Create a human sculpture that shows what violence is.
That was our assignment. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was leading a introductory training event to their theory and practice for a number of representatives of nongovernmental organizations in the United Nations community.
They divided the participants into two groups and gave each group five minutes to imagine and design a human sculpture showing what violence is. The instructions noted that we should be able to hold the positions in the sculpture for three minutes so the other group could ponder what we had created.
Our group caucused and planned quickly and decided to go with the theme of the utter devastation that violence wreaks – taking a brutal, deadly toll on all who are involved.
Roles were assigned – several people were to be dead with various twists: two died locked in an embrace of death; others died with their “weapons” (fingers made into a pistol) still firmly held and pointed at each other.
One tableau of two involved a person in the act of finishing off someone who was not yet dead.
One person knelt in prayer – grieving the dead – invoking intervention.
And the final person assumed a position of flight – as a carrion bird poised about the carnage –
representing those who feast on the violence that consumes others.
For some reason, it took my group about point two seconds to cast me as the carrion bird.
We created the sculpture and our colleagues in the other group were asked to observe us, study us, and determine what was happening.
The first observation centered on my “menacing grin.” From that point they did a pretty good job of analyzing our “art.” They did think I was a drone plane – but they got most everything else pretty close to right.
The trainers then invited the other group to make three changes in our statue that would transform the situation.
Their first step was to have me put down my arms – “clipping my wings.” They then moved to the section where one of our members was engaged in violence against another and separated them. Finally, they removed the “guns” from the situation.
We then talked together. That’s when I pointed out that I was not a drone – but a carrion bird (c’mon, have you ever seen a drone with a grin of any sort let alone a menacing one?). Upon learning that, one of the other group members said, “So we clipped the wings of those who feast on violence.” And there was a moment of silence as those words sunk in.
Therein lies essential peacemaking work: figuring out who feasts on – who profits from – violence. Armament makers? Arms traders? Transnationals? Those who obtain the resources in the conflict area? No doubt it is different people and groups in different situations. But always there is someone – there are someones. Who are they? How can we restrict or cut off their profits, and thereby diminish violence. Those are questions I will continue to ponder.
See you along the Trail.