Thursday, July 26, 2012

peacebuilding or peacemaking: take your pick

Hal Pepinsky,,
July 26, 2012 (a sequel to yesterday’s blog on “standing to mediate”)

                I thank and congratulate Dr. Simeon Sungi for his dissertation defense today  (on “the role of indigenous systems as alternatives to international criminal trials” across the Africa) for nailing down for myself the difference between building honest, open discourse among parties to collective violence, and its antithesis, criminal prosecution.  In prosecution (as in all wars), a state or an interstate focuses on taking out enemies of the state(s).  Transforming violence as between opposing groups entails recognizing the authority of minority and majority leaders in current, daily (i.e. “indigenous”)  practice, and guaranteeing safe passage  to a table with opposing leaders.  I owe the origin of this insight to Arnold Sherman’s 1982 chapter on “the social construction of ‘terrorism’”  (in H Pepinsky, Rethinking Criminology, 85-101).  He concludes that bloodshed between the British and the Mau Mau movement in Kenya might “have gone differently had both sides recognized that it was in the interest of the British to define Mau Mau activity in the 1950s as other than ‘terrorist,’” (p. 86).  He supposes that the British might instead the recognition they gave to leaders of recognized nation states.  And I think, how much safer might folks from the US and those the government labeled “terrorists” have become, for instance, if when the USG identified Bin Laden as public enemy as early as 1997, they had invited him and cohorts  he chose to a place where all parties felt safe to trial to deal away attack and counterattack?  Suppose instead of prosecuting people as street offenders, prosecutors sought to offer victims control of their own “evidence” and over their own destiny, in hopes of coming to terms on which offenders could also assume greater responsibility for making redress on their own terms, rather than being punished or incapacitated for blameworthiness.  In his award-winning 2001 book on Making Good: how ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives, Shadd Maruna finds that those who stay out of further trouble with the law create new selves that are socially legally accepted and socially respected.  In internationally used terms, I put trying to impose terms of control on others peacebuilding, while in its place I juxtapose granting opposing forces room to build control on their own terms, as genuinely making peace.
                It is a contradiction in terms to oppose power over others by taking control over them.  Counterforce or violent resistance may temporarily quell violence at best, deepening distrust and counter-resistance in its wake.  But that doesn’t preclude efforts to promote respectful, dignified honest dialogue in the face of pressure to lop off the heads of those who offend us.  Peacemaking  is the only socially stabilizing alternative I see to compounding violence with counter-violence.  The flames of violence are securely damped  only insofar as  opposing parties grant each other legitimacy to speak on their own native or grassroots—on terms indigenous to themselves.  Love and peace--hal

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