Sunday, April 26, 2009
Taking Our Part in Public Dialogue
I had the privilege of watching a screening of "The Soloist" at Sony Pictures in celebration of one of the co-Producers' birthday this weekend. (We've been friends of Russ Krasnoff's for over a decade.) The movie captures the story of a Los Angeles Times' reporter, Steve Lopez, friendship with a schizophrenic, homeless, but nevertheless brilliant musician, Nathaniel Ayers. At the end of the movie, the producers urge their viewers to get involved with homeless causes, public housing and the mentally ill. It's a call I've heard before personally, but had not really put together with mediation until this week.
I'm also reading Bernard Mayer's new book: "Staying with Conflict", which urges conflict professionals to think of their role as going beyond conflict resolution. After all, not all conflict can be resolved. Instead, he invites us to consider facilitating the dialogue that is central to competing values, including limited resources, to manage conflict without a view towards solving it, but living with it in our communities, and internationally. This was/is a bit revolutionary to me, as my practice revolves around litigated cases: all of the conflict which I presume to resolve will come to an end in court if I'm unable to resolve it before then.
Finally, I was inducted into the International Academy of Mediators last week. One of my fellow inductees (not an American) spoke eloquently of taking our stance among other international leaders in committing to engage in the dialogue on the global climate crisis.
More and more, I see our profession as a social science not unlike psychologists, historians, and yes, even filmmakers with a message. I congratulate Russ Krasnoff for having the courage to make this excellent film and deliver this crucial message. I will report on the Mayer book once I've completed it. In the meanwhile, I welcome your comments on the role that mediators can or must play in moving beyond living as "Soloist" towards a better, more sustainable and ultimately more fulfilling duet or even orchestra.