All loose things seem to drift down to the sea, and so did I. – Louis L’Amour
If you haven’t come across the idea of post-modernism it’s worth looking up. I was first exposed to it relatively late in life – when I did a management degree and it pretty much turned everything I thought was true upside down. And it’s affecting me to this day.
For example, you’ve read about SMART goals and why you should plan things and have a strategy. But that’s an approach from the fifties and these days there’s an understanding that things are not quite that simple.
I was reading a paper on conflict and reconciliation by David Bloomfield called “On good terms: Clarifying reconciliation”, trying to understand if there is something that we can draw on to resolve conflicts in daily life, at home, in business and in communities. My starting point was to wonder if there was a formula, something we could follow to sort it out. And that sort of thinking runs straight into the issues raised by a post-modern world.
The essence of post-modernism is that you have many ideas, many practices, many perspectives. These may arise from different roots, some may be rational but others, especially in the aftermath of violent conflict, can be confused and irrational. How do you treat all these views? Do you treat revenge with the same respect as a search for justice? This is important in the context of many political transitions – do you now seek justice when the powerful are fallen or do you seek reconciliation – and what does that mean anyway.
Well, the term is hard to define, says Bloomfield and doesn’t go on to define it. You can see it as a process, something that you work through rather than an end result you reach. In this context the post-modern approach adds real value as you try and work out an approach that works in the situation rather than trying to apply something universal and general. That’s going to cause all kinds of problems as people resist being pushed down a particular approach, especially if there is any suggestion that they have to give up on any hope of getting justice.
Bloomfield argues that you need four things to made a reconciliation process work. Justice has to be seen to be done. People have to be able to speak about their experience and have it documented. They need the time and space to heal. And there should be reparations for the injured parties. Without these elements you can still move through the process but your outcomes will be different. With them, they may be better.