Activating Pacifists

Stockmann Process Event #I – Undercurrents of the Meeting
When the annual Hardanger Peace Symposium convened in the picturesque fjordside village of Jondal, the Institute for Non-toxic Propaganda served up an aperitif. 
The long weekend’s format was well-rehearsed – veterans of various guises of the peace movement would gather for fresh insight from a row of greying professors, a dash of politicians and a flock of the young and eager. The result was probably equally preprogrammed: we as individuals would emerge after three days with a head full of frightful facts. We perhaps would head home with rekindled outrage, we might have brushed into kindred souls.

Invited by the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom, our non-toxic contribution was a two stage workshop that framed the event as its very beginning and its utter end. The task of the workshop was to extract concrete, coordinated efforts that would supplement the purely informative nature of the symposium model.

Under the title ‘Peace is Movement’, stage one was an 1 1/2 hour gathering with 29 symposium participants who arrived the evening before. Wenche Dorethea Haukeland, our resident eurhythmy teacher, contributed an accessible physical interpretation of the workshop theme, and we were off and creatively stumbling. The desire was to counter the inherent paradox in a meeting of activists who are so often rendered passive by the microphone lecture powerpoint presentation format.
The strategy was to parallel an actor’s homework analysis to find playable actions that would deepen the significance of being there. I introduced the idea of conspirators seeking concrete accomplishments that could realistically be performed within our timeframe. This search would then provide a super-objective that would colour the ‘actors’’ motivation throughout the four days. This classic tool of an actor’s sub-text could unify the efforts of our band of ‘positive conspirators.’
The questions posed are less existential – eg.: What the devil is my motivation?;
and more based on a pursuable objective : What actions must I pursue in order to emerge with a satisfying grand finale?

Frankly, at the start we seemed far too great a number to form a convincing sub-group of behind the scenes fixniks. However, the very fact of addressing the issue of : ‘Is there a collective goal around which we could we wish to emerge from this gathering?’, enabled much valuable getting-to-the-point. To render this process visible, we hung a large roll of paper across the back wall of the meeting room. As the lectures unfolded, participants wrote and pasted up crystallizations of their concerns. On the evening on the second full day, a subcommittee edited and ordered the comments into issue based constellations that indicated avenues that called for concrete follow up.

After the final Monday afternoon dinner, a group of 15 diehards remained for our closing session. Within a succinct, focussed hour everyone had their primary concerns addressed and clear commitments were made as to how to concretely support each others projects. The creeping passivity that so easily invades the human forum, had been circumvented by a few deft strokes.  New constellations of working groups had emerged that would promote tangible action in the coming year.

Once again, faith in the process proved a decisive element.


About bembodavies

Theatre worker who long ago abandoned theatres, I remain adept at fabricating projects out of thin air. All proposals welcome.
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