Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Reading that chapter on “Simplicity and Complexity” in the book, The Moral Imagination by John Paul Lederach, I was led to reflect on the potential of his ideas on peacebuilding.
There is a beautiful sentence that he realizes: “At the base of complexity was simplicity.” (33) He admitted that peacebuilding is complex and we need to simplify it. Hence, he enumerated four principles to guide us in peacebuilding.
1. The Centrality of Relationship
Lederach gave two images one is art and the other is web. Art is not only a product of human ingenuity but also has an impact on our life. “It arises from human experienced and then shapes, gives expression and meaning to, that experience” (34). Moreover, the web is not just an object that we see outside us but we are a part of that web. “They situate and recognize themselves as part of the pattern” (35).
Art is a work and that work shapes our experience. Relationship and not isolation is our longing in a society divided by conflict or animosity. We need to transcend this division by imagining ourselves to have the ability to relate together and to give birth to a new relationship. “Who we have been, are and will be, emerges and shapes itself in context of relational interdependency” (35).
2. The Practice of Paradoxical Curiosity
Conflict arises from a reduction of people into a dualistic categorization, the we/they polarity such as “we are right and they are wrong” mentality. People need to transcend this dualism and not contain people into the either or category. “Paradoxical curiosity seeks something beyond what is visible, something that holds apparently contradictory and even violently opposed social energies together” (36).
We need to suspect our judgment that separates people into dualistic polarity, we need to mobilize our imagination that explores possibilities beyond this seeming contradiction in life. By imagination, we try to stretch our capacity to transcend this restrictive and constrictive dualism. People cannot be boxed or flattered into two categorizations; they are complex individuals of choices.
3. The Space for Creative Act
Imagination is actualized and embodied in an act. “Creativity moves beyond what exists toward something new and unexpected while rising from and speaking to the everyday” (38). However creativity needs a space for that creative act to be exercised or expressed. This creative act can give birth of untold and unexpected possibilities beyond the common perspective of people.
Lederach proposes the image of an artist in peacebuilding. Artist tend to be… the people at the thresholds of the communities they inhabit, from whence the pulse of their lifework emerges and to which they speak. However by being on the edge they also pose a threat for they push the edges of what is thought to be real and possible” (38).
4. The Willingness to Risk
Risk can be unsafe and uncertain because it ventures on the unknown. Risk in both a mystery because of this adventure to the unknown and a vocation to explore new paths to peace.
The beauty of Lederach’s proposal is the image of the peacebuilder as an artist who imagines possibilities and creates new expressions in peacebuilding. Just like an artist, peacebuilders should imagine new possibilities such as relationship, paradox, creativity and risk. Peacebuilders should not just repeat the same but create new paths to peace. They should not be complacent to the common practices but should risk in creating new ways.
Delfo Cortina Canceran, Philippines
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2014 Session