Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
I hope this short note finds you well as it will be now some time since it was written.
It is March 2013 and we are living in Bangkok whilst I undertake a fellowship at the Rotary Peace Center. I sat down yesterday to talk to you about some of the concepts we have been studying. An ambitious goal as it turned out, but to be fair I was competing for your attention with the Wiggles and a peanut butter sandwich! So instead I decided to type this short note. Hopefully you will read it when you are a little older and listening to ‘toot, toot big red car’ is a little less appealing. (Please God may that day come soon!)
I must admit I had not thought too much about the word ‘peace’ before commencing this period of study. I mean…….. I did know it was something that Miss Venezuela wanted for the world and I am fairly sure I used it repeatedly during a week spent in a tree house in Nimbin with a girl called ‘Sky’. The mushroom tea she made may have been ‘magic’ but it did tend to dull my memory.
The truth is that you and I have the unearned privilege of being born in Australia. A relatively peaceful country. We have not lived under occupation, we have not lived through a genocide nor a protracted violent conflict. Much of the world has not been so lucky.
So what is it I wanted to tell you about peace? As one of my classmates said the other day peace can mean different things to different people; to a starving man it could mean enough food to feed his family, to many women it could mean equality and to those living under a dictatorial regime it may mean democracy. But ultimately peace, in whatever form it takes, is something that begins with the decisions of individuals. Understanding and resolving conflict is at the heart of these critical decisions.
Mate, whatever you decide to do in life there will be times when you experience conflict. Get used to it. It is inevitable. You will need to make some decisions on how you deal with conflict as it arises. If you are looking for peace (I hope you always do) it will help if you take the time to understand the conflict from a variety of perspectives.
I have learnt that there are a number of tools and techniques that can be used to undertake this analysis. One appeals to me for its simplicity. The ‘ABC’ triangle is based on the premise that conflict has three major components: the context or situation, the behaviour of those involved (including you) and their attitudes. These factors influence each other and changes made in one are likely to lead to changes in another. You can decide to make such changes but before you do put yourself in the other parties’ shoes. Do you know enough to understand their perceptions of the conflict? If not ask, talk, read, experience, learn! Don’t make assumptions or generalisations. They are for the lazy. Will you then understand the truth? I doubt it. ‘Truth’ is a matter of perception. What is true for one man is not necessarily true for another. However, you will be closer to understanding and that will help you resolve any conflict and maybe even get you one step closer to peace.
Stuart Bateson, Australia
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2013 Session