I originally blogged this on Osocio.org here and wanted to add a little more about what it means to create a shared future with people that ultimately see each other as enemies. here is my original post, followed by some more thoughts.
Free For The Weekend? Israel-Loves-Iran Campagn
In the field of peacebuilding there is something called an “envisioned shared future.” It is when the opposing sides in any conflict stop for a minute and think. It’s a ceasefire of the mind, if you will. In the field of social advertising, few things show this better than two recent posters from the Israel-Loves-Iran campaign. Fellow blogger and creative mastermind Marc Van Gurp originally posted about this wonderfully positive campaign here and is worth a second and third look.
more after the break
The posters call to action is for viewers to use their moral imagination and envision peace. To imagine a time when one will travel from Tel Aviv to Tehran or from Gaza to Tel Aviv without flying thru many other airports and additional passports in hand. Not only inspirational but aspirational, these posters push viewers to look beyond the obstacles to peace and find opportunities. Next time, I hope I will see you all at Ben Gurion Airport standing in line waiting to board the first airplane bound for Tehran… get your passports ready.
A quick update on how the campaign is going… the Facebook page now has over 90,000 likes and in October 2012, the creators, Ronny Edry and Machil Tamir have begun the official established “The Peace Factory.” From the website it is “A non profit, non political organization promoting peace in the middle east by making connection between people, opening new communication line, making people get to know each other, re-humanize people from “the other side”. Iranians, Palestinians, Israelis, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese,Turkish, Jordanians and more.”
By using this type of storytelling for conflict resolution and peacebuilding, the creators allow many narratives to be heard. The Israel-Loves-Iran facebook page is daily updated with images depicting regular people from Israel and Iran saying “I love you” ” This is not my war” etc. These powerful statements created by actors in the conflict fuel an unfolding “emergent peace endstory.”
Sadly, in conflicts like those of Israel and Palestine and the various proxy wars with Iran and others defending Palestine or Israel, one characteristic is true, they are fragmented societies. That is to say that there are few cohesive conflict narratives that abound or are held by any one majority. In such contexts there is a deep need for people to rally around an idea such as the campaign above does.
The emergent peace end-story allow for shared space and time to nudge thru other conflict narratives. This is to say it begins to paint the picture of what peace will look like when we actually have it. While a shared history is always taken into consideration it never determines the outcome. These stories can happen as Peace Factory is doing above, or thru portals such as experiential storytelling which allows participants to engage in multi-platform experience through technology or face to face such as text, Twitter, movie, audio, video dialog groups, co-mapping, alternative reality games or personalized storytelling, which are adaptive and in real time.
This exercise of imagining a different future may see futile at first as it has little to do with changing policy or immediately influencing decision makers and political actors. However it is based on sound theory of change. Because, when allowed to imagine a shared future, one needs to re-humanize the enemy and once again give the enemy a time and a place in the future. The conflict narrative often seeks to disappear the enemy. This can happen thru cultural, structural or real physical violence.
Cultural Violence, erases cultural products such as songs, language, clothing, monuments and history. Structural violence keeps “others” out of a shared “space” and “time” so walls are built, fences come up, roads are not constructed, trains do not run, jobs are not offered etc. And physical violence looks more like military-ethnic occupation, refugees and IDP’s and no man’s land. Sadly in the last 100 years we have also see the worst like ethnic cleansing, civil war or genocide. All seek to eliminate the enemy from tomorrow.
Developing a shared future begins the first stages of problem solving. It takes “isolation” off the table. It allows for cultural fusion or assimilation to occur. It does let anyone be more “pure” more human, more privileged than the other. In the end it makes the actors in a conflict have to consider that the enemy is here to stay and the only way thru the conflict is together.