This self-evaluation is a cummulative reflection on my academic work for the last two years as this was my final quarter at Evergreen.
My studies at Evergreen have focused on dialogue, political philosophy and economy as well as social movements and dissent. These are all systemic features of living history. An examination of these is to no small part an attempt to surface the systems where, as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, at the Riverside Church in 1967, "racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together." My academic work over the last few years has been to develop related skills rooted in community. My focus on community management of conflict and change is work toward understanding and developing a response to these systems. In addition to my work in economics, political philosophy, political and legal history, I combined active community work in mediation and dialogue with my work experience in the non-profit world creating community.
The question of creating community was central to my investigation of dialogue, facilitation and a new interest in labor studies and social movements. Enclaves within larger communities are part of a real world history of conflict, mediation, normalization and progress. This is also a study of the way that ideological and economic movements do and do not survive and how they do or do not create change. The primary cultural narrative co-opts and mainstreams parts of radicalism, unrest and dissent as an attempt to control shared history. Ideological and economic movements attempt to influence shared history outside the primary cultural narrative. Shared history is actually formed collaboratively by these conflicts not independent of them. Shared history is an interdependently argued a posteriori conclusion about time, place and value.
In the "Power and Limitations of Dialogue" program, I was able to develop a high level of granularity to examine and new language with which to speak of the power and limitations of dialogue. I experienced theoretical and real-world concepts and issues of conflict and resolution. I had a taste in this program of the very real conflicts of class, privilege, race and gender in the US and around the world. I extensively examined the question of what happens in dialogue where participants may be overtly or covertly inimical to the others. This requires a strong commitment to the project of crossing thresholds of comfort while at the same time strongly determining boundaries to proscribe and truncate the slide from coercion to violence. Maintaining time and space for dialogue is a project to enable willing participants to become increasingly able to engage each other. Dialogue also creates pressure on the inimical to become willing by making position calls to both the participants and non-participants to evaluate their decisions on an appropriate balance between engagement with the world for one's own benefit and engagement with the world for the benefit of others.
After the intense focus on dialogue, I examined specific historical and current examples of conflict in the "Dissent, Injustice and the Making of America" program. I was able to investigate historical political, social and judicial conflicts. By looking at specific examples, I worked to surface systemic ways in which dissent, as conflicting ideology, is normalized by the dominant narrative and ways that dissent accelerates to meet the challenge. This raises an important question of how competition between cultural narratives is resolved and points out that the marginalization of plurality is a potentially dangerous side effect of having a dominant narrative. Another example is how comparative legal systems are cultural answers to questions of individual and community truth. Legal traditions are cultural world views actualized and that they vary represents specific and unique answers to conflict resolution. The historical and spatial comparison between the variances and invariances of these traditional systems is a tool to explore the dangers and opportunity present in conflict.
My final program has been "Political Economy and Social Movements." My primary focus was a research paper on the political economy of intellectual property and media oligopoly on community and culture. This was a specific examination of a far more pervasive trend toward privatization and marketization of the artifacts and artifices of human life. The consolidation and concentration of ideas and media have the effect of privatizing and marketizing culture. If the expression of culture can only be done within the context of a marketized domain of ideas, then communication of culture becomes marketing. If culture becomes marketing, then the ideas and feelings we have about our community and world become commodities to be bought, sold and manipulated. Neither a value in and of itself nor an extracted value that must be exclusively controlled, the public domain of ideas is the foundation of a vibrant public sphere, and a vibrant public sphere contributes to and increases the development of culture, that which community communicates.
The social and economic transformations of the modern era have created a lattice of disconnect between individuals and communities. On a macroeconomic level, this is a conflict between what World-System theory calls the core, semi-periphery and the periphery that is exemplified in the visceral and deep social and economic wounds created over the issue of globalization. On a microeconomic level, this is a struggle for advantage and benefit between individuals living in community, a struggle for dominance over shared history comprised of time, space and value. The importance of thinking systemically about the way that global issues affect both communities and commerce cannot be overstated, but it should also be clear that the influence of conflict extends even to the individual level. The choices communities and individuals make in the face of conflicts that they do not or cannot effectively analyze are choices made at the edge of a fearsome precipice.
Also during this quarter, from January through March, I facilitated small group dialogues as part of a community-wide lecture series, The Search for Peace: The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, featuring local and national speakers organized by Evergreen faculty and Olympia community members. While completing my Bachelor of Arts degree at Evergreen, I have been working as manager of system development and programmer in a non-profit developing a library automation system for underfunded and rural libraries. This is an opportunity to bring tools for community information systems to areas, and people, that have previously been unable to take advantage of advanced digital information access. There's an important element of real-world direct action, in the sense of specific experiential work, in these projects that is reciprocal to the intellectual or academic work.
Going forward I will pursue opportunities for academic and real world investigation of conflict and change management within the context of a larger question of time, place and value as shared history. The specific first step toward that overall goal is a rigorous acquisition of systemic language and granularity to exhume, examine, evaluate and then potentially exchange frameworks toward understanding.
Finally, I think it is important to acknowledge that I have both benefited and benefited from collaboration with my fellow students and the faculty of Evergreen within learning communities. My learning and experiences at Evergreen will form the foundation for my work for many years to come. I hope that my contributions to these learning communities will be part of the foundation of their future work also.