Jale Sultanli, Alison Castel and I presented at Columbia University this week on a different approach to transitional justice for Indonesia. There was a genocide in Indonesia 1965, you might not remember because you were not alive, perhaps breezed over it in the press, or because it just wasn't taught in school. But not remembering is quite different than not being allowed to remember, as in the case of Indonesians today. Those who survived the genocide still keep their mouths mostly shut as the state narrative remains largely unchanged. There was a coup and suppression of the communists was required to keep things in order. This happened with U.S. blessings. The missing pieces are that a major coup attempt was never really proven and of the 1,000,000 or so killed for being "communist" only a small percentage even really knew what communism was. Without state acknowledgement, truth commission or reparations, what role can transitional justice have in indonesia?
In our paper, we discussed several ways in which transitional justice is occurring on the local level. And while there is still much desire for more national efforts, these local efforts seem to have great promise and do not necessarily upend the healing that such macro processes could incite. For example, a Truth Commission could re-open the divide between victim and perpetrator. Living side-by-side in the years post 1965, many have had to look beyond those divisions. Some local efforts help do that.
During this past summer in Indonesia, we learned of local projects by self-funded individuals who collect narratives of survivors simply to record their stories. They are not part of a university or NGO. People simply tell their stories the way they wish. In doing so, a new kind of discursive space (Maria Pia Lara) is opened up. In open interviews, people do not need to respond to the state story (master narrative) or be historically accurate. They can just tell what they remember and how they feel now. We saw this as transitional justice. We also learned of some physical spaces created in commemoration where locals now meet to discuss all kinds of political issues. This physical space allows people to upend silence as a means of control. By commemorating the past, they are able to challenge it. Challenging how the past is understood seems to help people feel a greater sense of agency...an agency they now invest in addressing current problems. They are imagining a better tomorrow.
While not considered "transitional justice" in the traditional sense..there are no legal proceedings or government documents resulting, we saw local efforts as a powerful part of the post-atrocity healing process. We applaud and support these efforts.
Violence is embedded in our discourse, Vivanne Jabri told us during her visit to our school this fall. We cannot "fight" it out there, it's in our words. I sort of understood what she meant at the time, yes we have violent shows on TV and violent toys. But I REALLY got what she meant when I picked up my vitamin bottle (see left) and saw the following text...
CoQ Enzyme 10 is "A POWERFUL WEAPON in supporting heart health" - My goodness, it's a vitamin. I don't need a weapon for heart health, I need exercise, a good diet, and happiness. I was frankly a little stunned seeing that use of the word weapon. It would be much nicer to reach for the bottle and see "Good morning, I am here to support your heart health. Have a great day" or even "COQ 10 is a wonderful way to support a happy healthy heart'
I'll take clever alliteration over violence any day. So maybe Jabri is right, the place to start "global intervention" is here, right in my refrigerator. So here goes my breakfast activism.
Here's the email I just wrote to Nature's Bounty:
I love so much that you do. Thanks for the health promoting vitamins.
Important comment, I'm a PhD Candidate in Conflict Resolution studying the Language of Conflict-- we are finding that violence in our daily language really has an effect on violence in the world. I know you're for a more peaceful planet which is why I wanted to point out to you that your CoQ 10 bottle has some violent language that I ask you to please consider changing.
The bottle says "Q-Sort Co Q10 is a powerful weapon in supporting heart health"
There's really no need for "a weapon for heart health" in fact, the language does not even make sense. A weapon fights something or attacks something. The sentence isn't really logical. I suggest
"COQ 10 is a wonderful way to support a happy healthy heart' Or "CoQ, working hard to support your heart health"
Thank you for your consideration. I think much more good can come to you and your company if you become aware of the power of language in supporting a healthy happy planet as well as healthy happy hearts.
From Milan Kundera the Book of laughter and Forgetting
"The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was...The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting"