Tag Archives: conflict resolution

Fundraising Campaign – The Forgiveness Project

Starting this year, the Middle Way Society will undertake a series of fundraising campaigns, with which we will raise awareness of a range of charitable organisations – each involved with issues that relate in some way to the values of the society.

To get the campaign started we have opted to promote, and raise funds for the Forgiveness Project; the founder of which – Marina Cantacuzinowas interviewed forheart - web our ongoing podcast series in March 2014.

The Forgiveness Project is a unique and inspiring charity who, in their own words:

use storytelling to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution can be used to impact positively on people’s lives, through the personal testimonies of both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. Our aim is to provide tools that facilitate conflict resolution and promote behavioural change. Central to the work is our commitment to work with ex-offenders and victims of crime as a way of modelling a restorative process’.

Conflict exists in all aspects of social life and takes many forms. Without effective resolution some conflict can lead to long lasting animosity, which all to often leads to cycles of abuse and violence. The Forgiveness Project works with individuals, communities, victims and offenders to help break this cycle, and provides plenty of inspiration in the process.

Please visit their website and listen to the MWS podcast to find out more, and if you are able, please donate using the donate button provided here.

TFP logoDonate

Middle Way Thinkers 7: M.K. Gandhi

M.K. Gandhi was a Middle Way thinker in very striking practical respects. I count him as such not because of his obviously metaphysical beliefs about God, Truth, and the ultimate unity of religions, nor because of his commitment to Pacifism, but because of his courage and innovation when it came to dealing practically with conflict and providing us with tools for non-violent political change. Gandhi’s key insight was that the whole concept of any enemy is a projection of narrowed, dogmatic representations of the world. Our desires may conflict with others’ desires, but that conflict needs to be resolved by integration, not by a victory that eliminates the ‘enemy’. The conflict we may have with ‘enemies’ reflects a conflict within ourselves and within that person, which is not resolved by ‘winning’ the conflict.

Instead, in a case of conflict like that between exploited Indians and the ruling British of imperial India, the resolution of the conflict comes from making opponents recognise the conditions they are ignoring in their unnecessarily narrowed view of the world. They can be led into this by being led to see the humanity of those they are oppressing, and the similarity, rather than just the difference, between their concerns and those of the group or individuals they have previously seen so rigidly. If they cannot be positively persuaded, they need to be shocked into an act of imagination.

The recent death of Richard Attenborough prompted me to re-view the great biopic of Gandhi that he directed, and I highly recommend that film to get an impression of the man (selective though it inevitably is). The following scene from the film depicts the disciplined practice of non-violent protest that Gandhi inspired and organised, though Gandhi himself does not appear in this clip (he had just been imprisoned). The march on the salt works was inspired by the injustice of a British state monopoly on the making of salt, so in effect the salt works symbolised British imperial rule.

At one time I used to think of this scene as masochistic, but now I no longer think of it in this way. There seems to be no sign that the protesters lacked confidence or had any sort of craving to be hurt. Masochism reflects a conflict and repression within, but I see no sign of that in these men (though of course it is a reconstruction, and who knows what motivated the original men). Rather their willingness to incur injury to themselves for their cause could be seen as the result of their commitment to integration: not so much a self-sacrifice as a recognition that voluntary physical injury to oneself is in the end less important than the integration they were trying to bring about.Gandhi1

This, at least, is how I now read the practical insights that Gandhi reached, in which I see a powerful example of the Middle Way in action. In practice, in his political campaigning at its best, Gandhi seems to have neither stuck dogmatically to an interpretation of his beliefs that would cause immediate conflict, nor gone to the self-sacrificial opposite extreme of giving up the cause that he identified with and understood the justice of. It is in his private life, revealed particularly in his Autobiography ‘My experiments with truth’, that I find a much more dogmatic Gandhi: one whose absolute beliefs led him to repress his own passions and to have an inconsistent response to his sexuality.

Gandhi called his technique Satyagraha,  ‘truth grasp’. At times he seems to stubbornly assert that he has a grasp of truth of a metaphysical kind, but at other times I can read Gandhi’s relationship with ‘truth’ as something he found profoundly meaningful and interpreted with humility, a truth on the edge. Though he was an imperfect human being like the rest of us, he is also a thinker who forged his understanding of the Middle Way in the heat of action.

The MWS Podcast: Episode 15, Lesley Jeffries and Jim O’Driscoll

In this episode, Professor Lesley Jeffries and Doctor Jim O’Driscoll talk to us about Language in Conflict, a project set up to look at the potential contribution of linguistics to conflict studies by examining the use of language in conflict situations and resolution at all levels. They talk about the roles they have in the organisation, what they have achieved so far and their hopes for the future. We also talk about what conflict is, some examples of the conflictive nature of language, embodied meaning, incrementality and cognitive biases and what their understanding is of the Middle Way.

MWS Podcast 15: Lesley Jeffries & Jim O’Driscoll as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_15_Lesley_Jeffries_&_Jim_ODriscoll

Previous podcasts:

Episode 14: The writer and journalist Mark Vernon on agnosticism.
Episode 13: Robert M. Ellis on his life and why he formed the Middle Way Society.
Episode 12: Paul Gilbert on Compassion Focused Therapy
Episode 11: Monica Garvey on Family Mediation
Episode 10: Emilie Åberg on horticultural therapy, agnosticism, the Quakers and awe.
Episode 9: T’ai Chi instructor John Bolwell gives an overview of this popular martial art.
Episode 8: Peter Goble on his career as a nurse and his work as a Buddhist Chaplain.
Episode 7: The author Stephen Batchelor on his work with photography and collage.
Episode 6: Iain McGilchrist, author of the Master and his Emissary.
Episode 5: Julian Adkins on introducing MWP to his meditation group in Edinburgh
Episode 4: Daren Dewitt on Nonviolent communiction.
Episode 3: Vidyamala Burch on her new book “Mindfulness for Health”.
Episode 2: Norma Smith on why she joined the society, art, agnosticism and metaphor.
Episode 1: Robert M. Ellis on critical thinking.