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A Policeman, a School Child, a Crowd Watching and a Video

Theo and I came out with the same sentence at the same time early Friday morning, “Police have to humble themselves in order to humble the youths”; this while listening to Shaggy’s, ‘Plead Your Cause’ (community radio program). Folks calling in and responding/reacting to a recent incident, a youth man (school child) and police captured on video in physical confrontation, causing nationwide talk, interpretation, judgement and generalizations.

The conflict setting in the heart of the capital, just after school. School children circling, watching, other folks watching, circling. Theo and I discussed pride; men’s pride, men’s ego in this particular scenario. Questions arising: How does one humble oneself when male pride and ego play a big part in masculine societal pressure and lives deep in men and boys? How does having a crowd watching two men size each other up affect nervous systems, emotions, minds and thus reactions? What are the emotions the youth and police are arriving to this particular conflict on this particular day with? What stories are they bringing to this conflict ie personal histories/traumas? What kinda assumptions/biases/judgements do they hold about one another?  What kinda conflict resolution trainings/tools/skills do they possess to be able to calm themselves in the heat of conflict in order to think clearly and make more conscious choices in their responses.

Theo and I discuss conflict as an art; how conflict can be compared to the martial arts of Aikido, moving with the energy of the other ie. if my energy goes up most likely the energy of my opponent will go up. if we are able to self-regulate, ground ourselves in the face of adversity then we also have the potential to calm the other person down and move with our opponent in a way that brings them back into their own bodies and minds and emotions, a more solid place to make decisions/choices so we can respond mindfully, compassionately.   Theo and I shared the believe that this is a crucial responsibility the Police hold ie. the capacity to hold themselves (self-regulate) in times of high emotion so they are better able to dance a dance of de-escalation.

What would happen if the police man had a practice in that particular moment, a practice of noticing body sensations, emotions, story lines building in his head so that he could ground and centre. It is a known and documented fact that noticing high emotions, body sensations and our spinning thoughts is a crucial step in calming our nervous systems. Before any of this could happen I imagine the police man would need to find his own sense of compassion for youths in general in these unsettled times. For example, If the police came to this conflict with a mind and heart full of judgement/bias/criticism of youth, he comes to the confrontation mentally armed to control, compete and win rather than coming to the conflict in the spirit of reconciliation, understanding and compassion.     

For those who know me I am deeply interested in the practice and art of conflict (not violence) transformation/resolution. I love using the example of Aikido as a dance of energy within ourselves and others; how to dance with one another in these heated times.  

Of course perhaps none of this could have worked in this particular situation. Every situation is different. However what if there were alternative ways of dealing with conflict that we could choose from rather than operating from deeply embedded habitual patterns we have learned from our parents, communities, teachers, social and systemic structures…  

I strongly believe bringing the work of conflict transformation/resolution/mediation into schools, prisons, communities, police force, health workers is key to building skill sets to work with our minds, bodies, emotions when in conflict; work with the biases and judgements and assumptions we all hold; learn about conflict as transformative and generative; learn about our bodies (our traumas) when in conflict, learn about embedded habitual patterns we’ve inherited from one generation to the next; learn how to be in relationship with one another through the inevitability of conflict and explore the potential of conflict as an art form to practice and learn and grow from.

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