Monday, February 19, 2007

Creating Peace Through Community

I've written recently that in some ways we need to ignore what the plutocracy is doing, and simply create what we want in the world in our own lives. People are doing this, people have been doing this: creating intentional communities; exploring the intersections of communities; recognizing communities that are not restrained by geography.

It starts right here, with my habits, my dollars I spend, my choice of work, my friends I cultivate, my groups I help sustain. The same goes for you.

I regularly receive invitations to the round table of a local peace house, a Catholic Worker house or something like that. This week they are hosting a fundraiser and talk by Sharif Abdullah, who is based here in Portland.

He is working to create just this alternate interconnection of communities that I dream of, in the Common Society Movement. He says on the website, "What we need now is vision - a vision that we create together, for a world we want to live in. We need a PROCESS we all can have faith in, because we all participate in it. We need consensus." What I've said eerily echoes what he says:

There is a SYSTEM that keeps violence, hostility and conflict in place: it is capitalist, but it is also communist. The conflict system is imperialist, democratic and socialistic, all in one. It is run by major corporations, AND by each of us who own stock or buy the products of those big corporations. It's all interrelated. It's what CSM Catalysts call "the Mess". Against that, the Catalysts for the new society must be armed with something more than a handshake and a smile.
He has an ambitious agenda:

  • Step 1. Find, train and network 3,000,000 catalyst-leaders, roughly 1% of the US population. We also encourage and support similar processes in all other countries. This process will take up to eight years.
  • Step 2. Facilitate a massive world-wide dialog process to create an inclusive vision and direction for our global society, using the catalyst-leaders as guides and facilitators. This dialog process will take two to five years.
  • Step 3. Implement the vision, based on the systems created in the dialogs. Redirect our national and global resources to achieve a world that works for all. (We don't know what those systems will be, because they haven't been invented yet.) This will take many years, perhaps generations!

So why when I read this do I unconsciously shake my head and think it won't happen? Perhaps it's the blinking advertisement for Sharif Abdullah's books at the top of the screen. Perhaps its my experience that no matter how well-intentioned, you can't get consensus from 100 people who have the common goal of protesting a war. He wants us to imagine "café-style conversations, bringing together 100 people from various walks of life...facilitated by a person who has received specific training in how to include all voices, all points of view and how to create a safe, common, level playing field." Perhaps this is possible in more homogeneous societies, as Sri Lanka perhaps is, but not the United States.

Perhaps it would help if 1 out of 100 people are conscious exemplars of peace. I think we already have that, we just don't have these folks working together on the same goal. It seems to me even people who want peace can be too obstinate to hop on board for a single entity like this. Rather through people being peace, practicing peace, living peace without judgement (boy do I see plenty of judgement), I think we can spread peace like a virus. We can infect others with better problem-solving skills, with emotional skills that enable them to choose love over anger, generosity over greed, with political skills that always turn towards peace, not war.

It also occurred to me that perhaps I resist this because some part of me is afraid that if I look into it, I will find myself obligated to do something. We no longer live in times where we can wait for someone else to facilitate change for peace. If we want peace, we have to step forward and do what we can about it. I was afraid I might find this could be the movement we are looking for, and I would feel I must get involved. Sometimes you don't find your way, your way finds you. Do I really want to find another way?

I may still try to go to that talk and fundraiser, if only to get a glimpse of the man, and see if this is driven by charisma or by true intentions. I think I have put my finger on my main reason to doubt this though, that the change toward will be more organic. The catalysts for peace will make change without cafe conversations of 100 people, but by exemplifying peace in our daily lives, by influencing others through our sincerity, kindness, and peace of mind. We can't even get churches, especially can't get churches, to agree on what constitutes tolerance, and best action, much less all citizens from various walks of life.

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