Photo: Ron Mader, Signage (Some rights reserved)
by Harrison Owen
Every moment of the day provides an opportunity to create the conditions for Peace.
For Peacemaking is not that special activity undertaken only in those moments of intense and violent conflict. Indeed, when we reach such moments, that is a clear indication that we have not been doing our daily jobs as Peacemakers.
Practice of Peace
For Peace itself is not the far off, someday to be realized phenomenon which we desperately seek when there seems to be no other alternative. Rather, Peace is what life is all about, every day, all the days, from the first day until the last. Just as chaos, confusion and conflict are the constant, integral, and necessary elements of this thing we call living, so also is the Practice of Peace — that task of enabling the conditions under which they may weave themselves together, creating the fabric of life.
We will never get it right. We are always on the journey, for Peace is not a destination, a final state, a frozen ideal — it is the journey itself, characterized by wholeness, health and harmony. Always moving, always changing, always exploring new ways, and therefore presenting new challenges, new insights, new opportunities. And for sure, when we reach a day where it appears that we have finally gotten it right, and all the pieces fit, we will know that the journey is over. In the meantime, there is a lot of work to do.
The Roads Before Us
We may not have the patience to explore all the possible roads to Peace. And, needless to say, I do not possess the necessary experience, knowledge and competence. My intent, therefore will be to offer some few examples from my own experience, which may be of assistance as you make your own way. This is not a cook book, for the stew of life.
Peace is always a work in progress, and the chefs are infinite in number. And in the case of Peace and Peacemaking, the old adage, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth,’ simply does not apply.
My concern is not what we have been doing, but how we have done it.
Efforts undertaken in the mode of ‘Top Down/Command and Control’ may have immediate impact, even immediate positive impact (people stop shooting each other), but the longer term effect is not as promising. The reason is a simple. The mode of operation is the very antithesis of Peace. The system addressed (company, county, country, region) is usually not appreciated in its full, complex diversity. Chaos, confusion and conflict are eliminated if possible, rather than honored for the gifts they give, and then invited to integrate into the larger fabric. And most destructive, and therefore least effective, is the presumption that those who undertake the project actually know what they are doing, and therefore feel at liberty to impose their authority, their design, their control.
All of the above may well be done with the best of altruistic intention, but that does not change the fact that the object of their attention, that open living, complex adaptive system is never enabled or encouraged to do what only it can do best — heal itself.
When the attitude, (mode of operation) changes from Top Down/Command and Control into what I have called “Gracious Spaciousness” the impact can be very different, and certainly the approach is conducted in manner some might consider positively strange. One never works harder than they have to, appreciates is freely available before applying a “fix,” and never deludes themselves into thinking they are in charge. Such behavior would be cause for dismissal in a number of organizations I know.
But when the task is Peacemaking, I believe this is the only way to go. Therefore my suggestion is not that we stop all of the many useful interventions we have mounted in the search for Peace (education, infrastructure building, organization development, nutrition programs, and on, and on, and on …), but rather that we do them in a different way, which I think we will find to be infinitely easier, and ultimately more effective.
Harrison Owen is President of H.H.Owen and Co and author of Open Space Technology and a number of other books. His training has centered on the nature and function of myth, ritual and culture.