Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peace Studies Class Update, Part I

Hi all,

Some have asked about the peace studies class I took online through Transcend Peace University this spring, and I thought I'd share the first and final "papers" (really brief overviews--Professor Galtung doesn't appreciate longwindedness).  The other papers were group efforts, so I don't wan to post those,but the first and last were papers where we were asked to (in the first paper) describe a specific conflict and diagnosis it using the vocabulary and terminology used by Professor Galtung and (in the second paper) to offer a solution based on the concepts we read about and worked with during the class. 

Here's the book we used in the course, in case you're interested:

I chose the conflict over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque--discuss).  Below is the first paper.  I'll post my "solution" tomorrow.  BTW, I'm hoping to get into a summer course that starts in a couple of weeks with Professor Galtung on "Galtungism."  I'll keep you posted.


Actor: Supporters of the Park 51 center

Shallow Attitude: We have the right to build this center where we would like it.

Deep Attitude: We want to feel acceptance and dignity as both Muslims and New Yorkers
Shallow Behavior:
Denying any sympathy with radical Islam; asserting legal rights to property.

Deep Behavior: assertion of non-Otherness; assertion of the dignity of Islam and its right to be respected
Shallow Conflict: the building cannot be both built and not built on that spot.

Deep Conflict: Contrary narratives about the relationship of Islam and Muslims to American/Western values
Actor: Opponents of the Park 51 center
Shallow Attitude: Ground Zero is sacred space, and building a mosque near it defiles it, since the attackers on 9/11 professed to act in the name of Islam.

Deep Attitude: Islam is foreign and dangerous and must be treated with suspicion
Shallow Behavior: Public demonstrations and pronouncements linking Islam to 9/11 and invoking the memories of the dead.

Deep Behavior: Assertion of Manichean narrative of 9/11 in which Islam declared war on America/the West/freedom
Shallow Conflict: the building cannot be both built and not built on that spot.

Deep Conflict: Contrary narratives about the relationship of Islam and Muslims to American/Western values

In the absence of therapy, the following are the likely results:

Primary Consequences: The center is built as planned, infuriating those who are against it, which likely leads to interpersonal violence (harassment of those going and coming from the center), violence against property (vandalism), judicial violence (lawsuits aimed at closing or thwarting the center’s mission), and rhetorical violence (politicians/activists decrying the existence of the center for their political gain).  OR, the center is not built, frustrating those who wanted it built, leading to judicial violence (lawsuits aimed at reinstating the right of the center to be built over the objections of opponents) and rhetorical violence (condemnation of opponents by supporters of the center).  Violence against people and property, while somewhat less likely because of the lack of obvious targets, remains a possibility. 

Secondary Consequences: Whether the center is built or not, the lack of therapy would likely lead to a combination of resentment, hostility, and polarization.  The community to be served by the center would feel disenfranchised and unwelcome, and would not be immune to the implications that they were tainted by guilt for the 9/11 attacks.  They would certainly feel scapegoated by the wider community.  Opponents of the center would feel growing hostility toward the Muslim community and be more likely to engage in further hostility toward Muslims whether the center was built (“*They* have defiled our sacred space!”) or not (“We’ve beat back this invasion!  Let’s press on to further victories!”).  Such feelings would ripple from Ground Zero throughout the United States and perhaps even the world, with the local antagonisms in Manhattan acting as a synecdoche for relationships between America/the West and Islam, engendering parallel feelings of alienation, hostility, and a sense of being under siege (with both sides feeling that the other was doing the besieging).

Therapy would involve an opening of dialog among the parties involved with a particular focus on locating shared and/or compatible goals (e.g., eliminating fundamentalism, stopping violence, celebrating religious tolerance).  This might begin with a mediator talking with each group separately, asking them to articulate their specific fears and hopes, then using this as a beginning step in demonstrating to both sides that there are interesting parallels among the parties (fear of violence by the other; desire to live in a secure world; sense of indignation at being perceived demonization by the other side).

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