Calling ‘Other Worlds’ into Being
It is one month since I arrived in Bangkok, ready to join Class 28 of the Rotary Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University. A few days ago, I had my first moment of feeling what I can only describe as impending nostalgia. The program is only just staring, and yet it feels like it is flying by. That sentimental wistfulness I foresee in my future, comes from a place of appreciation and hope: Appreciation for the opportunity to spend three months learning with a community of Rotarians, Expert Instructors, Rotary Peace Centre Staff, Fellows, and our guide through it all, Dr. Vitoon; Hope springing from the already burgeoning collaborations being made for post-program action.
Resilience researchers (and peace-builders) are often drawn to the fields, because of our own experiences of conflict, marginalization, displacement, poverty or personal suffering. Many of us are carrying our traumas with us, the impacts of which are stored deep within our bodies and passed on to next generations. Given the right conditions and intent, we can channel our deep knowledge of adversity and resilience, into a peace-building super-power. This requires understanding how external physical events take on internal psychological significance. It demands attention to the deeply rooted perceptions, structures and systems that buttress inequities, insecurity and conflict. These conditions spawn traumatic experiences, and shape one’s agency to draw on resilience-enabling resources.
Our ways of being in, and seeing the world, have impact. I was inspired this week by Natasha Myers’ (2020) opinion piece called “How to grow liveable worlds: Ten (not-so-easy) steps for life in the Planthroposcene” (https://www.abc.net.au/religion/natasha-myers-how-to-grow-liveable-worlds:-ten-not-so-easy-step/11906548). The article is a provocative call to dismantle the Athroposcenic neo-colonial, extraction-focused worldviews on which our global relationships are built. It is a radical conjuring of a new world (the Planthroposcene), where humans see themselves as one with, and take guidance from, plants as liveable world-makers. Our three month Rotary Peace Fellowship places us in a privileged position. We have the opportunity to collectively foster imaginations that could,as Myers (2020) writes, “call other Worlds into being.” What do I mean by other Worlds? For me, this means cultivating societies that thrive on values and behaviours that benefit others’ welfare. Worlds where people courageously integrate ancient ways of knowing with new knowledge and innovation, to transform violent conflict into positive social changes. Where we go beyond just tolerance of others, to find connection and beauty in the absurd, the strange, the confronting, the diverse. Where there is deep-seated reverence that we are inseparably part of the natural world, not rulers over it. Yes, it sounds idealistic, but as Dr. Irene Santiago said in class, “People without imagination cannot be peace-builders.”
There is power in dreaming, but only if we also organize, innovate and ACT. As Dr. Santiago reminded us, those who wage peace need to organize better than those who wage war. So I commit to being compassionate but tenacious. To fight for my rights, your rights, and the rights of others. Even if the barriers seem insurmountable. Let’s find our allies, those powerful movers of social change, those people who can thrust our collective movements forward. There is power in numbers, but only if we are systematic, courageous, innovative and organized.
Nora Didkowsky – USA
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28