Jul 30, 2009

Accompaniment on youtube

International protective accompaniers in action in Colombia are suddenly (and for the first time that I can tell) all over youtube. Below are two dramatic videos of IPO in action.

And the video below has CPT in action (unfortunately it has bizarre new age music in the background as well). CPT is asking YOU to take action in support of the displaced families whose story is told here. See the details on how on Chris's blog.

There are many many other cool videos in the video playlists link that is always in the sidebar and takes you here. If you know of any other videos that have international accompaniers in them - please let me know!

Jul 27, 2009

respect: can a poster build it?

I continue to really enjoy the Osocio blog, and this re-post from their site alludes to whitening creams in a powerful way. If you haven't read my post about how whiteness works in Latin America, please do. There is a fascinating discussion in the comments, and I'd love more.

No, I don't think a poster alone can build respect, but it can be an important reminder and work well in a broader campaign. Solidarity groups seem to use posters a lot less than we used to. (everyone should get to know the joys of wheatpasting!)

Osocio titled the following post, copied in full here, The best skin treatment doesn't come in a bottle

ANTaR Respect: The best skin treatment doesn’t come in a bottle

Most Australians agree there is little trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. That’s why ANTaR launched a new campaign today entitled Respect.
The Respect campaign is a new campaign calling on all Australians to commit to a new partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Reconciliation Australia Barometer—a national research study that looks at the relationship between Indigenous and other Australians—showed that nearly 3/4 of Australians surveyed believe that a lack of respect for Indigenous Australians is one of the most important contributing factors to Indigenous disadvantage.

In addition, the Barometer showed that only 1/5 of Australians surveyed know what they can do to help disadvantaged Indigenous people.

This campaign aims to address both of these issues by compelling Australians to think about - and change - their attitudes and behaviour towards Indigenous Australians. People are asked to make a committment to do this. When they make the committment (by signing the pledge), they are sent tips on what they can do to help.
Once people sign the pledge, they will receive 4 emails starting in July, each sent about 3 weeks apart, giving them tips on how they can show respect to Indigenous Australians. The point is that everybody can make a difference, it’s not just up to policy-makers, so the tips in the emails are easy to do.

The campaign is aimed at the many non-Indigenous Australians who would like to work alongside Indigenous Australians to end the disadvantage faced by Indigenous communities, but don’t know how. This campaign will provide people with ideas for action that are simple and effective.

The Body Shop and Avant Card have helped ANTaR promote the campaign nationally. The Body Shop is promoting the campaign in their stores over the next 3 weeks. Avant Card distributes postcards to cinemas, independent bookshops, universities and cafes.
And of course you can be part of the Respect community at Facebook.

Jul 20, 2009

courage is contagious

what makes people take great risks and, say, do human rights work in Colombia? Or just join a barricade to bring down the coup in Honduras? Or even just do a banner drop in front of their Congressman's office in solidarity with brave resistance in Honduras? (see photo - and here for more on citizen power in Honduras, and international solidarity with it - if you are in Miami you can protest in front of SouthCom on Saturday)

Well, here is an interesting article by Jamil Zaki about how courage is contagious. I always love it when psychologists prove the obvious. Here are some quotes:

“Why would people overlook their personal safety and join a dangerous protest, even when their individual contribution to it will be inevitably small? One possibility that's often ignored is that courage may be contagious.

Psychologists have long known that we are enormously influenced by the actions, beliefs, and attitudes of those around us. For the most part, the study of social influence has focused on negative versions of these effects, cataloging myriad ways that the presence of other people renders us thoughtless and selfish. We tip less at large tables, fail to intervene when someone needs help but other bystanders do nothing, and spiral into debt trying to keep up with our neighbors' standards of living. However, social influence is not as one-sided as its most prominent descriptions. More recent research has demonstrated at least two ways that other people can bolster our ability to face danger.

First, others serve as powerful models of what we can expect from the environment, and ways that we can respond to it. The most well-known example of this is vicarious fear conditioning. During normal fear conditioning, you see a neutral stimulus (a blue square, for example), and it is paired with something aversive, like an electric shock. Later, seeing the blue square alone is enough to become tense and anxious; you have learned to fear something perfectly innocuous by association. In vicarious conditioning, people learn fear through others: I watch you being shocked after seeing the blue square. Later, when I see that square, my brain and body react as though I had learned to fear it by being shocked myself.

However, vicarious conditioning is critically different from regular conditioning; not only the fear-evoking object, but also your reaction to it, will shape my later emotional responses. If you fear something, I will also. If you do not, I may actually be buffered from feeling fear when I have to face it. This effect is called social referencing

The presence of other people not only reduces the anticipatory quakes of facing risk; it can also lessen the suffering we feel during hardships, if we have company. An enormous and underappreciated public health risk factor is social isolation. Lonely people suffer greater anxiety, stress, and heart disease than the non-lonely -- an especially troubling idea given that more people live alone now than at any time in history. The other side to this is that the presence of people softens the blow of negative experience. People living in violent neighborhoods, for example, report less anxiety about the risks of living there as the cohesion of their community grows. Physical pain sensation is also reduced by the presence of close others, and in a recent brain imaging study, people demonstrated less neural response to pain when holding their romantic partner's hand than when alone.

Others' courage can both inspire us to face risk and support us as we experience hardships. This feedback loop between the bravery of individuals in a group and their effect on others lends people the tenacity to continue through dark conditions like the one we have witnessed in Iran in the last weeks.”

Jul 14, 2009

Another take on the power of reenactment

This is the text of an email sent by the Christian Peacemakers Team in Colombia on May 24, 2008

(photo is of CPTers speaking to the Colombian army in Bolivar, from the CPT web site)

That Was How it Happened

By Sandra Rincón
Translated by Michele Braley

Jonathan Stucky and I, along with three other organizations,
accompanied the Third Women's Conference of the Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation in the village of Paraíso, Simiti. Even though participation was less than expected due to recent threats to several local priests, leaders and community workers, the organizers decided to continue with the event out of respect for the community that invited us.

Once the assembly had gathered and after they told the story of the village through an exercise, the community spontaneously organized a dramatization of what had happened. I was looking forward to seeing the presentation of what I had just heard. Nevertheless, this "sharing" by the community surprised me by its demonstration of the power of resistance in action.

Completely prepared in their roles, the actors reenacted the tragic day when the paramilitaries harassed, threatened, killed and disappeared two community members and destroyed the village.

"Don Carlos", the commander of the paramilitary group, was represented by the son of a man who was killed that day. Other actors in make-up completed the group that attacked El Paraíso. The play also included "Machuca" an informant and guerrilla deserter, who pointed out various
members of the community as collaborators with the guerrilla. Finally, the leaders of the community were played by themselves.

The first part of the play ended with the burning of the houses of the village (constructed with cardboard) and the community intensely recalling this moment. Someone said, "If you would have seen how it was after this; you could see from the soccer field (where we were)
the few things that did not burn, this made us very sad."

The actors portrayed the words and actions of this day so well that the people watching felt as if the play was real. In truth, I was deeply moved by this dramatization. The children were anxious around some of the frightening actors and the adults laughed nervously. People in the audience added lines to the dialogue and the oldest members repeated out loud, "that is exactly how it happened."

For the second act, unknown to the audience, the theater group had developed a new ending to the tragic day, to include all of us. The leaders, still full of fear but feeling accompanied by the
organizations attending the assembly, forcefully asked the paramilitaries to respect everyone's life and territory. Faced with the refusal of the paramilitaries to honor this request, everyone
present, actors and observers, united and ordered them to leave shouting "out, out, out!" until the disempowered paramilitaries left the assembly. At the end, everyone was looking at each other feeling that finally, for real, everything was over.

That was how it happened. The value of this play is hard to measure. Maybe for some people it was healing and empowering while for others it was only a painful dramatization. For me as an accompanier it was a unique moment: the victims who had lost so much due to the violence
reclaimed from the ashes their dignity and strength, becoming the protagonists of a new story where truth, justice and resistance are their guide.

Jul 6, 2009

for the appropriately paranoid

I would say that most accompaniers don't do most of the things in this guide to secure communications by the great folks at DigiActive, but given the recent DAS scandal in Colombia, it seems worth upping the hassle factor. What a pain. Also worth noting that they say cellphones should be left outside of sensitive meetings in the US too, since the ability to listen through them is commercially available and works on US networks too. I would assume that means Canada too.

Jul 3, 2009

and now a gadget! for getting us to see what we don't see

Osocio is really on a roll with this theme - here's another straight from the Osocio blog on social advertising

Billed as “the first poster that responds to people looking at it,” Amnesty International’s one-off domestic violence awareness poster includes an eye-tracking camera that changes the poster’s display when a viewer looks at the image.


The poster, titled “It Happens When Nobody Is Watching,” has been criticized for its being one of a kind (as opposed to a full campaign) and accused of pandering for an award (which it won). Berliners, be on the watch, this poster is displayed at a bus stop in your city. Have you seen it? What do others think of its efficacy?