Saturday, 24 October 2009

Coexistence and Complexity

I ought to be writing a paper, but right now I'm much too depressed and demotivated to even look at my draft.

I think that because I initially set out to write out my thoughts on my experiences here for close friends and classmates that I did not realise that there are some people who may actually look to be informed, and want to be able to read what I post here and be confident that I actually know what I'm talking about. For the same reason, I believe I have been writing with the assumption that the terms I am using would be easily understood by anyone reading this blog.

In being a champion for coexistence, what I hope to be doing in my role at the organisation is pull my colleagues to a place where they can view the context in which they work, and on which they work from a coexistence perspective.

A coexistence perspective is to me one that queries to what extent ideas, initiatives, policies and contexts embrace diversity for its positive potential, pursue equality, recognise interdependence between different groups, and eschew the use of weapons to address conflict. It examines if  there is, as Oxfam GB put it, recognition of all people's status and rights as human beings, and a just and inclusive vision for each community’s future.

It is my perception that in order to design initiatives and policies for coexistence,  that is to say a society with positive relationships across social differences, practitioners must endeavour to practice the values they seek to encourage. Practioners I think have to be prepared to "jump out of their skins", and attempt to assist others to make that leap. I think very basically that that leap is empathy, but it's very hard to empathise when you are firmly part of a context that does not readily facilitate it.

A societies "others" are not synonymous with the normative. As such their representation, over which they have little control, is generally unbalanced and dehumanising. What I mean by that is the complexity, diversity, and value of their lives -the same complexity, diversity, and value we give to "our" own-  is often poorly conveyed, if at all. I think Chimamanda Adichie expresses the concept beautifully in this speech

(I have a ridiculous girl-crush on Adichie... and Rachel Maddow.)

I attempt to get my co-workers to combat the privilege they have in facing little if any penalty for being satisfied with a single story about the groups whose interests they ostensibly represent. At the same time, it behooves me to make sure that I don't fall into the same trap. It's hard, but hopefully you guys can help keep me honest.

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