Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
Do we have to deal with the past? Richard Holbrooke, who very effectively brought at least negative peace to the Balkans with the Dayton Peace Process in 1995, as a reward was appointed by the Clinton administration to be the US man in the Cyprus negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. There is this lovely article in the NY Times shortly after saying Holbrooke was basically infuriated because these people cannot forget the history, the Greek Cypriots and Turk Cypriots say that is who we are, we are what our history is, we are that. Unless we deal with that issue we are not going forward.
I think here again that Americans have been handicapped because Americans are a people who have reinvented themselves whether they go to San Francisco or not, we all have other backgrounds but we speak fluent Spanish but you and I can talk, we can go to Joes pizza and pasta; we are Americans. We forget our other backgrounds, not completely but we put those behind us. There are a lot people who don't do that, even when they are here sometimes, these sleeper cells, the Arab Americans who are American citizens, such as the truck driver in Ohio who was going to blow up the Brooklyn bridge. Those are people for who history still counts as part of who they are, identity. Identity is everything; until we understand identity then we are more a part of the problem than we are the solution. Identity is steeped not just in history but also emotion. There is an emotional sense of outrage, because somebody has done something horrible against my group 1,000 years ago. Serbs go back to June 28, 1389, when the Ottoman Empire took Kosovo, wow 600 years ago Now let me go watch reality TV and the Worlds Best Model. We are in a world of superficiality and that is where everyone should be, fast food, fast everything, fast training, fast courses, fast masters, fast papers with no research methods.
We don't want to spend time in history because that means we have to go back. On the down side of being an American we put a lot of crap behind us. We want to play and have fun, eat Wonder Bread, and here we are the fattest nation in the world and the most violent, I don't want to know. These damn Iraqis, these damn Arabs don't understand how nice we are from freeing them from Sadaam. They just don't get it. Why do people want to attack us? One reason being we seem to have a problem digging deeper, below the threshold of perception into historically based emotionally embedded, memories which motivate people to do horrible things to us and in the process kill themselves, and they don't mind. We still don't understand why those 19 young men did what they did to us 9/11, some people do but they are not being heard by the administration. Most of us are pacifists and idealists, in terms of our community in the conflict intervention and conflict resolution fields. Again the sooner you talk about emotion, the sooner you are getting into biology, get into nature, nurture and we don't want to touch that. That is where you get the conflict resolution ideology rather than methodology.
There is emotion and it does have a biological base, and we had better understand it. It is not to say that it is deterministic but we are a complex composite whole, which includes lots of things. I am Dennis the American, who has an ethnic Albanian mother, has Sicilian father, has a god father who spent five years in prison for book making, who is from the neighborhood. All that calls upon me. Also he has got a nephew who has been arrested a number of times by the police. When I go to class I am Professor Sandole. I am rational. I am logical, normal. I don't do porn, well maybe I do. Maybe I am a composite of many dimensions each of which corresponds to a different discipline that is studied as if it were the only discipline by specialists. There is no one at the top, the Renaissance man or woman saying well lets bring all of these disciplines together to figure out the underpinnings of anger, one may be constructive history socially constructed history, so you get that nurture bit in there. We have people who do either/or, the same applies to affect and cognition. We have the cognitive people, the psychologists and the affect, the physiologists. What about the person who will bring them together? What do we do when we intervene? Do we deal at all with the underlying affective levels which makes people angry, and when they become very angry, very threatened that overwhelms their cognitive level? They see what they feel. Seeing is feeling. Seeing is not believing for people who have a highly aroused, easily aroused, sense of affect. You see what you started?
Q: Well, how do you deal with that?
A: Well some people say let them tell their story. As simple as that sounds that may be one way to start that process, let people talk, let others hear. Let those that are hearing tell what they think they heard to validate the one who had a sense to get their voice heard, that may be part of it.