Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anti-Slavery Campaign Interview Series. Barry Hart

Insights from the Light

Barry Hart is a professor of Trauma, Identity and Conflict Studies in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. He is the Academic Director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and from 1997-2010, held the same position in the Caux Scholars Program, Caux, Switzerland. Dr. Hart has conducted workshops on trauma healing and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Burundi and among Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. Hart has lived and worked in the Balkans where he developed and led trauma and conflict transformation programs for schools, communities and religious leaders. Barry was engaged in a three year peacebuilding institute and curriculum development project between EMU and the University of Hargeisa in Somaliland (2008-2011). He holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR), George Mason University. He is editor of the book "Peacebuilding in Traumatized Societies" (University Press of America, 2008)

Yago: What do you understand by "modern" slavery? What is the tangible and intangible in modern-slavery? What are the intangible forces that keep perpetuating slavery in today’s society? Can be modern-slavery understood as a systemic expression of the traumatic (unhealed) dimension of today’s world? 

Barry: Is there such a thing as “modern” slavery? There is nothing “modern” in the thinking or actions of people who enslaves someone/a people physically and/or emotionally. Slavery has historically disregarded the interconnection and interdependence of humanity and humans with their environment. This human connection is ‘sacred,’ and when broken leads to dishonoured relational dignity and the enslavement of both victim and perpetrator; and allows the cycle of violence to continue. Of course, modernity has expanded the concept and practice of slavery.

The ancient forms still exist as human trafficking, forced labour and sexual enslavement, but also in the multiple addictions individual experience through drugs, gambling, sex, need for various forms of destructive power, etc. We can also be enslaved by systems that cause poverty and inequality among its members—be it in a family, chiefdom, or political system.
Either forcibly removing someone or group from the safety of their environment to ‘sell’ them to others, or doing what is unjust to them through violent governance or other structures over time, is both traumatic and unjust—it is a violation of human needs and ontological relational meaning and practice. These traumatic events—immediate or long-term—have a profound impact on the identities and worldviews of individuals and groups. Life is not safe or predictable any longer, nor is it for many worth living. That which caused this pain, confusion and sense of hopelessness needs to be addressed to both reverse the situation, and to transform it.  

Vamik Volkan
Yago: Can be understood modern slavery as the result of the incapacity to “manage a painful memory” (traumatized self-images are passed down to later generations unresolved, Volkan)? Is modern-slavery an unresolved internalized oppression from the slavery time?

Barry: Again, I don’t think slavery or slavery thinking and actions every stopped. It may be that unresolved internalized oppression that was never healed manifests in a cycle of violence where the once enslaved person or group now becomes ‘enslaver.’ Until the human bond that was broken by the acts of humiliating and enslaving others is restored, there must be painful unresolved memory. How this memory is dealt with is critical. Managing it may not transform it, but can be a starting point in the long process of an individual or group constructively integrating this memory and claiming life in a new and vibrant way.

Yago: What is the major contribution of your book “Peacebuilding in Traumatized Societies” as we deal with today’s slavery?

Barry: Understandings presented on humiliation and shame, identity manipulation and leadership from the ‘light,’ not the shadows. Also, that there is a process of transformation that will happen after analysis and strategic planning and interventions take place. Slavery is the result of lack of understanding, analysis and will (especially political will) to provide the space and information for the conscientization of individuals and groups regarding their reality—relationally, culturally and structurally. Without conscientization and skills/tools for change, change will not happen.  

Yago: What kind of strategy (anti-slavery Campaign) will be the most efficient and holistic to deal with today’s slavery? 

Barry: How we come to know our world and ourselves needs constant expansion. Education at all levels, especially in schools will help us understand and act against slavery in the world—again all forms of slavery. If children and youth take on slavery, things will change!

Yago: Can you explain the Peacebuilding wheel, especially the “values” that inflate the tire? Can it be practical in dealing with today’s slavery? 

Barry: Values are what undergird our involvement in other’s pain (and joy!). Values come from our religious traditions, and from the fact that we are linked unconsciously to each other and our environment—socially, culturally and physically. Once we come to realize this linkage, we must decide for what is good and just and act to change relationships and structures that are not. Or, we choose to not act and “standby” as violence in its many forms continues its destruction. If the latter, slavery in its many manifestations continues, if the former, it is challenged and stopped.  

Yago: What kind of leadership (the art of leading) is required to deal efficiently with modern slavery implementing your strategy? Could you explain in detail what means to lead from the shadow and to lead from the light? Is there any connection between the light and the shadow related with the intangible dimension of today’s slavery? 

Barry: Leading from the shadows means leadership based on fear, desire for power or wanting to maintain the status quo. It is not dynamic/progressive leadership that encourages dynamic/progress followership. Moreover, leading from the light includes the dynamic of love for others and self-love in the most creative and positive sense. In Christianity (and other religions may say this as well), it is also about the God of Love, and loving God with our whole being. When love of God, others and self are in harmony, light shines on things like slavery and exposes it as love’s opposite. It is evil, not allowing victim or perpetrator to ‘live’ in a way that honors creation and interconnectedness with all that is and will be.  

Yago: How modern slavery keeps perpetuating itself through structural violence? What is the role of patriarchal systems? 

Barry: I’m more comfortable with a “leadership-followership” model, not a patriarchal one that is usually hierarchical and fear-based. Patriarchal systems may have a place in our societies, if there is great benevolence, but this is rarely the case.

Yago: In your book is developed the terms of mimetic structures of violence and the mimetic structures of blessing? Can you develop this terms applying to modern slavery? Meta-ethical framework of blessing?

Rene Girard
Barry: The concept of mimetic structures of violence according to Rene Girard, a French philosopher, and theologian/peacebuilder Vern Redekop, has it origin in the tension between the mimetic desire (or imitation of the desires of another for an object) and mimetic rivalry, "in which the two parties each desire what the other has or desires." This rivalry causes self-identification of individuals (or groups) to be described "mimetically," and this rivalry can intensify leading to multiple types of conflicts.   
Vern Redekop
These mimetic conflicts according to Redekop, can generate crises that lead to scapegoating, i.e., where two or more people are reconciled at the expense of a third party who appears guilty for whatever disturbs or frightens the scapegoaters. In a larger context, mimetic conflicts lead to scapegoating where the violence of the community is projected onto a scapegoat and there is temporary unity as people united around the same, now common “enemy.”
Which I are We?
The dynamics of mimetic rivalries and the particular satisfiers to identity needs that result, can, according to Redekop, “develop into hegemonic structures in which certain groups emerge as systematically dominating other groups.” This leads to an “ontological rift” that takes place between people caught in these systems or structures of violence, where they take on identities of trauma or glory related to their place in a hierarchical structure; and where “identity is continues to be worked out in relation to one’s ‘Other’.”
The unfortunate outcome of this type of structure is a hegemonic system made up of people with power and those without; and in the worst case scenario involves the enslavement of one group by another. It is only when just structures of governance and economics are in place and space is given for historical and current trauma to be addressed and a healing process begun, will all members of society have the opportunity to live freely and equally—where dignity is honoured and power is shared. In this context slavery is impossible.

Yago: Could you share your vision of the role of religious peacebuilding in traumatized societies (in the face of today’s slavery)? 

Barry: It seems essential that peacebuilders who work in traumatized societies need to deeply reflect on their religious calling as well as their gifts, skills and sources of resilience for such work. Maybe we are called to peacebuilding, maybe not—we need to know this before fully engaging. If called and equipped, then one’s role becomes clear as one learns to reflect on the conflict with local actors, analyse it with them and together develop ‘doable’ intervention plans. Today’s slavery obviously has no place in the peacebuilding process—religious peacebuilding or more secular approaches to building peace. And as noted earlier, this includes slavery of all types, since to enslave or be enslaved denies relational dignity and justice.

Yago: What is secondary trauma? How can the religious become resilient in the middle of conflict? What insights are we gaining from the last discoveries in the field of Neurobiology? 

Daniel Siegel
Barry: If as psychologist Daniel Siegel says, “We are born to bond,” or in other words we begin our existence neurologically connected and interdependent, then we are vulnerable to the experience of each other’s pain (and joy and a range of other emotions). Our connection to and care for others allows the trauma of one person to be transferred to another. Though more complex than this, neuroscience and real world experience show us that this transfer takes place, causing similar symptoms of traumatic stress in the care giver , for example, to that of the primary victim of trauma.

Yago: To live with unresolved trauma can make us (religious) to be indifferent towards the suffering of others. Can you explain that (by-standards)?

Barry: Other people’s trauma can cause us stress by consciously or unconsciously reminding us of our own unhealed trauma (which may have occurred recently or very early in childhood). As religious persons, we may know quite a bite about theology, but not psychology or our own psychological issues. It therefore may be necessary to explore our psychological histories and merge them with our theological understandings to better reflect on why we should engage other’s trauma or why we are unable to do so. 

Yago: Playing our role to transcendence, arts approach to peace. What is the role of art as a way of making the intangible (hidden and subconscious dimension of modern slavery in a person) to be tangible?

Barry: Art engages different parts of the brain than analytical thinking—and it usually engages the body in unique ways. If we can’t speak about the trauma, we may be able to draw it or act/dance/ sing it out. Or if enslaved by one or multiple addictions art allows for a more creative means of expression than words alone. 

Yago: What is your contribution towards the strategic vision of this blog: "Breathing Fogiveness. Embracing the Giant Wound (today's slavery) in the Naked Now"?

Barry: The answer to your question is in the question: If we cultivate compassion for ourselves and others and if we understand forgiveness within its cultural/religious/social framework, and discipline ourselves according to the advice of the Talmudic saying: If I have not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself only, what am I? If not now, when? – then we will see through the injustices in the world, e.g., 21 million persons enslaved, and transform our thinking and structures to prevent such things from happening again. At least, we will be compelled to work toward this goal.

Yago: Thanks a lot for your contribution to this Blog!

Barry: Thanks to you!