A Cry for Clarity and Focus on Root Causes

by Michael Patterson

 

(1) To cooperate with organizations to develop higher education

programs that prepare professionals to provide safety and services

to victims, hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, and

address the root causes of violence;

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Other cultures sometimes have neat ideas. The Cherokee

had a neat way to deal with this. They had "Peace Villages", or

refuge cities, in the areas they controlled. They were run by

highly spiritual people, and were a sort of college town,

"skunkworks" for ideas, and refuge village. A criminal, by

Cherokee standards, could go there and be untouched, though he had

to stay there for a year- and after that year, whatever it was that

caused him to commit crimes was gone. [Spiritual people => belief

systems, which can be changed] The tradition was so strong they

accepted Europeans, and escaped slaves- a major factor in Andrew

Jackson's decision to deport the Cherokee on the "Trail of Tears"

in 1828. Refuge cities can be found historically all over; in

China, during the Sung and Ming dynasties, in Hawaii, and even

biblically- there were 6, 3 on either side of the Jordan river.

 

Peace villages were self-supporting, as the Cherokee had no taxes

as we understand them. In my state, on the other hand, we spend

$40,000/year/inmate to give high quality criminal education,

thorough embitterment, and near-permanent scarring to a class of

people who have a recidivism rate of only 60% or so.

 

Which approach is more proactive?

 

Manitonquat, "Medicine Story", a Wampanoag seminar leader, elder,

and traditional storyteller, wrote a book on aspects of community

building. He uses a traditional Native American method similar to

what the Foundation for Community Encouragement [FCEonline@aol.com]

uses, and also does it in prisons - he forms inmates into the

traditional council circle, and insists that respect be at the

center of the circle, that respect is the right of every human

being. Students pair off, and speak, unhindered, on whatever is

bothering them, for an hour at a time, while the other listens

intently; then they trade off. For many, it is the first time

someone actually listened to what they had to say with respect.

His students report that his exercises are the first place where

they were treated like human beings, the first place where they

were treated with respect. Most grew up in circumstances that

would make us regular folks want to puke; is it any surprise that

they aren't so pleasant? Yes, people are individually responsible

for their actions, but energy always finds an escape, and seeds

planted yield crops. [He's based in Greenville, NH]

 

Mahatma Ghandi said "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world

blind". I wish we saw more analysis of the root causes of

violence, and other severe community problems, and some serious,

comprehensive programs to deal with it, instead of the total

concentration on symptom we seem to have now. I wish further that

academics would write about functional methods that can be copied,

that inspire, at about a 6th grade reading level so that their

ideas would be accessible to the general population.

 

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