- Iranian revolution anniversary avoids mentioning President Trump so as to avoid international sanctions;
- African nations shut off the internet in order to curb protest;
- President Trump's effort to limit citizen as well as non-citizen rights in the US is curtailed by lower courts but he is not done as he threatens a new attempt;
- a German court censors a comedian after ridiculing the current Turkish leader based on some obscure 1871 law
- a Frenchman who is portrayed as facilitating the French "Underground Railroad" for migrants (as opposed to African American enslaved) is fined for defying authorities;
- Police in the Philippines are investigated for extra-judicial executions and corruption in their alleged anti-drug war which is now being challenged because a witness finally survives;
- An illegal in Texas is imprisoned for voting when she was ineligible (the spin was that she voted for Republicans);
- President Assad denies that he engaged in mass killing as he attempts to better frame himself in the eyes of the new American president; and,
- Chicago police kill a civilian along with a threatening individual (wielding a bat) seemingly with impunity - while the latter is more or less consistent with expectations the killing of the former is more akin to indiscriminate killing.
Now, while pleased about the increased and sustained attention to the topic, it is clear that the paper has not covered all forms of contention:
With all this attention to the topic, however, it occurred to me that more and more people are beginning to chime in about the subject - even if historically they have not been engaged in research of the topic. I call these people "accidental tourists". Having spent a wonderful afternoon with a group of students at the University of Pennsylvania that hosted a conference on conflict and contentious politics, I gave some thought about what people who are moving into this area should be aware of. This led me to think of the Hippocratic oath employed in the field of medicine:
- I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:...
- I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
- I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of over treatment and therapeutic nihilism.
- I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
- I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
- I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at God.
- I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
- I will prevent disease whenever I can but I will always look for a path to a cure for all diseases.
- I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
- If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Many of us do not think of such things as we step forward from our computers to engage with students, and victims of political conflict, and advocates who are trying to stop such activities, and governments who are engaged in relevant activities, and journalists who wish to ask us about such things but we should. On my flight to Philly, I thought the following would be a good start. Please consider embracing the sentiment or creating your own but as we move forward into even more interesting times, we would all be well served by following and holding others to such words:
We are members of a sacred fellowship - to understand and inevitably end human suffering connected to all violent and coercive actors/actions (note the absence of the word "political" for this is in and of itself a point up for debate);
We attempt to achieve these ends by focused and humane attention to theorization, data collection and data analysis;
With this in mind, our commitment is to truth and a just peace. As conceived, we serve humanity - not specific universities/colleges, governments, fields or private interests. We serve those suffering from politically-relevant violent behavior who have no voice, no time, no resources; and,
Toward these ends, we will acknowledge those engaged in this enterprise as brothers and sisters of the path. In all venues (in our departments, at conferences and out in the world), we will treat them as friends, family & fellow travelers - not as distant, disconnected and hostile competitors for finite pie in some journal or marketplace. Rather, we seek an infinite, evolving and joyous exchange ever focused on understanding conflict and contention as well as peace and peace-building/sustaining.
Finally, there is no one section of any field that holds the answer to questions we seek. Rather, there are numerous paths that must unite in order for our insight to be accurate as well as resonant.
After writing the last part, the stewardess (aptly named Prudence) told me that I needed to shut down my laptop. Wisdom comes from everywhere, I suppose.
I mention all this because the "accidental tourists" into conflict/contentious politics and peace will not be interested in careful, nuanced scholarship. There number will rise as it has following every wave of contention and yes we are going into one. Tourists will not be aware of what existing researchers, survivors, policymakers and ordinary citizens have painstakingly put together to document the horrible things that have been done and the wonderful things put forward to stop them. Tourists are not committed to working through the details. Rather, they are interested in putting something out there.
In contrast, those of us committed to conflict and peace should embrace the pledge or something like it as it reminds us what we are doing. The pledge or a pledge should constantly be in our minds as we move forward. Prudence demands it.