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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just a Quick Note

by @ 9:23 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

I was watching a PBS program tonight about farming and plants.  There was talk about how pesticides and genetically altered foods are changing our earth.  They talked about how we are killing off species of bugs so we can have more russet potatoes because that is what McDonald’s wants worldwide for their fries.  Are french fries really worth changing entire eco-systems?  What happens when the other animals who do benefit us, die off because they lived on the bugs we killed off?

I then started thinking about my latest ventures in my quest to live my life nonviolently.   I wondered for a few minutes how nice it must be for people who just don’t care about the environment, or providing healthcare to everyone, or making sure all kids are safe in their classrooms.  I then wonder exactly who these people are and what needs are met for them with their 40,000.00 thousand dollar weekends at fabulous resorts,  or even those people in the Toyota driving on front of me on the highway while throwing the McDonalds bags out the windows, or the mother I see in the grocery store loading up her cart with sugar filled sodas while her kids are obviously past overweight and venturing into dangerous health territory  if something doesn’t change for them.  I do think it must be so nice not to care or at best not be moved inside by these things.  They say ignorance is bliss and I guess that must be true because it seems to be working for so many people.

It must also be nice not to care about living extremely extravagant lifestyles while knowing somewhere in the back of your mind that over one million people on the planet right now are starving to death.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should live without comforts. I do believe we should try to live within a means that meets our humans needs, lets us be comfortable without the type of greed that takes millions in bonuses off the people whose homes you foreclosed on the week before while entire villages are dying off to simple diseases that could be cured with a $10 mosquito net.   I guess there must be some sort of entitlement I don’t understand that allows people to sleep at night, not caring about this.  I am baffled but envious at the same time.

I was thinking today that I have a few friends who are about to have babies right now.   In another 18 years or so, what will the earth look like for those children?  What will we have left them and what values will they have?   Will these be the kids we taught to take billion dollar bonuses while thousands lose their homes?  Will these be the kids who grow, package and sell products known to kill most of the people who smoke use them?   What is the legacy we will leave them? What are we teaching them?

I realized after thinking about what kind of a world I want to leave my nieces and nephews that I do what I do for a reason. While there is some part of me that is jealous of those people that don’t care about what is really happening in the world, I am also grateful I am not one of them.  I also realize fully that the idea that there is an “us” and a “them” is a myth.  We are “them”!!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Contagious Love Experiment

by @ 9:22 pm. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

I want to point you to this website called Contagious Love Experiment.  I started reading it earlier this week and I am just impressed and inspired by the stuff I am reading there.  The blog is run by two guys named Josh Stieber and Conor Curran who are former American Military members and Iraqi War vets who have taken a message of peace across the country on bikes. Their stories are inspiring and humbling to read. There is much to be learned from their experiences and the message they have to share is very much in line with all I believe and teach others.  I am not sure if these guys know it, but they are living the consciousness of Marshall Rosenberg’s process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), but I think that might be a separate article for me to write.

Josh left the army using the military’s conscientious objection status after feeling ashamed of what he was part while in Iraq. He needed to have his life more in tune with the belief in the golden rule he was taught as a child. He writes:

“I had grown up hearing ideas like “love your enemies”, “return evil with good”, and “judge not lest you be judged”. But I treated these sayings that the central figure of my religion taught as if they were just nice sounding lines, but not practical. But slowly, my excuses started to fade away. I learned that the military trains people to hate and dehumanize entire people groups, not showing sadness for the difficult task of “removing evil”. I learned that the Iraqis weren’t waiting for us with open arms, men, women, and children from the town we were in protested our presence. I learned innocent people die. I learned that it doesn’t matter what uniform you have on, it’s about what’s inside. And sadly, the military tries to rob you of what’s inside and the result is people treating killing like a joke and showing little care for human life.”

What inspired me about this story is not what truth he shares with us about what has happen, it is what he has done with what he has learned.  He continues:

“As I waited until April of 09 for final approval, my plan of spite, of throwing the money back in the government’s face evolved into the walk I’m on now. If I am saying no to war, I want to find out what to say yes to. I want to take a negative and invest it into a positive. In a country where war is preached from the churches, I want to do a little to remember the man who those churches are built for, the man who visited the orphans, served the poor, clothed the naked, fed the hungry… and loved. So that’s what I’ve set out to do and I hope that that love is contagious.”

Fellow Iraqi Vet, Conor Curran joined Josh in August of 2009 after two tours in Iraq.  Conor writes:

“I served two twos in Iraq, my first I spent clearing roadside bombs with a route clearance team between Fallujah and Ramadi. My next tour I spent attached to a company of infantry working out of the city of Ramadi. During my tours I prided myself on being able to fulfill my orders quickly and well, and in doing so I rose up the rank structure quickly, becoming a Sergeant in about three years. I saw and heard many things in the war which disgust me now, but I dismissed them as a simple and necessary part of the military machine which treated a good, motivated Marine like me well, so I shrugged them off. I knew that I would not re-enlist after my four years, and with that thought, I held myself above most other Marines and placed the blame of what I had seen and some of the things I had done on the shoulders of the men who would stay in.”

He goes on to explain how his life was transformed when he realized that while humans are capable of horrible things, they are also capable of beauty and love.  He writes in his story:

“After this realization I decided to stop looking at people thinking of the negative things they’re possible of, and to simply see them as fellow beings. When I did that, I began to feel the anger in my life slip away.  Happiness began to fill the voids in my life, and a spring crept into my step. The people I encountered seemed to change their attitude as well, everyone seemed to become more kind and receptive. Upon seeing this the wheels in my head began to churn. Did all of the worlds problems stem from a lack of kindness, a lack of love? When people weren’t faced with a judgment, were they now free to be anything they wanting instead of the negative person I had been judging them as? As these questions bounced around in my head, I decided not only would I try to not judge the people I meet. Instead, I would try to love them and see what happens. As I began this new exercise in love, I found my life transformed and refreshed, and the people in my life seemed to be changed and renewed as well. Was love contagious, could it change the world? As each day went on I became more and more convinced that the answers to these questions are yes, and finally the truth hit me, yes, love IS the only way to change the world.”

I would request you head over to the blog and especially read the “about” page where they tell their stories.  I would also recommend you read this article here where Conor tells about the day he decided to leave the military as the old man and the tea in that story reminded me why I do the work I do and what kind of person I want to be.  You can also watch the video below.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Film: End of Poverty?

by @ 3:27 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, hate speech, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence

This film looks to be another of those films where those who need to see it….won’t….as is usually the case.

While we stand and squabble about letting gays marry or stopping loving couples from seeing each other in the hospital….spending millions of dollars to protect an institution that 80% of the world may starve before they ever see, I can’t help but wonder if the energy is being spent protecting the wrong things.  Stop fighting gay people and start feeding those who are starving….

Those who fought to pass Prop 8 spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns and distortions that could  have built schools, bought mosquito nets or fed the homeless.   As we approach the next round of anti-gay campaigns, I wonder how much money will be wasted trying to stop people like me and my partner Rick from being married.  That same money could be used to fund music programs in inner-city schools.  It could be used to develop after school programs that help keep kids out of the reach of gang violence.

I would ask the anti-gays of the world….stop fighting gays and start working on the real issues that threaten our society as humans.   Your efforts to “save” marriage are bunk if we have no planet to get married on…..

Stop fighting Gay people and start feeding these people:

poverty1.jpg homeless-streets.jpg

Additional Facts:

20% of the population of the planet uses 80% of the resources and 30% more than the planet can regenerate.

over 50% of the grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or biofuels

of the 7 billion people on the planet, over 1 million are starving with no access to food

Surviving the Holidays: Navigating Family Conflict

by @ 10:48 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

This 2-day workshop scheduled for December 12 & 13, 2009 is being sponsored by Community Mediation, Inc. in New Haven, CT

What is it about the holiday season that brings out the worst in family conflicts? Is it possible to have a holiday without screaming, pouting and fighting? The answer is YES!

This two-day intensive workshop in Nonviolent Communication is designed to help participants learn new ways of dealing with family conflicts.

* Participants in this workshop will explore the roots of conflict and how we can respond to those we love with compassion rather than anger or sarcasm.

* Learn to clearly express your needs in a way your family will hear.

* Create more intimacy in your relationships.

* Gain concrete skills to navigate holiday gatherings with ease and joy.

December 12, 2009 from 9:00am until 4:00pm: Participants will learn the basics of Nonviolent Communication using their own family conflicts. Through lecture, interactive exercises, role plays and videos, participants will learn to express what is alive in them honestly without the use of guilt, shame or sarcasm. They will also learn to respond to others in ways that de-escalate conflict rather than fuel the fire.

December 13, 2009 from 9:00am until 2:00pm: Participants will learn to leave behind the enemy images of family members that lead to conflicts. They will practice empathetic listening to hear what is alive in others while still remaining true to themselves. Through exercises, games and discussion participants will explore using NVC to communicate in ways that bring the joy back to the holidays.

Registration is open to the public. Seating is limited. The requested fee for both days is $140.00. The requested fee for just day 1 is 99.00. Those with advanced NVC skills or those who have attended previous NVC Workshops may attend day 2 only for a requested fee of $49.00. Training fee includes lunch and materials.

Location: 32 Elm Street, New Haven, CT (parking is available in lot)

To Register online: www.community-mediation.org or call: (203) 782-3500

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Movie Night Tonight! Billboard From Bethlehem

by @ 12:53 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Nonviolence

Tonight, I will be off to Niantic Cinema to see the film Billboard From Bethlehem.  The film focuses on a group called “Combatants for Peace” who are Israeli and Palestinian fighters who put down their weapons in exchange for more peaceful and nonviolent ways to solve conflict.   After the film there will be a Q & A will the filmmaker.

You can learn more about this film at http://www.iwagepeace.org

Here is the trailer…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Queens Man Brutally Beaten in Gay Bashing

by @ 10:11 am. Filed under Hate Crimes, hate speech

alg_jack_price.jpgA College Point, NY man was brutally gay bashed this past Friday night in Queens.  Jack Price, 49 years old was beaten while anti-gay slurs were screamed at him.  He is now in a coma with everyone one of his ribs broken, two collapsed lungs, spleen and liver damage.   It is believed the two assailants followed him into a deli calling him “faggot” then followed him outside where he was beaten.  His chances of survival are being evaluated on an hour by hour basis.

This makes me sick to my stomach because I value safety. What makes me more sick is the passive violence that fuels this active violence that we barely acknowledge. This violence won’t stop until we change the climate of speech that makes GLBT folks the “bad” guys out to “destroy” marriage or “indoctrinate” children. As long as we have hate speech, we will have more crimes like these.   As long as anti-gay activist are ready and willing to dehumanize and demean our lives, our history and our loves, there will be a ready army of others ready to give action to their words.

I also will look to the anti-gay groups to take a public stand and condemn this act of violence. I would request that Americans for Truth, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, etc…issue press releases denouncing this act of violence against GLBT folks.  If they are really about the love for GLBT folks they say they are, I would like them to put their words to action.

Monday, October 12, 2009

VIDEO: Remember Matthew Shepard: December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998

by @ 9:09 am. Filed under Hate Crimes

This is footage of Matthew Shepard just two years before he was robbed, beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead.  We see lots of pictures of Matthew and to see a video of him alive, smiling and talking knowing that 2 years later he would be killed in a brutal and violent crime, is an awakening.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

VIDEO: Why Restorative Justice?

by @ 10:23 am. Filed under Nonviolence, Restorative Justice

This video really brings the concepts behind restorative practices into a place that shows why they work!   I wish more communities would embrace these practices…

Watch on YouTube

Conflict Resolution Tip #7

by @ 8:42 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #7: Avoid labels because they are only judgments!

As part of the language we have that adds to the violence on the planet, we use words that label people, even in the nicest of ways, into the category of what we think or evaluate they deserve.  We call some people “good” and others we call them “bad” depending on what we believe they deserve.  Of course, it is easy to point out these words are arbitrary.  What one person deems “good” another may deem “bad” and other may call “neutral.”  We have various terms to do this, all of which may be well intentioned, yet they set us up for conflict and violence regardless if we see the deserve language that lurks in our labels.

We use labels like good or bad, wholesome or thug, freedom fighter or  terrorist, stylish or trendy and even strong words like “creative” or “bland.”  We say someone is a “great” person or a “horrible” person.  No  matter how you look at it, these words amount to nothing more than moral judgments based on what we thing someone deserves.  We know from the work of University of Colorado Professor O.J. Harvey that the more moral judgments a society has in its literature, the more violence they have as well. So what would happen if we moved such judgments and labels out of our language?

This post was inspired because I read a birthday wish for Marshall Rosenberg that read:

“Happy birthday to a most wonderful,peace loving,well rounded and compassionate individual, Marshal Rosenberg! may you be blessed with more birthdays to come.”

While this wish is sincere, it is filled with moral judgments based on what the writer believes Marshall Rosenberg deserves.  I know from experience that Marshall Rosenberg would have preferred to be told what needs where met by the specific actions he took to celebrate the writer’s gratitude.   It can be more connecting to tell people exactly what they have done (using observations without evaluations) and how that action has contributed to your well being by meeting needs. For example, it might be better to say “Happy Birthday to a man who has taught hundreds of peace workshops and met my needs for peace, love, compassion”

The problem with labels is that they disconnect us from ourselves and others. The more labels you put on someone, regardless if those are positive or negative, the less you see the person.   We become focused on the label and our attention stops at what that label says someone else deserves.  For instance, in the above example of Marshall Rosenberg’s birthday wishes, the writer labels Marshall as wonderful, peace loving, well rounded and compassionate.  These are all words they express how the writer believes Marshall deserves a good birthday because of all the things he “is” the least of which is Marshall.

To avoid conflicts, focus on what people need rather than what we think they are.   Use observations to tell the person exactly what they have done that has enriched your life.  Tell them what needs of yours where met by what they have done and how you feel having those needs met.   This keeps the focus on how we can enrich life rather than what we think people are or what they deserve.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Workshop Reminder: #NVC Workshop at the National SOPHE Conference

by @ 10:50 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

I wanted to remind folks and request you help me spread the word that I will be presenting a workshop titled “Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict” at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) on November 5, 2009.  The workshop is being presented as a pre-conference workshop from 5:30pm until 9:00pm at the Sheraton Center City Hotel at 17th & Race Streets in center city Philadelphia, PA.

This workshop is open to the general public and registration for the full conference is not required to attend.  To register for this workshop, you will need to download the registration form and fax it to the number listed or mail it to the SOPHE office at the address provided on the form.  You do not need to register for the full conference to attend or be a health educator to enjoy this.

I have created a flyer to help spread the word.  If you or someone you know is attending the SOPHE Conference in Philadelphia this November or you have friends in the Philadelphia area, feel free to send them this information.  This workshop will give attendees the basics of conflict resolution and communication and is based on the process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and the work of Marshall Rosenberg.

NVC has had amazing impact around the world in schools, hospitals and in war torn countries.  You can see its impact on those with mental illness in this amazing article here.   This process has changed the lives of so many people including me.  I hope to see some of you at the workshop.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

VIDEO: Restorative Justice Nonviolent Communication NVC

by @ 8:17 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication, Restorative Justice

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #6

by @ 9:37 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #6:  Listen, but not to the words.

If we truly want to get to the root of a problem, we need to listen.  I am going to suggest we listen past the words.  Words are helpful, yet they only make up about 7% of our communication.   They do offer us a small window into the feelings and needs someone is experiencing. Marshall Rosenberg, clinical psychologist and author of the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, says that human beings are only saying two things.  The first thing is “please” and the second thing is “thank you.”   That is all we are ever really saying.  We have dozens of ways of saying just these two things and in the end, that is all we can say.  “Please” when we want someone to meet our needs and “thank you” when someone has met our needs.   The rest of what we say is just garbled jargon that translates into some version of “please” and “thank you.” If we can listen for the need that is behind the “please” statement regardless what words were used, we can hear even the most difficult messages for what they are, a request to get needs met.

Listening has another amazing result in conflict.   Listing allows people a chance to vent, a chance to be heard and understood.  This has commonly been referred to as “empathy.”  It involves giving others a chance to speak while we just give them our full presence. I suggest your refrain from asking tons of questions or make comments about anything they have said.  I would suggest you just listen so they can get what they want off their chests.

Not long after I became trained as a mediator in small claims court, I would listen to each side and then jump right to brainstorming the agenda.   I wanted to jump right into the solutions.  This process wasn’t getting me too many agreements and I was puzzled at what was not working.  My mentor explained to me that when people end up in small claims court it is because they want their day in court.  They want their story to be heard.  This is interesting because it is so unlikely the judge has the time to really listen to their whole story.  The judge is going to hear the facts, only the facts and make a decision.   Mediators on the other hand, have the time to listen, to let people vent the feelings and needs.  We let them say all the “please” and “thank you” statements we can allow so the need to be heard is met.

After I learned this lesson,  I started to get more agreements in my mediation.   I let each side have their uninterrupted time and then let them have a second round of it.  The aim is to let them be heard while I listen for the “please” and “thank you” that is buried in their words. Listen, not to the words, but the feelings and needs in their story.   I suggest only paraphrasing when you believe it will add compassion and do that by only checking in about the feelings and needs behind the “please” and “thank you” statements. Listening is one way we can get connected to what is going on for someone.

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Mahatma Gandhi

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"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
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