Professor. Mike Hardy, Executive Director of Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University shares his thoughts at the SOH Forum…
Jim Paymar – Why did you come?
MH – It is my first time and I know many of the participants. I’d never really thought about spirituality with a capital S in the work I do. But actually most of what we do is very spiritual. I was invited to come and talk about why I do what I do, rather than what I do, which intrigued me.
JP – What do you do?
MH – I run a research centre that focuses on peace and peaceful relations, that tries to understand and provide evidence of the conditions for peace. Whether it is where we keep the peace, or where there is violence or conflict and we can make peace.
JP – Why can’t we find peace?
MH – The very relationship we created, after the horror of WW2, in Europe we built a Union of nation states so it wouldn’t happen again. Here we are, after Brexit, where we are dismantling it. There are some big drivers that lead to conflict, that is the lack of ability and attention to dealing with relationships and how we get on with one another when we are different. It used to be asymmetrical, very one way, the West we took over many places and imposed ourselves. It was comfortable. The world has changed but we haven’t kept up with differences.
JP – Are there solutions?
MH – We never give up. It is a challenge. There are a couple of important things which will help. The first, we are obsessed with identify. Think of what happens with our complex multiple identities we have. You are an old person, you support this club, you are a French speaker. All these are components and what happens when we confront people with different identities, it is very easy to pull out the identity that is most different. Black and white in racial content, old and young in a generational context. Wouldn’t it be better to focus not on who we were but how we behaved? Are you kind, gentle, are you generous, are you angry? That level of difference would be easier to manage.
JP – It seems forever we have traveled on this road of power and control, and how do I become greater than you. How do we overcome that?
MH – We seem to default, due to our lack of commitment to learning enough, and I include myself in that, to what becomes easier. It is easier to be prejudicial than to understand something. It is easier to exclude than embrace and include. We just need to wake up and realise that together we are stronger. HG Wells wrote in 1908, the War of the Worlds. The message was that a world was at war with itself until the Martians invaded. And then, everyone had a common purpose. So let’s find a way to find a common purpose. I think climate, fight against poverty, war against terror which is a global phenomenon, and these are things that matter to all of us and should rally around things that make a difference to ourselves.
JP – As with Wells, does it take a cataclysm to bring us together?
MH – I hope it doesn’t. But soon millions of Bangladeshis will be looking for new land that is not run over with floods and that is very soon from now, the Maldives is sinking. Maybe unfortunately man can only learn from these extreme provocations. Everything is fine until something comes along and shakes you up. It’s how you respond to that that is critical.
JP – What does this Forum mean? How do we grow from experiences like this?
MH – This is a collection of believers, with a small B. A collection of people that get it and it is validating to come and meet other people who are on the same page immediately, and then you develop a rapport and confidence. But then you have to go away, and work in your networks, so let’s reinforce our purpose, our notion of oneness, but let’s get out there and campaign.