Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Coarse summary

Life's been hugely chaotic recently. Crazy-busy work as the kids prepare for exams, certain lovely lady-persons moving up to Joburg, complex roleplaying games planning, etc. So I'm full of blog thoughts, but haven't had time to write much. Here at least, as promised, are my closing thoughts on the conflict transformation course I did last month.

In short, it got better. The facilitators never really improved and kept mismanaging time horribly, mostly wasting it on overly-elaborate metaphorical games that could be neatly reduced to a single sentence without losing any meaning. But, ignoring them, it was pretty good. The guest speakers were all excellent, generally relying on a more traditional and more informative lecturing format, and I wished we'd had more time to hear from them. One even gave us each copies of a nice textbook on African socio-economic inequalities that he'd co-written. Our visits to the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill were also great, and I can definitely recommend visits to both.

But the real value of the course, for me, was in what I learned from the other participants. Working in the thick of real conflicts (with plenty of stories of beatings, imprisonment, confrontations with police and assorted intimidation), they had far more insider knowledge about the state of their states (some of which, like Malawi, I hadn't even realised had any conflicts to deal with), as well as on the practical side of dealing with such conflicts. The facilitators found their main use in simply prodding us all along, getting everyone to discuss different aspects of their own experiences, and we had much more to learn from each other than any other source. Even I got to teach them something a little useful, as many weren't aware of the continuing racial inequality in South Africa. Most seemed to assume that everything here's been perfectly hunky dory since 1994, and were surprised at the complex, messy reality we've got instead.

I'd also like to point your attention to some of the main, active organisations my co-participants were from, as they're doing hard, important work in their respective countries, and could use some more publicity. At the very least, make yourself aware of the core problems in their countries: