During the last two years, I have truly enjoyed writing my This Week in Conflict reports, but alas, the time has come for me to take an extended, and perhaps permanent, break from it.
My goal for the reports was to learn more about what was going on in some of the more obscure conflicts on our planet and try to share that news in the most concise way. The real challenge I found was trying to get at the reality of the situation via news reports, to verify the content. One thing I found was that frequently, 90% of the news was a summary of one original report. Another difficulty came in trying to find more views of the situation, particularly local views, especially if I don’t speak the language(s) in that region. I thank the many people who sent in news stories, accounts or content to help me better understand.
Another setback of constantly reading bad news and reporting on it is the moral and emotional toll it takes on you. Though there were many positive stories on peace over the years, the vast majority was on the violent aspect of conflicts. Sometimes the stories were difficult to stomach.
The biggest challenge however, I found personally, was to try to be neutral over conflicts I have seen on the ground and lived through. I found myself remembering the situation I lived and being much more selective with my choice of news stories to try and ensure a balance in what I wrote. I’m not sure I always succeeded.
My knowledge of global affairs has increased greatly to an extent that I started to recognize patterns in the conflicts. I began to expect to see stories on certain types of violence and abuses in certain regions. I would have loved to do a more thorough backgrounder for each of the countries/territories/areas if I had had the time. The layers are so deep—I think it would have been helpful to have started with that just so I would have been more prepared to know where to look.
I’m back to living in Canada again, after several years in the Ivory Coast/Cote d’Ivoire. I’m happy to be home. With any luck, I will be returning to school again in the fall, but this time, with a direction in peacebuilding, and a more positive outlook on how the future can look.
Maybe for now a peaceful world is only a theoretical utopia studied and philosophized about in the academic world, but so is the ideal of capitalism, or communism or any other global system we’ve thought of before. For the longest time, I felt that the human world was doomed; that we would just continue to be violent with each other until the end of our time simply because it’s “human nature”. It’s not human nature. Humans are actually mostly programmed towards positive social behaviour. We spend most of our day collaborating or working or talking or sometimes even just tolerating others. It’s a necessary part of society.
Peace studies is only still in its infancy. Since really delving into it, I have found that I now envision other options. I can see a distant future with better systems, more happiness; a world where resources are more equitably shared and all have enough of what they need to not only survive, but thrive. It will take time, little by little, but I now see it as a real possibility; human beings actually working together for the betterment of our species and our planet instead of fighting amongst each other and destroying all of the world’s wonders.
There will always be conflict. It’s unavoidable. When it happens, we can choose to be violent, we can choose to see ways to transform the conflict non-violently, we can choose to try to avoid it; there’s a whole host of responses that are possible. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to choose how to handle conflict around us. Human emotions are a powerful thing. Giving people options by teaching and constantly reinforcing more positive conflict resolution skills in our societies, especially from childhood, to me is of utmost importance in this respect.
As I move on to the next, hopefully more peaceful period in my life, I have changed my priorities so as to have more time for new ideas and so must give up this daily writing on conflict. I will still write in the blog, but likely less regularly.
Thanks to all my kind readers and those who sent many thoughtful comments my way over the years to help make the reports better! Much appreciated!
Peace to all!