I was greatly inspired by this blog post, Transforming Troubled Schools by Robert C. Koehler. It is heartening to hear about progressive, alternative conflict resolution initiatives being implemented in schools. The lessons learned here can and should be applied to all areas of society. The broader idea is a revolutionary transformation in human relations.
As human beings, we are all interconnected, part of the larger whole we call “society.” No individual’s action can be interpreted in isolation from its societal context. We need to move beyond the primitive idea of punishing “offenders” and realize that in so doing we are only perpetuating the cycles of crime, violence, poverty,etc. that hurt us all.
In order to do this, we have to be able to let go of the ego that assures us that we ourselves are “good” but others can be wholly “bad.” There is no such thing as a purely good or purely bad person, there are only good or bad actions (if that). When someone commits a crime and we label them as “a criminal,” we strip them of their humanity. This not only tends to lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy for the “criminal” but also hardens our own hearts and strengthens our egotistical belief that “we” are good and “they” are bad.
The ills of society are a product of society. In order to cure them, both the individual and the larger community must work together, with compassion and respect toward all involved parties. For too long, we have tried to quarantine evil—ignore it, deny it, ascribe it to something outside of ourselves. It is time to face our true nature, to see the good and the bad in ALL of us. This includes not only acknowledging our own faults but, perhaps more importantly, acknowledging the GOOD in our perceived “enemies.”
Peace will never be achieved by fighting “enemies” or punishing “criminals.” Those are relative terms, used to divide us. The only label we can use to describe ourselves in absolute terms, the one label that applies to us all, is “human.” Peace can only be achieved by respecting our common humanity and choosing to unite, rather than divide.