There is a valuable intersection that is often overlooked when people discuss humanism. And that intersection is the mixture of the principals of humanism and the goals of those who do conflict work. In today’s post, some time is gonna be taken to discuss what conflict work and humanism have in common. As someone who is studying how to respond too, manage and wherever possible transform violent and otherwise negative conflicts and as someone who is a humanist and writes about humanism occasionally, I’d figured if anyone in our community was going to talk about this topic it ought to be me. At the end of this post, I’ll also talk about an eventual goal of mine that might interest people.
Humanism and conflict work:
The principals of conflict work and humanism share things in common. They both prioritize human life. They both emphasize common human needs. Humanism prioritizes rational solutions to problems and secular conflict workers do that as well and more often than not theistic conflict workers also do that. Conflict transformation is a wide-ranging field that seeks to minimize the harm humans do to each other, oftentimes the environment, and yes other lifeforms as well during violent conflicts. Humanism and conflict work, or at least conflict work at its most positive both seek to prioritize the needs of people over other things that some people might try to do like preserve beliefs and oftentimes bad ideas while also working to minimize the harm done to people in the middle of conflicts and create pathways out of violence and out of the worst kinds of conflicts which include consequences that are negative but might not be as simple as people often perceive violence to be.
Conflict workers like the most vocal humanists and non-believers often have to deal with bad ideas and bad beliefs especially if you’re from a culture or community where bad ideas and bad beliefs are protected from the scathing criticism they deserve. Conflict work at its most intimate is done while someone deals with a difference of belief causing a conflict in a family, and as many nonbelievers whether they identify as humanists or not know bad beliefs can spur violence. Conflict workers have to be ready to deal with bad ideas and bad beliefs. Some of those beliefs can seem silly like a bias against left-handed people that many people no longer remember once existed (in case you’re curious I and many Hispanic people can tell you this belief still exists in some parts of the world and in some communities) unless they (like me) are left-handed and have experienced some left-over remaining vestige of this once far more popular belief. Other negative beliefs are decisively less silly like anti-atheist bias and prejudice.
Humanists and conflict workers, including conflict workers who are humanists, need to dialogue more. And the idea of conflict work as a concept needs to become more popular and more widely used to describe the work that is done to mitigate the impact of a negative conflict and once that is done the work done to positively impact and change the negative conflict into something better for all the affected parties. As a conflict worker and a humanist, I want to be one of the leaders involved in creating these dialogues. Which is why I’d like to begin to do the work to form a forum/event or community wherein humanists and conflict workers (and this includes theistic conflict workers who want to dialogue with humanists who are ourselves a wide-ranging group of people, including people with theistic beliefs even though many of the loudest humanists are secular) can dialogue more easily and humanists can learn more readily how to incorporate the techniques used by peacemakers, conflict transformers, and everyone else involved in the nitty-gritty work done to peacefully and positively deal with conflicts, into modern conceptions of humanism.
Everyone would benefit from a greater understanding of conflict and peace theory, and opportunities to learn about the techniques used by conflict managers and peacemakers who frequently make use of the same ideas and techniques I’m learning about and employing in a variety of contexts and situations.
A pragmatic community based on a shared desire to face conflicts head-on:
I am a pragmatic person which is why I like understanding the theories that revolve around conflict and around peace. I want to be someone that people can depend on to help form and articulate humanitarian responses to conflicts and who can prioritize peaceful solutions whenever possible while also having the skills needed to manage and mitigate the harm done by conflicts as they pop up in secular spaces and in communities built by and for irreligious people. Originally I wanted to propose this idea and see what work would need to be in private to organizations that might be receptive to it but I figured being open and transparent about this desire of mine would enable me to hear responses and also work on refining this idea of mine before I put in the work necessary to one day present this to communities that would ideally be supportive and useful in the formative stages of such a community or event. I’d love an opportunity to put in the work needed to organize a community that is made up of humanists who want to understand conflict work and conflict workers eager for opportunities to teach the sort of techniques, philosophies, and theories we’ve learned as well as share from their own unique experiences practicing such techniques and applying such theories outside of academia.
So if you’ve read this article and would like to hear more about this idea or have opinions about it, please share your thoughts and questions with me! I’d love to know what sort of questions this is making you have and what your initial response to it would be if someone gave you an elevator pitch of sorts about it.