The tenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).
This article is a continuation of the previous one in which we were introduced to the importance of conflict transformation.
|Make the right choice…
Insight can be considered as an alternative to violence. Insightful approach respects and cares for everyone involved. It is the belief that everyone is capable of change and that the opponent’s basic humanity can be reached which drives the insightful approach. We should train ourselves to build up qualities such as courage, resilience, self-awareness, compassion, humility, patience, integrity etc. so that non-violence can be practiced. When we train ourselves to approach in an insightful manner, we learn to respond violence with non-violence even when we have been affected. We should recognize that no one has the sole supremacy on ‘truth’. Thus we must aim at bringing together our ‘truth’ and the opponents’ ‘truth’. When we practice non-violence, we lead by example. It is not easy to respond violence with non-violence. But as Gandhi said, ‘an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind’. By following non-violence, we can break the cycle of violence and achieve social and political change.
When we look at Gandhi’s approach to the problems, he had the man power but still he used the non-violence method. He respected the British as fellow humans even though the British did not respect him. He gained respect from not only his countrymen but also from the Englishmen. Thus we should learn from Gandhi’s life and practice non-violence as a strategy for social and political change that challenges the cycle of violence and forces other parties to consider alternative responses.
Most people in the nation have stereotypical thinking. Once people start feeling prejudiced or feel that they are better than others and don’t like others because of their differences, the thoughts move to the heart. Once they start acting on the prejudicial thoughts, it moves to the hands resulting in discrimination and violence. We can see a Pyramid of Escalation. This pyramid starts with prejudiced thinking and ends in major scale violence. Stereotypical thinking causes people to scapegoat, tell belittling jokes, bully, discriminate, harass and commit violence against people and property at a major level.
It is important for us to realize that the stereotypical thinking would lead to radical ends. Thus we should strive hard to promote rational thinking at the initial stage of prejudiced thinking, such that violence is prevented. Behaviours that may initially seem harmless such as jokes, social exclusion, bullying can escalate into major scale violence due to negligence. The wrongdoers gain confidence when they are not stopped at the initial levels. It is our duty to intervene and curb such prejudicial actions.
When we attempt to curtail such prejudicial actions, we need to forgive. The wrongdoer will be suffering from guilt while the affected one will be suffering either physically or mentally. Forgiveness helps both parties to get together and build a new lasting trust. Forgiving a person can be done in two ways. One is to forgive and forget. The other is to forgive and yet remember the incident. Many people follow the second way. We often hear even parents saying to their children ‘remember that you did the same thing before’. It is hard to forget an incident that has caused pain and trauma. Even though we can claim that we have forgotten it, the incident is just buried in the mind and may come out anytime. What we can do is admit that we find it hard to forget the incident but strive hard to move forward. It should be noted that forgiveness and compassion are important in intractable conflicts that generate deep and searing emotions. After the conflict people would carry the pain, hurt, anger, fear and hatred that had produced the conflict in the first place. Without forgiveness and compassion, the conflict can happen again. Thus it is important that reconciliation is carried out with forgiveness and compassion.
The consequences of the war can be either ‘visible’ such as the obvious loss of property and life or ‘invisible’ such as trauma, broken relationships, desire for revenge, blame, tendency to resort to violence again. These consequences if not dealt properly can fire up another conflict. It is easy to jump into a conflict than get out of one. Reconciliation deals with building lasting trust, co-operation and establishing peace. It can occur at various levels and may involve admissions of guilt, judicial processes, truth commissions, compassion and forgiveness. Personal reconciliation starts when we forgive ourselves. This is the fundamental step to being forgiven or asking to be forgiven. When we forgive ourselves we obtain tranquility, peace and personal harmony. Social reconciliation is a larger process in which we reconcile with others. The ultimate goal of reconciliation is to provide healing of wounds and closure of the conflict so that the parties can co-exist and live harmoniously together.