There are 4 requirements for mobilizing the moral imagination:
- the ability to imagine a web of relationships including the enemy
- the finding and encouraging of people committed to strengthening this web-critical yeast
- the necessity for process and activities across every section of a community, not just ‘top down’ implementation
- the requirement for attention to memory as a past which also lies before and around us.
These requirements will assist in preventing the cycles of violence recurring, provided they are integrated into the necessary political, economic and security arrangements.
You may ask where is the evidence for the working out of the moral imagination? What is the framework? Where is the theory? The Soul of Europe sees this as a public conversation, a process. It is not finished. But I believe there is enough experience from peacemakers around the world to develop these ideas.
There is however a significant obstacle and that concerns the values which inform applications for funding and the way reconciliation projects are evaluated.
An example. In November 2002 the Soul of Europe submitted a bid for funding to the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights under the section Support for Democratization, Good Governance and the Rule of Law.
The funding was for a 3 year project. It took three months to prepare. We submitted it in November 2002. The results of the bid were to be announced in June 2003, but not until October 2003 did we learn that the bid had failed. (13)
One of the more curious aspects of applying for funding through the European Commission is that applicants are forbidden personal contact with anyone connected with the Application. Queries can be submitted to an email address, but that vanished once the deadline passed.
The reason for this regulation is that it prevents any opportunity for bribery of officials. A proper distance has to be preserved between potential recipients and donors.
But there is another reason. Given the way applications are framed and evaluated, human contact becomes unnecessary. The Application asks, quite reasonably enough, for a clear statement on aims, objectives and strategy. And then these demands intensify. Activities have to be described in detail. Priorities for each activity have to be justified. A three year project meant that the activities for each month, month on month, had to be described in detail, and how each activity related to what had happened before, and what was planned. Questions about internal and external continuous assessment have to be answered. Local partners have to provide value; and estimating and measuring the impact on target groups was essential. Every activity had to relate to every other in order that the aims and objectives of the project could be placed in a logical frame, like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Any piece missing and as an official told me: ‘your bid will be binned!’
A technical and financial grid evaluated the Soul of Europe’s application. The title says it all. Social engineering is the core conviction, which affirms that the world ‘out there’ can be analyzed, observed, measured and activities can be controlled and managed. If the world beyond the project is uncertain and unstable, a successful log frame will insulate the project from all that.
If this is the way the world works then inevitably it conveys a view of human nature which is reductionist and mechanistic.
The language in which the work of reconciliation is couched is ‘business speak’: impact, stakeholders, fast track, level playing fields, resources, targets, bullet points, delivery, outsourcing, benchmarking, ring fencing, business plans, etc. The language is ugly. It is sloppy and often meaningless.
But language and bureaucracy are not to blame. Bureaucrats are the guardians of the public purse. Their task is to see that public money is spent in a way that is accountable to the public. If all that is required consists of streamlining systems then changes can and are continually being made to lessen delays and increase efficiency.
But the problem is deeper and more critical.
What I am describing is that the values, assumptions and principles informing the concept of ‘materialistic determinism’ do not fit the patient, slow work of peacemaking and reconciliation. Moreover ‘materialistic determinism’ has become so pervasive, so embedded in the way we operate and in the institutions we have created that it is felt as fact. This it is believed is the way the world is and will be; this is how the world is imagined, described and desired. So, for example, when I speak about these matters to senior diplomats at the Foreign Office they say: ‘we are just marionettes.’ And who pulls the strings? I ask. ‘Our political masters,’ they reply. Talking to politicians, particularly in Brussels they say: ‘Yes, bureaucracy is a problem, is there anything I can do to help?’
The ways of describing the world ‘out there’ are based on illegitimate principles. These secular and autonomous assumptions are based on claims of power and pragmatism. But these claims do not ultimately work because they are cut off, removed from fundamental aspirations. In the west we find compensation in consumerism and a host of diversionary activities. Ultimately the myths around materialistic determinism do not touch people. Ultimately they are not compelling. Therefore they lack legitimacy.
I have been describing how the work of reconciliation and peace building arises out of our imagination. We are like the artist, fashioning something out of what is a barren land, here and there soaked in blood, with memories of great suffering. But we are on this epic journey towards a shared future, otherwise there is no future for our children, grand-children and their children.
This work is risky and precarious. We live in a sacred space, at the threshold sometimes leaving behind what is familiar as we move into an uncertain future. Risk is built into what we do. As with all artists everything is demanded of us, stretching us beyond our limits. Built into working out the moral imagination there is the waiting and the watching, the pondering, the deepening of our vocation and relishing the opportunity for celebrating, even small things.