Time for Truce?

Watching social media eat itself in a slow paroxysm over this past year, growing increasingly to despise it, but still drawn to the occasional joys, I’ve been struck how, as a culture, we have lost any way to make peace. Peace requires a reciprocal relationship to reality.

So much of our social discourse is now on twitter or facebook, which enhance aggression, erase nuance, leave people increasingly alone and unseen, more exposed and less understood. We need a sign to call truce. I see people daring to say, increasingly, they feel afraid to speak, afraid to say what they feel, and afraid to share their experiences, because there is so much accusation and denunciation. Accusation has been weaponised and it is having a terrible effect on our relations to one another. When someone is inflamed with anger, or when they are turning to violence, men and women need to be able to say “stop”. But we know words like stop aren’t always enough, aren’t always listened to, and many exchanges are now physically beyond our reach, in a cloud of gossip. So maybe we have an alternative in our playgrounds. Whether you call it “barley”, “keys”, or “scribs” – if you don’t know your local truce term ask a local kid – every region has a word for truce.

This right to truce should stop being for the use of children only, though for sure they need it. We need an emoticon – a sign and a word – that says truce, stop, parley. A magic word that is respected by everyone, without condition, and which it is a taboo to break. Our emotional lives are data, but data that impacts on our body, our mind, our wellbeing. Zuckerberg and twitter have done much to democratise data, but they have left us in a school playground. What we lack is the ability to parley. We lack truce. Use the symbol, share it, and let’s get with the truce.

[illustration by Daisy Lafarge]

Comments (8)

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  1. YesMan says:

    We could try moving to a community driven social network like Diaspora – I have found it to be a much more interesting and helpful social space: https://diasp.eu/people/86fd60001b4201364e584061862b8e7b

    Open an account on one of the many free public pods: https://diasporafoundation.org/

  2. Peter Arnott says:

    George Mitchell, during the Good Friday Agreement talks, said something about being able to sit down with your enemy, and listen to their story, and accept that, for them, the story is true. This is tricky on twitter.

  3. dirth says:

    Early Billy Connolly addresses the situation
    ‘Excuse me sir (god, what a stink), we’re doing a report on hatred and violence ‘
    He put his microphone to the small man’s face.
    ‘I wonder if you have any comments’.
    The small man grabbed the microphone and said.
    ‘Yes I certainly have. There will always be trouble , so long as they are shitting in our shoes and we are pissing in their Bovril!’
    Unfortunately that sum it up, there are people who are really too stupid to attempt any kind of intelligent interaction until they grasp that they shouldn’t post stuff that would embarrass their children or parents

  4. Neil Scott says:

    Conflict resolution is something those interested in politics seem pretty bad at. Coming from the left, I feel that is particularly bad when we don’t have democratic networks outside political parties that have imperfect democracies that are prerequisite on everyone toeing the party line. The hard left are particularly bad at this, with their centrism and almost self selecting cadre prone mechanisms. Those of us who have different “analysis” from central committees or cadre, and especially analysis that threatens the central cadre’s power, are pushed to the sidelines using age old methods of condemnation and accusation. This has, over the past twenty years, fractured the left into components that are in different parties, all of whom claim to be the voice of the left–the snp socialists (who despite numbers seem to be weak as they look for leadership), the Labour left (which is weak because of a pervasive mistrust in Scottish Labour because of its recent Blairite and Unionist history) the greens (who are looking towards models of left leadership outwith the UK, which in the coming months could place them as the leading left faction in Scotland) the ssp, rise etc (who seem to continuously smash themselves against rocks as a cadre competition still rages that has its roots from before the ssp formation in the late nineties, and concentrated then by the 2005 Sheridan show)… Followed by the small left fundamentalist groups with their various cadre… None of these groups can really claim to be “the” left.

    The Independence Movement and the left, needs networks, democratised and armed with the greatest tool of all… Ie, listening skills that also ensure that condemnation language and dismissal of ideas is seen as corrupt. Ideas in themselves should be welcomed, discussed, debated heatedly and compromises reached across networks (but not to the point of exclusion of other ideas). And if networks are created linking all of these disparate groups, valuable ideas cannot be lost as people link up on these enmasse.

    Eg… _The_ left CAN unite around various workers struggles, feminist struggles, etc and some of the left can unite around independence. The conflict should be of ideas, not around who is the best lefty or the indy supporter who waves the biggest flag. And if networks are stable and people use non-condemnatory language etc, those people who could be supporters but who do not recognise their own bias etc, can be given the tools to do so, rather than splintered off into the groups known as “the enemy of the party,” “the enemy of feminism,” “the enemy of equality,” etc.

    The creation of an occident and orient within our politics needs to stop and replaced by a network that can have as part of it, those who accept their voice and analysis is one coming from one section of a huge framework of ideas and experiences. The first part of creating a network is that acceptance. The second part is accepting that central committees pumping put declarations and decrees weakens us by creating an other.

  5. Jo says:

    We can wish to engage and engage passionately on any subject and proceed to do so. The trouble starts when people start throwing insults around.

    Look at the debate on Scotland’s future on the comments threads in newspapers online. Look at the insults….the debate is lost, nay, buried beneath them. By both sides.

    I’m not sure any truce word would be effective for some.

    1. Eleanor Ferguson says:

      I’ve been looking at the comments in the Scotsman as it’s a paper I used to get. I can’t get over how appalling they are! I’ve been daft enough to answer some of them,but it’s pointless really trying to answer people who routinely insult and belittle our FM and exult in the idea of Westminster defeating the continuity bill.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Actually, I think that recent British history shows that taboos (that keep, say, certain vices unmentionable) generally serve the powerful and corrupt, and if more angry denunciations were listened to and acted upon we might have saved a lot of suffering, prevented much injustice and possibly built a better society.

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