Much ink has been spilled about the impact of Martin Luther King’s life and legacy.
As a conflict engagement specialist, though, I think of something else today.
Nonviolent resistance is the best way to expose the hypocrisy and unjustness of legalized policies and has been used from Jesus to Ghandi to MLK to Nelson Mandela to affect change in societies and cultures.
But what about those folks on the other side of the confrontation?
What about those folks in power in the American South who had instituted systems of privilege and power that oppressed people?
What about the British government in India or the Roman government in Judea?
What about the white minority population and government in South Africa?
Why didn’t they look at the resistance, stop what they were doing, lay down their arms, put away their power, and work collaboratively to come to a just and equitable resolution?
In conflicts and mediation situations, I often observe parties who are incapable of changing their patterns of behavior, their ingrained responses and their knee jerk reactions to external stimuli coming in the form of difficulty, confrontation and conflict.
If people as individuals cannot look at the resistance, stop what they are doing, lay down their (metaphorical) arms, put away their power, and work collaboratively to come to a just and equitable resolution in a personal or family conflict, then what hope do countries, cultures and peoples have?
The issue at that point becomes one of decisions, choices and the will to follow through on them.
Jesus and Ghandi had the will.
So did MLK and Mandela.
The will on the other side was weaker, the ability to “save face” was not as strong and the capacity for change was not as developed.
Mediators are the only ones with the training, expertise and desire to get all the parties to the table to even begin the talking process.
Yet, we still have volunteer mediators in this country.
Yet, we still think that mediation, collaboration and compromise are for the faint of heart.
Something to think about, today on January 20, 2014.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org