As a proponent of nonviolence, I see a lot of violence being employed in the hope of reducing the frequency and severity of interpersonal violence at e.g. conferences, community events or in team settings. This strikes me as ironic, and ultimately self-defeating.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
I don’t dispute for one moment that there’s an issue. Folks do get hurt. Sometimes egregiously. And not doing anything is no option for me. The question in my mind is, what to do?
Codes of conduct seem to be the approach of choice for many in this situation. I reject this, and its implicit violence. Here’s my (nonviolent) contribution:
This is not a code of conduct. That’s to say, it’s not a set of rules or mandated behaviours to which we would like you to conform.
We’ve heard stories of the hurt and pain that some folks have felt in a conference environment. We’d like to do what we can to reduce the chances of that happening at our conference. We’d also like to do what we can to to provide a space – literally and metaphorically – where people can get in touch with what’s alive in each other.
We don’t believe that obliging certain behaviours, and precluding others, contributes much, in a positive way, to the kind of space we wish to provide. And actively undermines getting in touch with what’s alive in us.
We simply invite you to be aware, take care of each other, and to have courage in supporting each other in all things. If you choose not to do that, that’s OK, too. We don’t want to tell anyone how to behave.
Despite our vigilance, fellowship, and active participation in taking care of each other, there may be a time where someone feels hurt. We will pass all potentially criminal acts on to the relevant law enforcement bodies. And medical situations on to local medical specialist. Short of that, we invite you to take care of all parties involved in the situation. And invite you to try to find a peaceful solution which meets everyone’s needs. We have skilled mediators on hot standby to help with that, if and when you choose to call on them.
What to do if you personally feel uncomfortable or hurt
We invite you to seek support. If you’re unsure just who to ask, your conference pack contains a list of folks that you can get in touch with directly for support.
What to do as staff or volunteer
We invite you to be aware, to take care of each other and the attendees, and to have courage in supporting each other in dealing with any conflicts or other issues that may arise. If you choose not to do that, that’s OK, too. We don’t want to tell you how to behave. We also invite you to become familiar with these guidelines, and with the names on the support contact list, in case anyone asks you.
Maybe the hardest thing is to empathise with, and, yes, to love, those folks who we see as the cause of hurt. That requires us to change our behaviours, not mandate theirs.
“When we listen for their feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.”
~ Marshall B. Rosenberg