If it violates, it’s violent. The end

“The boys throw stones at the frog in jest. The frog dies in earnest”

Joanna Russ, quoted often by Larissa Klazinga


I blog in peace. And I blog just having spent a wonderful six days in Sodwana with my husband Mike, and two kids, Che and Luc-Michael. All of them took to the ocean, even an open water snorkel two miles out to sea, and Mike and Che have decided they want to do open water one, so we can dive as a family. Although Luc-Michael will have to wait two years until when he turns 10. My passion for freediving remains and in doing a little scuba, I am not selling out to the greater cause, although some may feel I am:)

Anyway, I digress. I am still on a mission to answer violence with absolute non-violence and so have immersed myself in the study of accomplishments borne out of non-violent movements. And there have been some significant accomplishments. The abolition of slavery, for instance, was one such accomplishment.

But what I am engaged in right now is an attempt to help individuals transform violent thought processes and violent communication methods. It’s quite simple, if it violates, it is violent. And so demeaning language is a form of violence. And violence begets violence. So violence even in its most seemingly innocuous form, can, and often does, lead to other forms of violence. I spend much of my time helping individuals, especially Moms and kids, exit violent situations, so understand me when I say, I have a zero tolerance for violence. And I never expect the vulnerable simply to return violent words or violent deeds with rainbows and candy floss. If I come across a dangerous situation I will, within my means, do what I can to help the vulnerable get the freak out.

What I am really talking about hear is everyday communication amongst average well-adjusted, functional individuals. I observe a lot of communication in everyday life. I deal with many disputes and so am a party to much correspondence, to organizational communication and to relational interaction. A significant amount of our everyday language is peppered with violence: from sarcasm and gossip to name calling and the unjustifiable imputation of intention to others.

I take this stuff seriously as everywhere I go a see how violent thinking and violent speaking ends up in damage and detriment to ourselves and others. And so all I ask is that we pause….and reflect. I start with those we train in alternative dispute resolution and mediation. We start with self-reflection.

Unless we are able to transform our own violent thought processes and our own violent means of communication, we cannot help others. Most people don’t regard themselves as violent to which I say, we live in a violent world, which affects us all, and self-reflection in this regard may be the biggest gift we ever give others.

This stuff is key. And I am committed to this. I 100% believe that we can change lives and are changing lives. The good news is this is not rocket science. It is basic. It is radical. And by radical, I mean fundamental, how things should be. Back to our roots-who were are created to be. That is mirror images of the most high.

We have thus decided to incorporate non-violent communication formally into our main ADR Program. We also offer it as a short certificate program via distance learning or alternatively a one day workshop.

The quote I started with speaks of intention. As communicators, it is not enough to hold to our intention and to simply state “I meant no harm”. It is true, in the main, we do not intend to demean, harm or cause detriment to others in any way. But we must be responsible to be aware of how what we do, and what we say is received by others. Something said by you in jest may cause another to die a little inside. The root of the word sarcasm actually comes from the same root of a word that means to cut out flesh from someone. Let’s not do this stuff. Let’s apply love and grace at all times. Even when it seems undeserved. Or maybe especially when it seems undeserved.

As always, peace.


Ps. Next 5 day ADR Program takes place 4-9 August in Jozi. We have a number of subsidized spots left at 50% of the normal fee. Please get in touch. adr@mediatorsa.co.za


In valuing story, we get to change lives

“We want to be “true to ourselves” or at least to our self-made image. We become so concerned with our identity that we pre-occupy ourselves with our own unique distinction. We worry about how we are doing in comparison with others. This is the illusion that sets us on the road to competition, rivalry and violence.”

-Henri Nouwen


I blog in peace. And this morning I blog from the land of milk and honey. Otherwize known as Durban.

I spent the whole of last week with some amazing ADR trainees, transferring skills in mediation based on our stance on resolving disputes non-adversarially and non-violently.

In my recent discussions with Prof Faris around Non-Adversarial Justice, I have been awakened to the profound hyper-individualization in society that breeds competitivism and can ultimately end up in violence. Our main aim in training mediators, is to cause a paradigm shift. To move way from “resolving” disputes adversarially, be it in our marriages, friendships and other relationships, in schools, workplaces and legal disputes. It is vital that we guard against mediation becoming yet another dualistic, competitive process, mirroring court.

On our program, we do a significant amount of self-reflection, considering our concept of value in others, honour and our own communication style, which may or may not have violent, adversarial undertones.

Last week, we were most delighted to have Larissa Klazinga with us. She is from RhodesUniversity and is an accomplished human rights activist. She was granted leave to attend our program. And in an act of serendipity she granted us the benefit of some of her profound wisdom. She taught us on building common ground and the danger of the single narrative. In unpacking all this she taught us on the “napsack of privilege”. We all carry a napsack. And in that napsack are things that help us and things that harm us. There was profound revelation around the fact that, as tough as life is for all of us, some are born into situations where we automatically have the wind at our back, and so in comparison to others, we have a head start. This does not mean that we do not encounter tragedy. That we do not encounter hardship. But we are to be aware of our filters. We are to be aware of viewing another’s situation through our own filters. We are also to guard against holding to a single narrative, when life consists of a multitude of narratives. As mediators, we are to listen out for the underlying narrative, the untold narrative, what is being said, just as well as what is not being said. We are to develop a passion, an absolute commitment to the story.

As I have said before, as mediators we provide a safe place for stories to be told. Untold tragedy, limitless poor-choice-making is birthed out of the pain of the untold story. I encounter individuals daily that suffer from a profound and excrutiatingly painful lack of being heard. We get to allow individuals to be heard. Sometimes for the very first time ever.

We get to change lives. And it is a gift.

Larissa will be speaking at this Friday’s Peace and Justice Breakfast in Durbs. There is no cost. In fact we pay you in breakfast and general amazingness. If you would like an invite, please mail adr@mediatorsa.co.za

For more information on our training and dispute resolution services, please email adr@mediatorsa.co.za

Until next time, peace.

Sheena Jonker