Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
Topics: violence prevention, emotions, trauma healing, framing
Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2003
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Q: The first question that I ask everyone is: Can you give me a brief overview of your work?
A: To begin with I have over thirty years teaching. I started out with John Burton at the University of London, University College in 1971. I left Britain to come to George Mason University in 1980-81. ICAR was starting up as a center for conflict resolution. That was facilitated by John Burton, who introduced me to Dr. Brian Wedge, the first director and founder of what is now called ICAR. Here I am still in 2003. An overview of my work would include, an interest in figuring out why people slaughter each other, what the causes and conditions of violent conflicts are (particularly since the 1990s), violent ethnic conflicts, specifically the genocidal implosion of former Yugoslavia. I am interested in how could people that were inter-married, living in the same apartment block, who spoke the same language, and who were racially the same do the most horrific things to each other in the 1990s?
I am also concerned with once we figure out what causes people to be brutal toward each other how we can then respond to those causes and conditions. One response is the use of force earlier on, or not to do what we are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, but to do what should have been done in Rwanda in April of 1994 when it was clear that a genocidal blood bath was about to begin. According to Major General RomÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â©o Dallaire, the French Canadian general in charge of the lightly armed UN peacekeeping force that was already there to implement another accord, the Arusha Accords from a year earlier, told us all that this was coming. At that point it would have been appropriate to have an international robust peacemaking force go in. So my sense of how we might respond to violent conflict would include force to take the attacker off the victim, but once that is done to bring in other less lethal interventions.
Ron Fisher, Laureli Kieshley contingency approach to conflict intervention which suggests that intervention is really strategic, over time, multi-levels, multi-sectored, multi actors, and it involves different tasks. Hopefully the tasks are coordinated but that might also involve a little bit of force earlier on to prevent genocide. I have kind of gotten to that point in recent years, and I mention that because quite a few people in our field wouldn't countenance the use of force. They view using force as what the enemy does. In contrast to that, I am a great believer of having warm positive relations with the military, with police because both of those dimensions might be involved in different parts, different sequences and the overarching peace keeping strategy and mission. That is kind of where I am now within that two pronged view of the field. What causes violent conflicts of all levels, including between husbands and wives and between individuals? We must not forget that the US is the most violent nation in the industrialized world. I am not sure that has been adequately dealt with by our field. We don't really address that it seems to me, certainly not here at ICAR. The occasional student may figure out why a Columbine occurs when it occurs but basically there is no PhD dissertation, no MA thesis looking at violence in the United States.
I look at the causes of violent conflict in general, at all levels. I look at ways to deal with those causes so maybe we can prevent them, if not proactively then reactively. Respond over time to containing the fire if the house is on fire, then maybe putting the fire out, then dealing with the underlying causes of the fire, then dealing with the long term relations of the survivors to the fire so the next time they have a conflict they don't have to burn the house down, the neighborhood, the city, the region. That is where I am, causes and responses at all levels. I am motivated primarily by a keen sense by whatever human kind is, whatever human nature is that it does contain this darker side, not deterministically, but it certainly pops up often. Just look at the motion pictures we are getting these days, car explosions, car chases. Look at the American war in Iraq and the embedded journalists there; it was like a football game. No one is spending much time saying we probably incinerated from 5,000-10,000 Iraqis to free them. We haven't freed them that much because 60% of the Iraqi people that is Shiite wants to have a Islamic fundamentalist society that we are against. Here we are occupying Iraq on the basis of multiple lies. You know not even the Democrats are making the use of this to do something. So here we are the world's greatest nation. Thomas Jefferson is probably turning over in his grave. That to me is an example of violence of all kinds, structural, cultural, with physical and it is not being responded to, and I am very bothered by that. So that's part of my motivation for being in the field as a teacher, as a researcher, as a consultant, as a trainer, as an intervener.
Can you tell me little bit about the disconnect between cognitive intervention processes and effective conflict generators?
A: Yes, that is something I introduced to way back in Conflict 610, my research methods class. I thought you guys should know a little bit about that, not just to do effective research in the field, but letting you know that you to are part of the subject matter. Also I thought that it applies to all aspects of the field. Yes, I think most of us in the field tend not to make this connection between who we are psychologically which to say, perceptually, cognitively, and who we are in terms of underlying emotions. Somehow there is this thought that if only we could get to the parties through some kind of rational decision making process that we impose upon them, even through some Lederachy ??? process. We still impose upon them that everything will be ok at the end of the day. We seem to fail to realize that no matter how intelligent people are that the underlying emotions are perhaps reflected in historical memory, grounded in historical memory, grounded in ??? chosen trauma. No matter how intelligent they are, as there are 1000s of intelligent Israelis, intelligent Jews. For instance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mention to the Israelis the plight of the Palestinians, often times it is their head off a brick wall, quite often because of the underlying emotion that is basically a wall of resistance that is really, really hard to penetrate.
I don't think we spend too much time making that distinction between the intellectual, cognitive psychological perception on the one hand, and on the other hand the underlying emotion because underlying emotion is meant to be the nonrational, the irrational, that is almost biological, we don't want to touch that. We have more conflict ideology than we do conflict resolution objectivity, conflict resolution methodology that can grapple with all types of realities. We have more of a one-dimensional set of ideologies that says, "if only we could lay our hands on these people..." This is very American; it is a new form of missionarism. We are going to not bring Christianity we are going to bring peace, and the two are correlated of course. We are in many ways the new missionaries, and we don't want to know about resource methods. We don't even want to know about training. We just want to know about good intentions, and sometimes that is all it takes. We might be more part of the problem than we are the solution. Part of this is not recognizing that there is a disconnect between what we see, and that applies to us too, and what we feel. Quite often we see what we feel. This is the reason that I had you read Tom Kuhn, Structures of Scientific Revolutions, two scientists looking at the same thing. Why is it if there are two different people looking at the same thing and someone asks them the same question, and you can get two radically different answers. Or worse it may produce two competing sets of data that are experimentally collected to justify their perceptions. If that could apply to the high priests and priestesses of truth, what about Serbs and Croats and Russians and Chechnians, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, European Americans who are angry with each other. There is not too much on this disconnect on the contrast between the cognitive level and the emotional level.
The irony is as third parties we operate on the cognitive level. We sit down and talk to people who are talking. I don't know anybody that trains in terms of getting the talk to trickle down to the emotional level. Maybe some of those who do neuro-linguistic programming might argue that is what they are doing, or those who have a Buddhist orientation of third party intervention. Short-term training and indeed masters of science did not get you to much in the intra-psyche level of even a third party. You might get brutalized by going into a Kosovo or by going to a Rwanda as a member of the humanitarian intervention, seeing the death and destruction, and then you are expected to sit down and bring the parties to the table. How have you been trained to deal with that yourself? I dare say not to well. Then we are expected to do something miraculous for the parties and we say here at ICAR that we are concerned with deep-rooted conflict. If it is deep rooted and protracted that means something has traumatized the individuals and we may bring them together across the table first and not just through cognitive but the underlying affective bringing them to the table might not get us to far. That is what is wrong with the Middle Eastern peace process we are already bringing them to the table. We are not dealing with that sense of outrage that drives Hamas or that drives Sharon. Hamas and Sharon are both perpetrators of war crimes; unfortunately Americans only mention this with the regard to the Palestinians, although Secretary of State Collin Powell in Jordan did rebuke the Israelis for killing a Hamas leader saying it was impediment to peace. We in the United States,
as the third party, only assail and assault the Palestinians who are recipients of structural, cultural, and physical violence constantly, and then when they inflict it upon the Israelis, which is horrible, we only condemn them. That is ignoring the cognitive affective disconnect. Not just disconnect but connection. Unless we deal with the rage, the outrage then we are not going to do anything at the cognitive level, except force people at the point of the bayonet to have democracy, which is what I think we are doing in Iraq.
That actually brings me to my next question which is how do you think it is to explore the past with the parties?
A: I think it is absolutely essential to avoid being stuck in the past. One of things that we notice in the field is that when we sit down with parties who are historically embedded they tend to speak a lot about history and some of them have difficulty letting go of the dead hand of history. One of the reasons that they have difficulty letting go is because they have never had a chance to mourn their losses. They have never had a chance to hear from their perception the victimizer an apology. All they hear is comments from the opposition, the other party, that they themselves are the sources of new grievances of the former victimizer; that is what Palestinians are getting from the Israelis. The Israelis are just trying to defend themselves, they are just trying to etch out an existence, and these horrible Arabs and Palestinians most of whom are Muslim are preventing that from happening.
What about the other discourse? These people are not members of the state. They do not have American supplied Apache attack helicopters. They don't have American supplied F16 fighter jets. They don't have weapons except their own bodies. Then Islam which otherwise prohibits suicide, then says to do the jihad, to protect the uman, the Islamic community, you can use your own body if that is the only weapon you have left. That's one of the new major sources of terrorism, and in our war in Iraq I think is not dealing with that but making that worse. Many Arabs and Muslims will say well your crusaders were European and the United States is a euro-centric nation. The US fought with the British, one of the crusading nations 1,000 years ago, and they are still doing this. You have the clash of civilizations, because of a superficial real political paradigm, which ignores working with history and ignores dealing with the affective cognitive connection. We are making matters worse in this global war on terror. 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 agoÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?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?
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. That is one of the positive virtues, positive consequences of post-modernism that suggests that all voices should be heard that no one should be marginalized, started by people like Foucault and the French post-structural literary critique. In fact I think you should have to read that in French not just in English translation it is phenomenal stuff, it is a way to disconnect from your own paradigms temporarily I think. Other wise it is difficult to be both observer and observed. Who is Julian Portilla as observed by Julian? Who is Dennis Sandole, observed by Dennis Sandole? It is kind of hard to do that but I think with post-modernism you can kind of do the de-construction and all that, you can kind of get close to that. That might be easier if you speak French because it is a French language based genre of thinking. It is a way to disconnect from your own paradigms, which determine everything that it is that you are. Which is weird. If you disconnect then you are wondering around aimlessly. I think that what I am saying is that just like psychotherapists have to go through analysis themselves before they can become an effective intervener in the intra-psychic space of others. I think we, the third party, interveners in inter-group conflicts have to go through something with regard to ourselves to better appreciate that affect cognitive connection and disconnect.
Q: So what kind of processes then?
A: Well I think that this might be something that we do for each other. I remember years ago going through a training where all the trainees effectively acted as critiquers of each other, kind of getting close to that one that was conducted by Bill Lincoln about 21 years ago. We brought him out here when we first started. I think that there is some more thought that one requires. It is a bit like University teachers. They don't go through university teaching training. People who want to teach at the primary and secondary school levels have to get a degree and we don't. You no doubt have noticed this on occasion your professors are a mixed bag in terms of pedogcial ??? styles. Some of us are probably terrible, some of us are probably ok, but none of us have been trained with the exception of Dr. Mitchell who was once a high school teacher of history in England. The same thing applies to third party interveners, we are not trained we do it. And your labs are meant to get you a little bit close to that but they don't focus on you, they focus on them, the people who are involved in horrible conflicts.
We are never addressing the issue of who am I? Why am I in this field? Did I grow up in an abusive family? Did I grow up in a family where the police are breaking down the door every night to pull dad off of mom? Did I grow up in a family where dad wasn't there? Where mom wasn't there? Did I have a family? Was I ever in prison? Did I do something horrible? Was I in the war? Did I kill people? Am I trying to make up for something? We don't do this, yet we are supposed to do it with them. We will bring them together. The Greeks Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots Said, here we are there. How do we do this, merely cognitively? Each of them is aware of horrible atrocities that each has committed against the other. Where each has done something to the other and not just been a victim. They are not just going to say yea I know my people did these things. The German who says to the Jew, "yea we killed you." That is rare. The Turks still can't say that to the Armenians from 1915. They are unable to say it. If a Turk says it then he or she goes to prison, if not disappears. That is a NATO ally who is about to come into the EU, or start negotiations about entering into the EU.
How do you talk about the past and how do you deal with affective levels without getting into the "he said, she said," and this is what you did to me, I am the victim. This all leads to the cognitive blindness.
A: Where the emotion determines what you are saying. I think it might be quite a challenge to design processes where, I think Louis Diamond and ambassador John McDonald did in Cyprus from the Institute for Multi Track Diplomacy are the only ones I know of who train the parties separately and together and then bring them together to talk about the conflict. Most of us who do third party intervention don't do the training first. When you talk to ambassador McDonald and Dr. Diamond they do this so that they can have a common language, so that is not an issue. If anything the conflict resolution schools should help them get closer to dealing with the cognitive, affective connection and disconnect. Most of us don't do the training we just jump right in and start talking, including here. I am not aware of any one here that does the training first, nor do I. I don't do a lot of training in any case. Usually when I do a third party intervention I eak out three to five days and I go do it some place, ideally you should do what they do. Training the party requires time, funding, and infrastructure support. You train them first in conflict resolution and theory, handling concepts and skills separately talking about other conflicts never about theirs. Then you train them together still talking about different conflicts and then you bring them together with that first separate, and then joint training background. Finally, you talk about their conflict. I know of no one else who does this. I am sure there are but I don't know of them the field has become so huge. I am proud to say that I have sent them over 50 interns from here, including one who is now in charge of the interns, David Alfred.
Q: What does the word paradigm have to do with intractable conflict?
A: Well, the paradigm is from Kuhn's book the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I used it in the research methods class, where I think is the most appropriate place to introduce you to it because it concerns philosophy of science, it concerns the nature of knowledge and how we acquire knowledge and how we construct the knowledge. If you have a very emotionally charged paradigm which is the belief value system, what the Germans call Weltanschauung, very historically and emotionally embedded, the conflict may rest on the paradigm. The paradigm may be so incredibly and intimately defended emotionally. So long as the paradigm doesn't shift then the conflict will never get dealt with. This is what you have with the Israelis and Palestinians. You have intractable conflict because their paradigms are incredibly heavily intimately defended emotionally. That is what makes intervention there very hard to do.
So if you change the paradigm, change the conflict?
A: I think if you could induce some dissonance, which does happen when people hear each other talk. When I talk to one of our Israeli students who served in the Israeli armed forces working at the check points ???, was a party of the frustrations to the Palestinians who waited for 6 hours in the heat to cross a check point. Orlly says that the word occupation is rarely used in Israel. When Israelis think of Palestinians they don't think of them being occupied by them and they don't think of the fact of they are sitting on top of them at the bottom of a trash can. It is only when they go into the West Bank and Gaza when they see how these people are living and see what Sharon is doing to them. I mean he attacks people in market places with heavy weapons when Hamas and Islamic Jihad are using their bodies to do horrible things to innocent Israelis. Again the world sees the Israelis, America sees the Israelis, as our friends.
We all have Jewish friends, relatives, and neighbors. We don't have any Arabs friends, Arab neighbors, Arab Americans, except in Deer Port which has more Arabs then Kuwait does. I thought America was basically Italian, Hispanic, Irish, and Jewish. Well, we have had Arabs, such as Danny Thomas, Ralph Nader, and lots of Lebanese. Christians but Arab Americans, it is one of the worlds best kept secrets. You mean they have been here? We have had al Queda here all of this time. You wonder why these people are outraged. If you have a belief-value system, and if you share that belief-value system with a group then you have a paradigm. You have a political, cultural, ethnic paradigm. If that paradigm is very sensitive because of your sense of outrage, historical outrages that have been committed against you, like Armenian Americans. Armenia is in a Diaspora. If you mention Turk to them then you are pushing buttons that detonate 15-mega ton nuclear devices. Even when they get PhDs here like ???, god bless him but ??? has his days when it comes to the Turks, you know he is very sensitive, and he is one of the most likely to be able to sit down with them and work with them and all the rest. He got a PhD from ICAR after serving 30 years in the American army, serving two combat tours in Vietnam, watching people die horribly in his arms. His is still Armenian and he is still possessed by that paradigm, and it is his sense of outrage, A) because Ottoman Turkey did this to the Armenians who were citizens of the empire and B) present day Turks refuse to acknowledge it. You get a double edge sense of outrage. A) They did this to me. B) They don't even admit they did it. C) They are a member of NATO. D) They are negotiating entry in to the EU. How the heck can that be allowed?
A: So the conflict stays fixed as the Germans say ???. ??? is fixed, it doesn't move. It rigidifies, it becomes what Louis Diamond calls a "conflict habituated system." We get used to it and that's it. Northern Ireland may never change. The Middle East may never change despite what is happening now with the Road Map. You know what is needed in the Middle East? The Quartet, or the authors of the Road Map. They are from the UN, the Russian Federation, the European Union, and the United States. They have got to put together a very robust international coercive peace making force to separate the Israelis from the Palestinians, to prevent suicide bombings, take causalities, and to prevent the Israelis from attacking the Palestinians. Only then will they be able to have negotiation, without any terrorism and counter terrorism to work toward a viable Palestinian state and neighborly relations between both sides, and to join economic development and other projects, etc. Until that happens we are going to go back and forth in this zero-sum, none-zero, lose-lose, and action-reaction process which is what we have. No one is standing up to the plate to do that.
Again in part, I think what is wrong with these people? Well, they are angry and you can't really talk you can't really offer money, you have to deal with the underlying sense of grievances which applies to the Israeli-Jews as well who came out of the Holocaust. Now they are imposing their own victimhood on Palestinians and don't see that. They don't see it because they see what they feel. What they feel is I am at risk therefore I kill you. They don't see I am killing you and you are trying to defend yourself and are killing me, therefore we have a common problem here. They don't see that because the emotion is overwhelming the cognition.
Which is what I think you would call cognitive blindness.
A: Yeah, well also cognitive blindness is when you just don't have a concept you may not be outraged or angry you just your paradigm lacks a concept to see something.
Q: So break that down for me, what does that mean, cognitive blindness?
A: I just don't see something. Well if you say, Dennis you are an Israeli Jew and I am Palestinian don't you see that after 50 years of occupying my people, coming in, invading us who were occupied, attacking people in the market place with heavy weapons provided by the US. Don't you think that somebody might get angry? We should be angry we have been disposed, displaced, we are no longer in our homes, and because Israel is the creation of Europe. The dominant Jewish group in power is European Jewish, Ashkenazi from Poland from Russia, etc. You know invading the Middle East, that's ok you are coming back to where the Jews lived in great abundance 3,000 years ago. In the process you are displacing us and it is worse now, now you are doing it with the settlers in the place where we are supposed to be living under your occupation. Of course we are going to be frustrated. The Jewish person says, but you are Arab. You are Arab and the Israelis has to worry we are the minority in the region.
It is like the Protestants in Northern Ireland talking to the Catholics. We are the minority because you have got the Catholics in the South. The 26 counties of Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland has only 6 counties. From the Protestant point of view they are the minority and they give it to the Catholics in Northern Ireland, they have double minoritiness. Israeli Jews feel the same way. Based upon the Holocaust and that tremendous sense of historical outrage they don't see that they are doing the same thing to the Palestinians that has been done to them and that the Palestinians are not just normal Arabs who can go anywhere. If they were then there wouldn't be 4.5 million Palestinians living in refugees camps in other Arab countries. They would have been integrated.
Other Arabs don't like Palestinians. There is no homogenous Arab. They are very tribal. We even hear about Saddam Hussein from Tikrit, the city where he is from, it is very tribally based. You get these words in Arabic that refer to his tribe, his clan, we don't get that here. We are all American. You are either goodies or badies, democrats or commies, Catholic or Jewish. There are some subtle nuance differences between people amongst Arabs. The Israeli-Jews don't see that even within Israel you have Jews from 80+ countries, you have black Jews, Oriental Jews, Arab Jews. There is such a thing as a person who is both Arabic and Jewish. What is being Arab? You are from the Arab peninsula. If you look at the creation of Islam, there were Arab Jews fighting along side with Mohammad against other Arabs many of who converted to Islam. All those Jews in Iraq, in Egypt, in N Africa, they are Arab Jews whose first language is Arab. When you eat their Jewish food it is not rye bread and knishes, it is pita, and you know it is wonderful. It is not accident that being kosher is the same as hillel. Hillel is the Muslim version of kosher. I remember vividly living in London years ago in a very good friend/ student of mine was from Egypt and he used to go to a kosher butcher to buy his Muslim stuff whose dietary laws were the exact same.
So cognitive blindness?
A: You just lock a concept that would enable you to see something as somebody else sees it, like occupation. I don't see that they are occupied. I don't see that they are dispossessed. I don't see that they have any right to this land because they are Arabs and can go some place else.
Q: You have two parties that are blind toÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?
A: Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?each other.
Q: Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?to each other, to the injustices that they are imposing on each other?
A: I have actually talked to some Arabs and Palestinians, and when you mention the Holocaust to them it means nothing to them. So that would be a starter for many Jewish people. I mean, there are actually some Arabs, Palestinians, whether they are Christian or other wise who would sound disrespectful with regard to the Holocaust. It is almost as if it was contrived by Jews as part of the global Jewish conspiracy. Many Arabs talk about the Jewish global control of the media, etc. As you hear in anti-Semitic literature and read. Once I was approached by a Muslim woman in Malaysia, and she began saying, "Before the Jewish invasion of the middle eastÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?." I said, "the Jewish invasion?" "Well, yes, that is how Israel came about." This country was created by the Civil War, we know that, from 1861-1865. If you go to Mississippi it is not called the Civil War, it is called the War of Northern Aggression. Up here it is equal, there was a war between the states, the North and South. Down there the North attacked the South. The North pulverized the South. The North was the source of the carpet-baggers that still keeps that south in captivity to this day, etc, etc. So London, Derry Derry ? In N Ireland, which is it? It could get you killed with how you answer that question.
We lack a concept in terms of which we can offer sense of our opposition to the adversary. Not only can we not make sense to do them but we infuriate them with our, what I want to call epistemological innocence, which is a euphemism for ignorance. One of the reasons we preach on cultural sensitivity is to cut down on our epistemological innocence for conceptual, historical ignorance. We don't know how to talk to people who are outraged at us. We don't know what to say without making it worse. That is where a third party is supposed to be skilled and that is why we have to know about ourselves before we can walk in to that mine field and keep people from setting off the mine fields. So cognitive blindness is that people don't see something, not because they're stupid, not because they're outraged but because they lack a corresponding concept that would enable them to see the reality of occupation, the reality of cultural violence, the reality of structural violence, the reality of marginalization.
There are people in this country who are European American who do not see those terms with regard to affirmative action, as playing a role in why affirmative action is necessary. Maybe the way it has been implemented can be reviewed and improved upon, but the concept itself that people who have been structurally disenfranchised for 300 years should finally have a break to get through the door. They don't see that. They say, well, my people came here and had to bring themselves up by the boot straps. Why can't these other people do this? Why do they have to have Spanish speaking, bi-lingual education? I would say that was the language here before the Anglo Saxon Europeans came, the Spanish Europeans came before the English and many of these people are from Spanish speaking America were already in Colorado, California, New Mexico, that's is why we should let them speak their language. It should be co-equal. Like in Canada. It is not like Italians. The Italians weren't here the way these folks were, or the Irish or the Germans. A lot of people don't see that, they say why do we have all of the special education? Why do we have all of these special programs? People develop a dependency relationship, like the welfare queen. My people didn't access to this. They are not stupid. They are a little outraged. They are Republicans, and they don't want to be Democrats because Democrats are the ones that do this. That is an example of cognitive blindness, like the death penalty. People say that you have to kill people who kill people.
I can understand the outrage. Have you looked at the evidence; have you looked at the research? Are you aware of the fact that we could not become a member of the Council of Europe because we are the only Western state that still has capital punishment? The Europeans have gotten rid of it and they have lower levels of crime then we do. That should be a profound source of dissonance because many people here think that Europe has found a nice balance between a good life and the need for discipline.
So what happens when someone who is experiencing cognitive blindness encounters some evidence that contradicts the way that they see the world?
A: That's the creation of cognitive dissonance, they break down between a preferred set of perceptions and an actual reality that someone is forcing them to see which goes against the grain of their preferred view, their paradigm. Dissonance is experienced as anxiety. It is very uncomfortable feeling. It is like my world is coming apart at the seams; that's where the third party has to really be effective, if he or she or they are going to induce a sense of dissonance by bringing contrary evidence to bear upon the parties perceptions of each other. Then we the third party have got to be prepared for the transition from one paradigm to another. The transition, as it is always with the new transitioning states, is always a complicated time when you can have violence. Democratizing states are probably more violent when they were merely autocratic or communist. The journey, the transition, from one set of paradigms to another set can be very fraught with violent conflict and the third party has to be there to help facilitate that passage to reduce the intensity and frequency of opportunities for violence to be expressed from one side to the other. I think when you as a third party encourage conflicting parties to see each other in new ways you will be trespassing upon ethical concerns. You may make life very difficult for individuals amongst the parties and initially make the relationship between the parties' worse then it was. As has happened in the Middle East as soon as the Road Map was announced the conflict got worse in terms of intensity and frequency of violence between Palestinians who don't mind blowing themselves up and Israelis who don't mind come in with the helicopter gun ships, the targeted assassination that kill people that are merely walking by. Third parties have to be more effectively trained than they are I think. Not just a short term course which also means getting to know who we are as people, the third parties. So I think we canÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?
In other words better trained to deal with the anxiety that might come from ...
A: That might come from dissonance. That might come from our efforts to fill this cognitive blindness gaps if I don't see the people are occupied and I am a Jew in Israel and you the third party says have you ever thought about that these people are living like Jews were in the Warsaw ghetto in 1944-1945, that might make me feel very uncomfortable. I might get angry at you because you are the messenger. They might ask you to leave so you are no longer in as a third party, so how do you communicate that dissonance generating information? How do you bring it in?
Q: So there is resistance to that kind of dissonance?
A: Oh I think so because it insults who I am. I remember years ago, many years ago, Kevin Avruch, like 1987 we were talking about the Middle East and Kevin said if he were a radical Zionist Jew the last thing that I want is peace with the Palestinians. A lot of us said wow. That's weird, why. If you took away my conflict and my enemy I wouldn't know who I was. Part of who I am is based upon who I am not, and worse who was against to me. I know who I am because of the struggle I am involved in with others. This gets into ???, ???, the functions of social conflict that only through conflict between in groups and out groups do the members of each of the groups know who they are with the sense of a common enemy threatening all of us and our identities making us come close together which is what Americans are going through now because of 9/11. We are flying flags we are sending the troops off, it doesn't matter where they are going as long they are killing Arabs, and I am serious about that. This is one reason why we wouldn't go to N Korea other than the fact that they have nuclear weapons that they might use against us.
Saddam Hussein is bad, it has been proven, forget weapons of mass destruction, he has killed tens of thousands of his own people, Kurds, Shiias, and we are doing something nice, so why do these people hate us? The fact that all of them are Arabs, and the fact that many of them are Muslims is what makes Iraq an acceptable target of American aggression that is at a very superficial level. And that is how I am protecting who I am. If you were to say wait a second Sadaam had nothing to do with 9/11, he doesn't even have a connection with al-Queda. In fact al-Queda and Osama bin Laden have defined Sadaam as a heretic and a socialist. This is a guy who compares himself with Joseph Stalin, yea he is Muslim and sometimes he manipulates that but he is not fundamentalistic he is a bad guy for other reasons. The 60% who support Bush don't see that to call that in to question, and the democrats are not doing that because they don't want to lose more than they will, to call that into question is to lost bank. So there is the very non-linear gap between order and disorder that you read about in complexity theory it is not either or you can have both. It is very fragile co-existence between the forces making order and the forces making disorder. To avoid shaking up that balance we don't generate the dissonance in the Americans that are supportive of George Bush to the people that did 9/11 to us, Arabs. We are doing something good for them, the other ones. We are striking back at the bad ones we are liberating the good ones.
Thirdly, why don't they love us, they should love us now, those Iraqis. Now they are telling us they want an Islamic fundamentalist state because those Iraqis who we have liberated are the Shiia who were slaughtered by Sadaam, 60% of the population. We don't see all that we see Arabs have killed us, we are killing Arabs but other Arabs were liberated from bad Arabs so we have done good so lets go back to watching the worlds best model, Joe bachelor millionaire. Look at all of the new programs on TV, the fear factor. Talk about escapism. Escapism is motivated by a desire to avoid dissonance that might otherwise be experienced if you looked at yourself in the mirror critically, and looked at your own group, looked at your own government. We would rather not. It is summer time, I want to go to the grill, I want to build a bigger fence to protect myself ??? politic, George Bush is my man. The economy is in tatters, everyone is unemployed but hey we are at war, the nation is at risk. The color-coded alarm system just went from yellow to orange, we got the sniper, we got to go with the man, and I don't want to know anything else. That's what prevents blindness from being eroded. When you bring in information to fill that gap you might eliminate it but you might be a target yourself. Once you generate the dissonance that overwhelms the old paradigm making room for new paradigms then you do have a revolutionary experience.
The part is what the Palestinians and Israelis need by the way a revolution in how they see each other and how they see their relationship one requires a revolution there. It is not going to happen with anything that has happened thus far that's why I say we need to have someone separate them and then allow everything else to take place. Once you stop the violence that each could otherwise direct toward each other and that way you have dissonance and dissonance is overwhelming the old paradigm. That's very messy, very painful but you have got people armed in the middle and very few of us want to play that role in our community. We are going to have people come with machine guns, yea I am afraid so. To prevent suicide bombing and Israeli counter attacks, then you fill the blindness with the opposite site.
Given all of this information what advice would you give to a new coming practitioner getting involved with this kind of work?
A: I would say that he or she should figure out who they are without being too painful. Reading a book like Tom Kuhn, Structures of Scientific Revolutions, reading some books on post-modernism, reading some books on psychology, just to get at who they are. To figure out what their own beliefs and values are. I would say also figuring out the cultural differences amongst people in the world and exploring religious differences. It is not race that destroys America; it is culture. Even in the ghetto, they have a culture. It is not black vs. white or black vs. brown or brown vs. yellow. It's culture. It's culturally based paradigms. It is the fact that I don't like the way their food smells, that's not race, that's a stereotype based on how they live. Usually people who come to ICAR are already half way there, they already have an appreciation for those things, but I don't know if they have if they have appreciation for who they are as individuals. We have more of an appreciation then others, maybe more so then engineering students or law students, but we don't have an appreciation for who I am. Who are you Dennis? That's a long story. I was a marine. I was a cop. I carried a gun. I used it on occasion.
Q: Any advice?
A: Watch the BBC news, everyday.
A: Oh yea.
A: It reports on parts of the world that American news rarely touches. On the BBC news I see Sierra Leone, I see Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I see parts of South America. I see the horrors that are going on out there that we are not paying attention to for reasons of preventing dissonance. How can we be so good if in fact we are allowing most of the world to go down the tubes? Which by the way is not even merely ethical or unethical and immoral it is impractical. It is in our best interest to make sure the rest of the world is in good shape for a variety of reasons. Then we don't have 10,000s of illegal immigrants. I remember years ago people saying how would you deal with the people from Mexico coming across the Rio Grande? Would you have more troops on the TX side? I said no. I would invest in the economy. Mexico has oil. The Germans built a Volkswagen plant there which there about to close because the beetle is not selling to well. Invest in the Mexican economy. Invest in the economies of all of the Latin American countries. Get the Argentineans and the Brazilians to do likewise, and that way you can deal with illegal migration and immigration.
Across borders people are suffering. Being caught in containers in the 115 degree temperature and suffocating as they are being brought across, all that can be prevented. Organized crime plays a role and it could all be cut down by investing in their economies. That's where I am coming from. That's what I would tell my third party candidates that it's not just what you do across all levels, including social, political and economic change. We don't just get people to agree to be nice to each other, having them then go home to the ghetto, that doesn't do much. In fact you might put them at risk, they have to go home to their parents, wives, neighbors, and say they're not so bad after allÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â? Traitor. The Israeli and Palestinians who come home and says that those guys aren't so bad, those guys are the first one killed by their own side. One example of this is Rabin, who was killed by an Israeli zealot settler, a bible student, who felt that the occupied area were Judea-Sumeria and part of ancient Israel that the Old Testament gives Jews the right to have. The African American comes home and says I just met some white boys and they are great. He may be knee capped by their own brothers. That's something else we don't spend that much time on, the ethical part of reentry. Sending people back home after we have intervened with them and they have learned all of this stuff from us but they go back home and we have not brought any change. This is sort of a cheap criticism because there is very little I can do to bring about social change as a one-person third party but it is something we should be aware of. We send people back to unchanged structurally, violent social political economic conditions so we have got to think about that one and somehow work on that.
It is not just bringing people together. If you bring them together and don't do the other stuff then you might be sending them back into harms way. Know yourself. Get a big picture, its not just across the table. Appreciate the disconnect between the affective and cognitive levels. Understand that to bring about closure of that gap between the affective and the cognitive levels you may have to generate dissonance on the part of the parties and you have to know what to do when you do that. These are sort of generate dissonances to let them tell their stories to each other while the rest keep quite and the ask the rest what they think they heard. Then you have to figure out what to do when people start feeling uncomfortable with the fact that they have met a nice Jew or a nice Palestinian because when you read text on how Israelis view Palestinians, they are animals. If you read text on how the Palestinians view the Israelis, they are animals. If you go to Cyprus the Greeks view the Turks as animals and vice versa. How do you change that? A lot of it is not just perceptual but it is also structural. I was at a conference at USIP where both the Irish and Israeli-Palestinian delegate said less then 5% of our people go to school together, as it is in Cyprus. The textbooks back all of that up, that the other side is the demon. You need structural change as well as perceptual paradigmatic change. Now that is chicken-egg argument. Again Louis Diamond and John MacDonald have a lot of insight they talk about multiple tracks. You have track 1, 2 up to 9. They talk about social, political, economic peace building. These are concepts that are kind of hard to know how to implement concepts in reality, but at least we can start thinking about it.