“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