15 May 2010
Where To Start?
People involved in peace activism may at times during their work encounter the problem of a lack of demand for peace activities and peace building in societies of countries involved in conflicts. This situation is the norm in the Caucasus. This article tries to reveal and analyze the roots of the current societal passivity toward peace activism. For this, I will apply the conflict theory of Cordula Reimann, who designed the model of the gender triangle based on the “dynamic triangle of violence (The ABC Conflict Triangle) of famous Norwegian conflict expert Johan Galtung.
Galtung posits that there are three linked elements that trigger conflict: attitudes (the way people think or identify), behavior (the way parties are acting in a given instance of conflict), and contradiction (differences or incompatibilities between parties in defining a conflict).
Reimann’s model defines three interlinked angles of gender: individual gender identity (how individuals define for themselves their gender in a given society), gender symbolism (how the culture itself defines both masculinity and femininity), and gender structure (how gender interactions are institutionalized and organized in society, both publicly and privately).
The main aspect of these triangles shows three dimensions of violent culture in societies and consists of three angles–individual, cultural, and structural. Summarizing the content of each of the angles, we can indicate that:
- The individual dimension includes personal approaches, visions, self-identity, and as a consequence, decisions made by a person.
- The cultural dimension includes the traditional approaches (social identities) of the societal group, such as religion, traditions, customs, and perceptions of different groups within the societal group.
- The structural dimension includes institutionalized social, economic, and political constructs.
In every society these linked and sometimes merged dimensions show the behavior and nature of any given society. While trying to understand the roots of the lack of demand for peace building, we will look through these three dimensions using the example of conflicting countries in the South Caucasus.
We can indicate general societal passivity and apathy toward most political developments and lack of civic or grassroots participation in decision making.
- This situation on the individual/personal level creates an absence of democratic values, marginalization of society, and a rejection of other societies.
- In parallel, in the cultural level it raises the cultural demand to protect societal identities from outside influences. With this background nationalistic ideas become a part of the culture; several fears–of losing identity, traditions, and religion–rise up.
- As a consequence, this creates a structural dimension of the society in which laws are created to protect against these fears, and limit outside influence in the culture. The structures and institutions of the society consist of people who live in the above-mentioned cultural environment and end up further marginalizing members of society from the outside world.
Those who are born into this kind of society are raised with these cultural conditions, and become more ingrained into this thinking, continually spiraling downward. Just to indicate the circular nature of this problem, when we are trying to understand the roots of the above-mentioned problems on the individual and personal level, we can see that they have their own roots in the cultural and structural levels. For example, we can point to abject poverty, unfair governance, tragic history, and so on as roots for the passivity of society.
Based on this, trying to come to a conclusion on what should be done–and moving from theoretical considerations to practical, concrete proposals–for transforming the existing reality–which can be described as containing warlike societies–into a peace-like society, we can conclude that there is a great need for titanic work on all three directions.
Only a broad policy that includes the needs and different perspectives of different layers of society has a chance of succeeding and can respond to the individual, cultural, and structural challenges mentioned previously.
Only after understanding the needs of our society toward peace can we demand that they be active in peace work, and only after understanding their needs can we declare that our work fits the needs of our societies and challenges toward creating peace.