“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” -Voltaire
The violence you saw on January 6 in the USA was not accidental. The violence was the point! Donald Trump used violence like a mobster to work over the American electorate and to let them know that next time it would be worse if they didn’t play along. Time will tell if the most robust of democratic nations and its oldest living republic will manage through the political plague. So far, the chisel to cut the stone for a new monument to civil unity seems dulled.
Political violence has been a tactic of every disgruntled, bullying ideologue or insurgency for as long as we have organized ourselves into communities. We saw it recently in Afghanistan. Despite the effort of people like ICF Visionary of the Year Amirzai Sangin to bring the nation into a new era through broadband communications, civil progress was thwarted.
It remains the case that, for many unenlightened tribes, the way into the 21st Century is via the 12th. This is on display in brute fashion in Hong Kong, where the communications media and press are slowly being chopped into pieces. You could probably recite a long list of other places where an inability or unwillingness to listen, or the craving for power and control, has blown up generations of good will and trust. Trust is the foundation upon which community life and democracies are secured.
Have we fragmented so much that our intentions are always to be questioned? Or, as a Kwantlen First Nation representative in British Columbia prayed at the start of my site visit last year, can we state as our intention whenever entering a new discussion or place to “come in a good way”?
At the moment, “the good way” seems to be the hard way.
Violence, coupled with cultural divisions which have run downhill into political ones, are embedded stresses on what used to be everyday disagreements and debates. Respect for differences of opinion once held the support beams of collaboration upright.
We no longer share points of view. We hurl grievances at one other like Molotov cocktails. We personalize arguments. The Age of Reason has become unreasonable.
Doctors and scientists are questioned when they fail to eradicate a virus in time for the holiday sale at Walmart. We dox City Council members if they make decisions in the interest of our children.
And we even question our technologies. Oddly, the digital tools once thought as remarkable cures to what ails us (“a lack of connectivity”) now dangerously amplify the darker corners of our psyche; or spread bullshit faster than Omicron moved through the streets of Manhattan and Tianjin.
In our quiet moments, if any persist, we ask, “What are we arguing about?” The answer is the one your five-year old gives you when asked what he wants for his birthday. “Everything.”
So let’s start to solve this.
|Canadian Museum for Human Rights, photo by Ian McCausland|
The real question seems to be, “How can home base – our communities - become places where conflicts are resolved and new, more creative and relevant tools for dealing with the rage be found?”
Quixotic? A new hobby for we “elite”? Naive? Maybe. But probably not because it is already happening. (See the movie “Purple” sometime.)
2022 will be the year when, with the help of the world’s Intelligent Community of the year, Winnipeg, and its Canadian Museum for Human Rights, we start to figure out how we reconcile and how peace can come to any land. Or at least we will find a way to have a civil conversation. For “intelligent” communities, the sources of anger must be understood as clearly as the way packets move across the broadband network.
“I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the thing he fears to do,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.
So do I.
Perhaps “Intelligent Communities” require a new criteria: the tools to find peaceful coexistence. Intelligence, for me, infers civility. Civility is a common ethos which breeds possibility.
On February 24th, we will be co-hosting our Smart21 event virtually in the City of Winnipeg. Joining the discussion will be peacemakers and practitioners from both sides of the Canada/USA border and from around the globe. We welcome The Carter Center among them.
Winnipeg has much to teach, since it has struggled with developing a better relationship with its Metis First Nations neighbors. The Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program will give us global insights. We will also be looking at the new “digital divide,” the one between people who are locked inside information bubbles thanks to the technologies that were supposed to “liberate” them.
We are not sure what we will find. But we will agree to disagree along the way.