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The Problem isn’t Conflict, It’s Violent Conflict Management

The Downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

by ERIN NIEMELA

In 2014, the growing list of suffering by violent conflict management includes (but is not limited to): more than 10,000 murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, civil war in Syria, escalated terrorism in Iraq, an asymmetrical bombardment in Gaza, and now somebody, some faction, some government shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet and killed 295 human beings.  The cause of the tragedy – a missile – confirmed by a U.S. official, will guide at least one week of media coverage. We’ll bicker and brood about who done it, how and why until the next tragedy and the next and the next. All the while, we’ll ignore the underlying assumption: that violence is natural, inevitable and an acceptable method for problem solving – so long as it’s done by our guys with our weapons on their guys and their ground.

I don’t care who did it.  I care that the victims and their families find justice – at least knowing the absolute truth and receiving reparations and support. But, I don’t care who’s to blame, what weapons they used, which countries/leaders are allies/enemies, who hates Malaysians, Americans, Russians, Ukrainians or any of the typical issues fueling analyses from political science talking heads on mainstream media. There’s only one most important problem anyone should care to address: All violence, from state to non-state to domestic varieties, all weapons, from small arms to nuclear bombs, and all industries profiting from human violence, from manufacturers at every level to dealers of every “legal” degree, have only ever caused more violence, war, destruction and suffering all over the world.  This global pro-violence worldview will shoot us all down from the sky unless we – as international citizens of rational mind – reject the outdated, illogical idea that violence is an acceptable, or possible, means for achieving peace.

Let’s finally start listening to and joining with the voices of positive peace – defined by my mentor and dear friend Tom Hastings, author and professor of conflict resolution, as: “peace and justice by peaceable means.” World Beyond War, a nonviolent international movement to abolish war and build a truly sustainable global peace, has a plan in which we can all participatePhysicians for Social Responsibility have been working for more than 50 years on campaigns to ban nuclear weapons, reverse or mitigate climate change (a current cause of violent conflict in some areas – especially when violence is the preferred method of conflict management choice) and eliminate toxic waste that violently threatens our very existence on Earth. Online university, media service, research institute and peace development network Transcend International, founded by Prof. Dr. Johan Galtung, father of Peace and Conflict studies, aims to educate the global public on current peace and conflict research and peacebuilding practices, including peace journalism, that will create a positive-peace world. There is also the United States Institute for Peace (can you believe it?!), established by Congress to “increase the nation’s capacity” to use nonviolent conflict management methods. USIP had its funding completely eliminated and reinstated between February and April 2011 – a flagrant message to our peacebuilders that pro-violence politicians can and will cut you – if we let them.

These are just four examples of organizations and people who have been tirelessly working for peace and nonviolence against the raging current of a pro-violence worldview. Let’s give these four, and the many, many others out there, some jet skis already before the fan simply breaks and we’re all just covered in the feces of this big white elephant we’ve raised.

We’ll always have conflict – it’s absolutely natural and inevitable. It’s our beliefs about how we should properly manage, resolve and transform that conflict that determine whether or not hundreds of innocent people are murdered at 32,000 feet, are kidnapped from their homes and schools, or hear a “knock on the roof.”  I’ll let Oxfam America sum it up: “…it is not conflict but conflict management that should be of utmost concern; that is, the ways in which environmental and political stressors interact in the presence of ameliorative or exacerbating institutions are the keys to overcoming violence.”  We’ve got the knowledge, we’ve got the tools, we’ve got the capacity, we’ve got the motivation and we’ve got each other – so let’s get to it.

Erin Niemela (erin.peacevoice@gmail.com) is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, PeaceVoice editor and PeaceVoiceTV channel manager.