Today I participated in a Zoom forum, Insurrection: The Critical Reflection Forums presented by the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts of Old Dominion University. I observed the second part of the series, which focused on nonviolent communication and conflict resolution. The forum was hosted by Avi Santo, Ph.D. and the presenters were Dr. Jim Baesler, Dr. Meredith Velasco, and Dr. Gary Beck. The forum is meant to offer explanation and some meaning to the violence at the US Capitol that took place on January 6, 2021.
Overall the forum focused on the idea that nonviolence and focusing on peace can overcome the violence in society. One of the recurring themes I noticed was that if children are properly educated and taught about peace then the violence in our society can be overcome. It was an hopeful message.
My education and experience have given me cause to take a more pragmatic view of conflict resolution. The idea that we can all be peaceful and loving to each other if only we take to time to listen to each other and understand that we are all similar is a nice idea. I will counter that it is a bit unrealistic. However, this forum was not designed to satisfy someone like me; I imagine the intended audience was young undergrad students who are trying to make sense of the current political situation in the United States.
One thing that caught my attention was Dr. Baesler mentioning Gene Sharp and the Einstein Institute. I have written before about my views on nonviolence. I believe that nonviolence is merely one option out of many. Like violence, it is not always the best option; and like violence there will be situations when it is the only option you have.
One of Sharp’s premises is that a government’s power is derived from the cooperation of its citizens. Another is that citizens can defy their government’s power simply by refusing to cooperate with its regular operations. The insurrectionists were attempting to disrupt the government in its regular operations.
It occurs to me that the insurrectionists were obeying Sharp’s prescription, albeit, violently. The irony of this amuses me. Especially when Sharp’s name was being used as an antidote to the actions of the insurrectionists.
Anyway, I hope to attend the next event as well. That one will focus on the role of the arts in addressing the insurrection. That one will be interesting to me. And it is far enough outside my area of expertise that I shouldn’t find much to nitpick.