My professor of “Modern Diplomacy” class ended the last session of the semester by reminding us of a few factors that, if ignored, could lead to the failure of any kind of negotiations or diplomatic attempt to resolve conflicts. Two of those factors have really made me think: different narratives that each side has of history and the nature of the conflict and whether the parties involved actually wish to have the conflict resolved.
The distinction of narratives is an intriguing phenomenon to tackle. How could one go about finding hidden spaces between the lines of these different narratives and to advocate for a common ground that could keep both parties content enough to compromise?
I find narratives to be the most precious and sensitive aspect of a people’s history. And yet, this same narrative is what could confine a nation in its past, its losses, and its desire to ask for its taken right and even to avenge. This same narrative that could protect the unheard voices of history is what often leads to strong assumptions about the other side, ideologies and grudge. It’s this same narrative that at times justifies the lack of any kind of effort to understand the “enemy”. It’s this narrative that helps us draw seriously defined borders between “us” and “them”. It’s the power of this narrative that produces a generation that is just as confined in the past as the previous generation. At the same time, this narrative is sometimes the only heritage that is left for us. It becomes our legacy and our souvenir from the past that was taken away from us by force. This narrative is the only thing that we could keep from the physical and moral invasion of the other side into our lives. They could take away our homes, photo albums, peace and land from us. They could humiliate and murder us. But, they could never take our narrative away from us. In fact, many of us manage to survive for the sake of passing on that narrative to others.
So, how could a nation or one side of a conflict let go of its narrative or compromise on its historical understanding of a conflict? I wish I knew the answer to this, because if I did I would try to practice it in my own personal life and would do my best to spread this art to the rest of the world… the art of preventing a tragic past from defining us as a people and as individuals, the art of looking ahead, reconciling with the past and letting go of the complexes that this past has planted in each and every one of us.