Pax* Centurion* News* Sept. 23, 2001
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Posted by Penny (22.214.171.124) on September 23, 2001 at 23:19:23:
. Pax* Centurion* News*
September 23, 2001
*Becoming a Pax Centurion
*The Challenge of Terror by John Paul Lederach, mediator
*Becoming a Pax Centurion
Being a Pax Centurion is a state of mind. You can not buy one,
you can not wear one. But you can BE one!
First and foremost a Pax Centurion is a "Peace Guardian", and
as one honors the richness and diversity of all life, regardless of
race, religion, sex or nationality; as a human being and also as
every other form of life. A Pax Centurion recognizes that in order
for our planet to survive that the basic inherent goodness of life
needs to be celebrated! A Pax Centurion will always first attempt
to resolve conflicts peacefully whenever and wherever possible,
everywhere on this earth. In this way a Pax Centurion will actively
help to preserve the balance needed for the survival of our shared
home, planet Earth.
Furthermore, a Pax Centurion pledges to appreciate the wonders
of life in the many ways it shows itself, and then to consciously
share the inherent joy and goodness with others. We then become
active "peace correspondents."
There is nothing to join, just BE a Pax Centurion and pass it on!
Click here: Peace for Our Children
*The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay
John Paul Lederach
So here I am, a week late arriving home, stuck between Colombia, Guatemala
and Harrisonburg when our world changed. The images flash even in my sleep.
The heart of America ripped. Though natural, the cry for revenge and the
call for the unleashing of the first war of this century, prolonged or not,
seems more connected to social and psychological processes of finding a way
to release deep emotional anguish, a sense of powerlessness, and our
collective loss than it does as a plan of action seeking to redress the
injustice, promote change and prevent it from ever happening again.
I am stuck from airport to airport as I write this, the reality of a global
system that has suspended even the most basic trust. My Duracell batteries
and finger nail clippers were taken from me today and it gave me pause for
thought. I had a lot of pauses in the last few days. Life has not been the
same. I share these thoughts as an initial reaction recognizing that it is
always easy to take pot-shots at our leaders from the sidelines, and to have
the insights they are missing when we are not in the middle of very
difficult decisions. On the other hand, having worked for nearly 20 years
as a mediator and proponent of nonviolent change in situations around the
globe where cycles of deep violence seem hell-bent on perpetuating
themselves, and having interacted with people and movements who at the core
of their identity find ways of justifying their part in the cycle, I feel
responsible to try to bring ideas to the search for solutions. With this in
mind I should like to pen several observations about what I have learned
from my experiences and what they might suggest about the current situation.
I believe this starts by naming several key challenges and then asking what
is the nature of a creative response that takes these seriously in the
pursuit of genuine, durable, and peaceful change.
Some Lessons about the Nature of our Challenge
1. Always seek to understand the root of the anger - The first and most
important question to pose ourselves is relatively simple though not easy to
answer: How do people reach this level of anger, hatred and frustration?
By my experience explanations that they are brainwashed by a perverted
leader who holds some kind of magical power over them is an escapist
simplification and will inevitably lead us to very wrong-headed responses.
Anger of this sort, what we could call generational, identity-based anger,
is constructed over time through a combination of historical events, a deep
sense of threat to identify, and direct experiences of sustained exclusion.
This is very important to understand, because, as I will say again and
again, our response to the immediate events have everything to do with
whether we reinforce and provide the soil, seeds, and nutrients for future
cycles of revenge and violence. Or whether it changes. We should be
careful to pursue one and only one thing as the strategic guidepost of our
response: Avoid doing what they expect. What they expect from us is the
lashing out of the giant against the weak, the many against the few. This
will reinforce their capacity to perpetrate the myth they carefully seek to
sustain: That they are under threat, fighting an irrational and mad system
that has never taken them seriously and wishes to destroy them and their
people. What we need to destroy is their myth not their people.
2. Always seek to understand the nature of the organization - Over the
of working to promote durable peace in situations of deep, sustained
violence I have discovered one consistent purpose about the nature of
movements and organizations who use violence: Sustain thyself. This is
done through a number of approaches, but generally it is through
decentralization of power and structure, secrecy, autonomy of action through
units, and refusal to pursue the conflict on the terms of the strength and
capacities of the enemy.
One of the most intriguing metaphors I have heard used in the last few days
is that this enemy of the United States will be found in their holes, smoked
out, and when they run and are visible, destroyed. This may well work for
groundhogs, trench and maybe even guerilla warfare, but it is not a useful
metaphor for this situation. And neither is the image that we will need to
destroy the village to save it, by which the population that gives refuge to
our enemies is guilty by association and therefore a legitimate target. In
both instances the metaphor that guides our action misleads us because it is
not connected to the reality. In more specific terms, this is not a
struggle to be conceived of in geographic terms, in terms of physical spaces
and places, that if located can be destroyed, thereby ridding us of the
problem. Quite frankly our biggest and most visible weapon systems are
We need a new metaphor, and though I generally do not like medical metaphors
to describe conflict, the image of a virus comes to mind because of its
ability to enter unperceived, flow with a system, and harm it from within.
This is the genius of people like Osama Ben Laden. He understood the power
of a free and open system, and has used it to his benefit. The enemy is not
located in a territory. It has entered our system. And you do not fight
this kind of enemy by shooting at it. You respond by strengthening the
capacity of the system to prevent the virus and strengthen its immunity. It
is an ironic fact that our greatest threat is not in Afghanistan, but in our
own backyard. We surely are not going to bomb Travelocity, Hertz Rental
Car, or an Airline training school in Florida. We must change metaphors and
move beyond the reaction that we can duke it out with the bad guy, or we run
the very serious risk of creating the environment that sustains and
reproduces the virus we wish to prevent.
3. Always remember that realities are constructed - Conflict is, among
things, the process of building and sustaining very different perceptions
and interpretations of reality. This means that we have at the same time
multiple realities defined as such by those in conflict. In the aftermath
of such horrific and unmerited violence that we have just experienced this
may sound esoteric. But we must remember that this fundamental process is
how we end up referring to people as fanatics, madmen, and irrational. In
the process of name-calling we lose the critical capacity to understand that
from within the ways they construct their views, it is not mad lunacy or
fanaticism. All things fall together and make sense. When this is
connected to a long string of actual experiences wherein their views of the
facts are reinforced (for example, years of superpower struggle that used or
excluded them, encroaching Western values of what is considered immoral by
their religious interpretation, or the construction of an enemy-image who is
overwhelmingly powerful and uses that power in bombing campaigns and always
appears to win) then it is not a difficult process to construct a rational
world view of heroic struggle against evil. Just as we do it, so do they.
Listen to the words we use to justify our actions and responses. And then
listen to words they use. The way to break such a process is not through a
frame of reference of who will win or who is stronger. In fact the inverse
is true. Whoever loses, whether tactical battles or the "war" itself, finds
intrinsic in the loss the seeds that give birth to the justification for
renewed battle. The way to break such a cycle of justified violence is to
step outside of it. This starts with understanding that TV sound bites
about madmen and evil are not good sources of policy. The most significant
impact that we could make on their ability to sustain their view of us as
evil is to change their perception of who we are by choosing to
strategically respond in unexpected ways. This will take enormous courage
and courageous leadership capable of envisioning a horizon of change.
4. Always understand the capacity for recruitment -- The greatest
that terror has is the ability to regenerate itself. What we most need to
understand about the nature of this conflict and the change process toward a
more peaceful world is how recruitment into these activities happens. In
all my experiences in deep-rooted conflict what stands out most are the ways
in which political leaders wishing to end the violence believed they could
achieve it by overpowering and getting rid of the perpetrator of the
violence. That may have been the lesson of multiple centuries that preceded
us. But it is not the lesson from that past 30 years. The lesson is
simple. When people feel a deep sense of threat, exclusion and generational
experiences of direct violence, their greatest effort is placed on survival.
Time and again in these movements, there has been an extraordinary capacity
for the regeneration of chosen myths and renewed struggle.
One aspect of current U.S. leadership that coherently matches with the
lessons of the past 30 years of protracted conflict settings is the
statement that this will be a long struggle. What is missed is that the
emphasis should be placed on removing the channels, justifications, and
sources that attract and sustain recruitment into the activities. What I
find extraordinary about the recent events is that none of the perpetrators
was much older than 40 and many were half that age.
This is the reality we face: Recruitment happens on a sustained basis. It
will not stop with the use of military force, in fact, open warfare will
create the soils in which it is fed and grows. Military action to destroy
terror, particularly as it affects significant and already vulnerable
civilian populations will be like hitting a fully mature dandelion with a
golf club. We will participate in making sure the myth of why we are evil
is sustained and we will assure yet another generation of recruits.
5. Recognize complexity, but always understand the power of
Finally, we must understand the principle of simplicity. I talk a lot with
my students about the need to look carefully at complexity, which is equally
true (and which in the earlier points I start to explore). However, the key
in our current situation that we have failed to fully comprehend is
simplicity. From the standpoint of the perpetrators, the effectiveness of
their actions was in finding simple ways to use the system to undo it. I
believe our greatest task is to find equally creative and simple tools on
the other side.
In keeping with the last point, let me try to be simple. I believe
things are possible to do and will have a much greater impact on these
challenges than seeking accountability through revenge.
1. Energetically pursue a sustainable peace process to the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Do it now. The United States has much it can
do to support and make this process work. It can bring the weight of
persuasion, the weight of nudging people on all sides to move toward mutual
recognition and stopping the recent and devastating pattern of violent
escalation, and the weight of including and balancing the process to address
historic fears and basic needs of those involved. If we would bring the
same energy to building an international coalition for peace in this
conflict that we have pursued in building international coalitions for war,
particularly in the Middle East, if we lent significant financial, moral,
and balanced support to all sides that we gave to the Irish conflict in
earlier years, I believe the moment is right and the stage is set to take a
new and qualitative step forward.
Sound like an odd diversion to our current situation of terror? I believe
the opposite is true. This type of action is precisely the kind of thing
needed to create whole new views of who we are and what we stand for as a
nation. Rather than fighting terror with force, we enter their system and
take away one of their most coveted elements: The soils of generational
conflict perceived as injustice used to perpetrate hatred and recruitment.
I believe that monumental times like these create conditions for monumental
change. This approach would solidify our relationships with a broad array
of Middle Easterners and Central Asians, allies and enemies alike, and would
be a blow to the rank and file of terror. The biggest blow we can serve
terror is to make it irrelevant. The worst thing we could do is to feed it
unintentionally by making it and its leaders the center stage of what we do.
Let's choose democracy and reconciliation over revenge and destruction. Let
's to do exactly what they do not expect, and show them it can work.
2. Invest financially in development, education, and a broad social
in the countries surrounding Afghanistan rather than attempting to destroy
the Taliban in a search for Ben Laden. The single greatest pressure that
could ever be put on Ben Laden is to remove the source of his justifications
and alliances. Countries like Pakistan, Tajikistan, and yes, Iran and Syria
should be put on the radar of the West and the United States with a question
of strategic importance: How can we help you meet the fundamental needs of
your people? The strategic approach to changing the nature of how terror of
the kind we have witnessed this week reproduces itself lies in the quality
of relationships we develop with whole regions, peoples, and world views.
If we strengthen the web of those relationships, we weaken and eventually
eliminate the soil where terror is born. A vigorous investment, taking
advantage of the current opening given the horror of this week shared by
even those who we traditionally claimed as state enemies, is immediately
available, possible and pregnant with historic possibilities. Let's do the
unexpected. Let's create a new set of strategic alliances never before
3. Pursue a quiet diplomatic but dynamic and vital support of the Arab
League to begin an internal exploration of how to address the root causes of
discontent in numerous regions. This should be coupled with energetic
ecumenical engagement, not just of key symbolic leaders, but of a practical
and direct exploration of how to create a web of ethics for a new millennium
that builds from the heart and soul of all traditions but that creates a
capacity for each to engage the roots of violence that are found within
their own traditions. Our challenge, as I see it, is not that of convincing
others that our way of life, our religion, or our structure of governance is
better or closer to Truth and human dignity. It is to be honest about the
sources of violence in our own house and invite others to do the same. Our
global challenge is how to generate and sustain genuine engagement that
encourages people from within their traditions to seek that which assures
the preciousness and respect for life that every religion sees as an
inherent right and gift from the Divine, and how to build organized
political and social life that is responsive to fundamental human needs.
Such a web cannot be created except through genuine and sustained dialogue
and the building of authentic relationships, at religious and political
spheres of interaction, and at all levels of society. Why not do the
unexpected and show that life-giving ethics are rooted in the core of all
peoples by engaging a strategy of genuine dialogue and relationship? Such a
web of ethics, political and religious, will have an impact on the roots of
terror far greater in the generation of our children's children than any
amount of military action can possibly muster. The current situation poses
an unprecedented opportunity for this to happen, more so than we have seen
at any time before in our global community.
A Call for the Unexpected
Let me conclude with simple ideas. To face the reality of well organized,
decentralized, self-perpetuating sources of terror, we need to think
differently about the challenges. If indeed this is a new war it will not
be won with a traditional military plan. The key does not lie in finding
and destroying territories, camps, and certainly not the civilian
populations that supposedly house them. Paradoxically that will only feed
the phenomenon and assure that it lives into a new generation. The key is to
think about how a small virus in a system affects the whole and how to
improve the immunity of the system. We should take extreme care not to
provide the movements we deplore with gratuitous fuel for self-regeneration.
Let us not fulfill their prophecy by providing them with martyrs and
justifications. The power of their action is the simplicity with which they
pursue the fight with global power. They have understood the power of the
powerless. They have understood that melding and meshing with the enemy
creates a base from within. They have not faced down the enemy with a
bigger stick. They did the more powerful thing: They changed the game.
They entered our lives, our homes and turned our own tools into our demise.
We will not win this struggle for justice, peace and human dignity with the
traditional weapons of war. We need to change the game again.
Let us take up the practical challenges of this reality perhaps best
described in the Cure of Troy an epic poem by Seamus Heaney no foreigner to
grip of the cycles of terror. Let us give birth to the unexpected.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
John Paul Lederach
September 16, 2001
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