest up. I should be posting again shortly.