Thursday, December 18, 2008

Art & Peace - Exploring Structure

19 December 2008

Structure is another concept that is becoming more widely used in peace & justice work. In capacity building workshops facilitators often use the "conflict tree" to help people see the connection between belief, structure and manifestations. In other words ideology, institutions and outcomes. Participants are then encouraged to explore how certain beliefs have created structures and mechanisms that consistently delivers expected desired outcomes (until challenged).

In one of the workshops that Che and I co-facilitated we began to think about taking this "conflict tree" idea a bit further. What if we acknowledge that the field, the environment in which decision making happens on type of structures to nourish -is seen as a chess field in which multiple actors strategically work everyday to protect their life, livelihood, interests, profits, accumulation, consumption, and control over the rules of the game.

The field when it is part of the chess board of neo-colonialism or market-fundamentalism for example has already transformed itself into a predatory field. Just as farms becoming sites in which the cycle of production happens using seed, fertilizers, pesticides, and water purchased from the market the arenas in which decisions get taken have come under heavier influence of forces whose general principle is "greed, over-consumption & accumulation trumps over justice, human rights & human dignity." This general principle though morally and ethically wrong has many rewards and compensations. It allows us to be part of a game of high-stakes from exclusive clubs catering to every possible want, and the club rules are clear that it is okay to flaunt. Warnings are often whispered about the need to invest in building bigger walls and gates to keep the victims and agents of change out of sight.

Through a complex process of law-making, law-interpretation, adjudication, arbitration, agreements, schemes and manufactured consent the power elite work on changing rules wherever they go. The broad strokes of the rule is that it ensures that the top 10-20 percent can obtain legitimacy to desire to take and hold control over 60-70 percent of resources, even at the cost of impoverishing, displacing, and denial of fundamental rights to billions of people worldwide.

Apart from excessive and obscene consumption, efforts are taken to change peoples knowledge and understanding of things. People are taught and trained to value certain things, possess certain things, consume certain things. They are taught to remember certain things and forget certain things. While media assaults their senses 24/7 there is much that is also not-told. Their right to know what they consume, to know how much toxins are present in what they consume and how much growth hormones are getting into their system through what they consume - are denied. Such knowledge is not released into the common domain, such knowledge is often privatized and held in secret. It is the cost, the externalization of costs that is often buried deep and very difficult to dig out.

The old owl sitting on the tree seems to ask:

How many have to pay with lifetimes of dispossession, displacement, destitution, hunger, malnutrition, dehydration, loss of habitat and livelihood - so a few can live as kings and queens once did?

How to overcome this deception, this betrayal?

How to build peace when we are sowing greed?

(Art work by Che, from Process & Structure series)

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