Screaming, shouting, eyes bulging, fists raised in anger. Are we at a WWE wrestling match? No, we're in the U.S. Congress; those revered halls where we ask our leaders to create solutions to the global challenges facing us today.
Quick, bring the children to see how their elders work together to find resolution. Does the rage we see so predominantly in the news, from pundits to 'tea makers,' represent the highly intelligent, conscious 21st century society we've become? Or is there any wisdom the modern world can glean from those not-so-civilized cultures of better ways to deal with life's challenges and each other.
I was recently introduced to another judicial system -- the toguna. It's purpose unraveled for me the mystery of how the indigenous people of Mali, the Dogon, have maintained peaceful relationships within their communities down through the ages -- without any law enforcement or jails to safeguard them from the evils people have wrought upon each other throughout history.
I wondered at the architecture of this low-ceilinged 'building,' constructed of natural materials from the surrounding area, stones and millet stalks, stacked and woven together. Did they really have meetings there -- and if so, how was it possible -- since you wouldn't be able to stand upright? My guide explained that the design was intentional, "...sometimes people get angry - they have what we call -'fire in the blood.' Since they have to stay seated - they can't look down on another, and they can't hurt each other." Brilliant!! Within the framework of this space, all disputes were handled. A select group of elders would listen as the families or individuals described their complaints.
Children were invited to attend, so they might learn how to settle disputes while still respecting the other party. Everyone is honor-bound to speak the truth, and to follow through with the elders' decision. Once made, it was in the hopes that the grievance will soon be forgotten and left in the past -- that way life can continue and families are able to move on, possibly even regaining the friendships they once had.
I found this method of jurisdiction to be astoundingly simple -- and it was clearly beneficial, as it had been serving these people for as long as they could remember. How is it that the simplest practices can offer us the most insightful truths?
Imagine using this system in our judicial courts. People might have a different way of handling disputes when they are seated and honor-bound not to rage or one-up each other. Realizing you are dealing with a member of your community who someday might be the one who helps save your life when a natural disaster strikes, or is a 'neighbor' who takes care of you when emergency medical assistance isn't available could make a huge difference in how we treat each other. And in a more broad view, it could re-adjust how we look for solutions with our neighbors in the U.S. as well as around the world.
A report in Time magazine stated that in major emergencies ". . . the basic tenets of civilization actually hold. . . people tend to look out for one another. That is our true instinct when the fears in our mind don't override our natural tendencies."
Yes, we are seeing a rise in racial tension at this time -- and isn't that again from fears in the mind where people stereotype and dismiss another human being with words of bias that cross every culture we don't understand -- including our own.
Even so, I believe Martin Luther King's dream of a nation where people respect one another is closer to reality today than when he first spoke it. I believe each of us will one day value and respect each other as individuals living in a world community that has been given the stewardship to take care of this earth and its peoples. One day, I believe we will learn how to resolve our problems through peaceful communication -- instead of the barbarous dialogue we resort to. We have much to learn from the simple people of this world .
What have you learned?
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