Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Conflict Composting: Refuse

I have always has some discomfort with the term conflict transformation because it is so nondescript and sterile. The word transformation reminds me of transformers (see Schematics for Peace Blog posting in February and March) or worse evokes the image of those awful transformer toy movies in which mechanical things can reassemble themselves into robot war machines. Perhaps likening transformation to composting is a much more organic metaphor including that which is intrinsic to the processes of life, death and regeneration.

To summarize what’s necessary for a good composting enterprise we need:

1. plant refuse/bio trash

2. elements (air and water)

3. microbes (from soil or manure)

Put these three together in proper balance and the outputs are nutrient rich humus and heat.

To start a conflict composting venture we will look at the so called rubbish that destructive conflict can leave in its wake. Individual or community experience with violent conflict leaves trauma, disconnection, fear, and mistrust among other things. These impacts are often seen as bad and to be ‘gotten over’ as quickly as possible with the pat phrases like “moving on” and “turning a new page.” In a post war context the litter of brokenness is often covered up like so much garbage and the open wounds and scars are actively kept out of sight.

This attitude toward the ‘refuse’ is a lost opportunity when left uncomposted. In its organic parallel, uncomposted bio refuse will dry rot losing much of its potential value. Likewise, the unacknowledged pain and brokenness, left uncomposted, will lose its potential for growth unless it is mixed with the elements of air and water as well as microbes.These negative experiences can be cast in a positive light when they are seen as resources for conflict composting.

In coming postings I will make analogies for the elements and microbes. For now, the key to conflict composting is recasting the painful residue of conflict as a necessary part of regeneration, an opportunity for growth and a necessary component of creating life from death.

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