27 April 2011

Things I Like: Imagining a World Without Atrocities

This is the fourth post in my weekly series Things I Like.  Last week I featured the Center for Global Development.  You can follow the series by going here.
What would the world look like without genocide or crimes against humanity?  A forward thinking question that 3Generations has put forward to 14 change makers, celebrities, reporters, and activists; in a set of short videos that they have produced to get people to imagine progress and success. Interviews include: Peter Gabriel; Carolyn Forche; Alex Stark; Rachel Lloyd; Scilla Elworthy; James Smith; Freddy Mutanguha; Stephen Smith; Brian Steidle; Jerry Fowler; Ann Curry; Kathy Freston; John Prendergast; and Luis Moreno Ocampo.
If we don't have a vision of a better future can we really create one? Leaders as diverse as The Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King have shown us the need for vision to build a path to lasting peace and progress.

Yet since the Holocaust and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, civil society has promised "never again" and still genocide and appalling atrocities have continued into the 21st century. We don't have a vision for how to build a world free from atrocity.

We need one.
I am a fan of this project because it aims to look forward to imagine the end result.  I think we often miss this even while working towards it.  All our time should not be spent imaging the future, but some should.  This does that with various individual perspectives. 

Lina Srivastava took part in the making of the project and kindly agreed to answer my questions.  She has published a manifesto as well that is well worth reading. Be sure to read the comments as James BonTempo makes a strong case for why "otherness" is necessary for achieving connectedness.

AVFTC: How are you involved in the project.
LS: I'm the strategist for 3Generations. I've been involved with the organization for about three years, since its initial start-up phase. In one of our brainstorming sessions early on, Jane Wells, the organization's Founder, and I came up with an idea about how to use narrative in creating a vision for the movement. Jane had just been to see the Dalai Lama, who had talked about the importance of creating a vision around a better world in order to actualize one. We started working on collecting stories and thoughts that would start building a vision, and when we were ready to launch the first phase of the project, I came in as project co-lead with Jane.
AVFTC: The project takes the stance of imagining the world without genocide. Most often, we are asked think of how to save/improve the world. Why start from the end point?
LS: Early on in the project, one of our colleagues had made the analogy that if a doctor is constantly doing emergency triage, it would be hard to concentrate on preventive care. In the same way, if we as a community are focused on immediate crises or on remediation, it's hard to pick up our collective head to see the path to solutions. We aren't saying the work of helping or saving isn't important-- instead, it's crucial. But the theory of this project is that if you don't have a vision for the end point, it's harder to work towards one. We're trying to see if we as a global community of activists can come of with a map, a vision, for how we get there. Imagining the world without atrocity makes it easier to design one.
AVFTC: Is a world with out genocide or atrocities actually possible?
LS: I'm not sure. We're always going to have conflict-- it's in our nature. And I think we're always going to have war, regrettable as that is. But I think there is a way to reduce the occurrence of atrocities, particularly today when we are so connected through communication and media and can know almost instantaneously when a community is in trouble or need. I also think there are ways to detect patterns and warning signs for when an atrocity is about to occur-- though our legal and institutional structures haven't caught up yet to respond. We have a lot of work to do, but I do think it's possible to create a global cultural shift towards a world that doesn't in the future support genocide or crimes against humanity.
AVFTC: Why did you decide to go with leaders, activists and celebrities only and not include 'ordinary' people?
LS: We initially wanted people on the front lines of activism and deep experience in dealing with these issues-- the deeper the experience, the richer the dream, perhaps? But we're not excluding "ordinary" people or lay people-- we're hoping to build the project to the point where we have contributions and participation from a number of communities around the world. We're hoping to amass a number of vision statements over the coming months to create a shared, global vision.
AVFTC: If someone only has time to see one of the videos, which one cannot be missed?
LS: I can't choose between them! They all offer different angles of building a vision.
AVFTC: How can you interview Peter Gabriel and not make him sing?
LS: He was so gracious to give Jane his time and thoughts-- I think his words sing. (But it would have been beautiful, yes. Maybe he'll indulge us next time.)