I’ve been quiet lately

I was expecting to be posting on my blog every day since September with updates and excitement about finally doing the course of study I have been planning and preparing for since 2012.

I registered to do my Master’s Degree in Peace Studies.  Things did not go well.  I have been misled and let down.  This has been a huge distraction for me.  I could not even write about it.

I’ve put a complaint in to the university, which has been accepted.  I am awaiting their response.

Master’s Degree Registration

I have received a “Preparing for Lancaster: Begin registration” email saying it is time to register as a student for my Master’s Degree.  So begins the next stage of my study so I can be eligible to work in the peace sector.

For the previous stage, Open University study to get an undergraduate degree, I blogged my progress on my OU blog site.  302 posts, 1,971 comments Although that will continue to exist for another 3 years or so, it will disappear.  So I think it is time to return here to record my progress and my reflections on learning.

Part-time job applied for

I’ve applied for a part-time role in the university where I want to study, working in the college where I will be a student.  It is the same role as I did in my last job, I have all the ‘essentials’ and the only desirable I don’t have is ‘worked in Higher Eduction before’.

I hope to get short-listed for interview.  If I do, it will be a novelty.  Once upon a time if I submitted an application for a role, I got an interview.  Now I submit dozens and hear nothing.  This is particularly worrying when one has all the essentials, desirables and relevant experience.  I must be doing something wrong.

When I was doing recruitment I had the chance to see the current trends in applications, the current jargon to use and the fashion for answers.  I see none of that now.

Blog every day

Years ago I saw and heard the message that one should blog every day.  That applies to people who want to learn a subject, who want to learn how to write better, people who want to understand a subject, people who want to create a presence in social media, people who want to create a personal presence online, people who are job-hunting and want to demonstrate online evidence, people trying to raise their profile who want an online identity,people who want to support a job application, people wanting to back up their work or social or recreational profile, people wanting to manage their SEO profile…

That’ll be everyone, then.

Every day I have at least one thing pops into my head where I think “I need to blog about that” but by the time I am in a position to do so, some other life priority has kicked in and it does not happen.  Sometimes that happens may times a day.

<sigh>

And this crap Glutenburg editor does not help.

Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…

 

Empowering nonviolence – so much to learn

I need to read more information from War Resisters’ International.  They have so much useful information on nonviolent campaigns in opposition of war, that it is overwhelming, so I have not looked at it at all.  It is hard to know where to start.

Web sites:

Books:

Loads of articles:

Potential employers for me:

Who looks after the peacemakers?

When there is a conflict, people flock to one side or the other to support them, be it a divorce or an international conflict.  For those working with those parties trying to find an amicable solution, there is an expectation to empathise but not judge.

Listening to people who are angry, hurt and confused is hard without joining in.  To listen properly one must let them speak, put one’s self in their position, feel what they felt.  But to help fix the problem, one must not agree with everything they say as one would to a friend.  This means inevitably internalising all their emotion.  Then, when listening to the other party, doing that again.

I have found it is incredibly tough to do this, especially when over an extended period of weeks.  It is amazingly draining, not physically or just mentally, but emotionally and something else too.  There is something drained internally leaving one unable to make decisions or think of anything.  It becomes all-absorbing and nothing else gets in.

There must be techniques to prevent or reduce this, or to alleviate it.  Presumably those who conduct sessions at Relate or ACAS or in peace negotiations have tools and methods that mean they can keep working without exhausting themselves.

I have tried searching online to find out what these are, but without success.  Perhaps it is part of conflict resolution training or mediation training.

Having recently spoken to a GP and a policeman about this, I find neither gets any form of training or support to deal with the emotional consequences of their work.  People dying, mangled bodies, dealt with as part of their jobs, and no support.  How poor is that?

The more you practise, the luckier you get

tl;dr: Do independent study with a purpose.

Last year, doing my history research module, I used to get distracted when doing independent study and wander off spending hours reading irrelevant stuff. But I did get into the habit of thinking about the module themes as I did so, and I did use the primary and secondary document analysis techniques.

On the afternoon before the exam—when I should have been revising—I came across the Commissar Order: the instruction to German soldiers to not take Russian political Commissars prisoner. I remembered that from reading gory Sven Hassel war stories and proceeded to waste the entire evening reading about it. But I did so using my newly-learned research and historiography skills; that way I could pretend it was ‘revision’.

It turned out this document was genuine and was later hugely significant in the Nuremberg war trials and, as a consequence, has been key in influencing international war crimes legislation prosecution since then. It also gives exquisite insight into the war on the Eastern Front.

Courtesy of module A327 Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity, I was able to appreciate the significance of this document, evaluate its authenticity and put it into a political context. I actually got pleasure from using those skills to gain a much broader and deeper understanding of this tiny, trivial, scrap of history than I otherwise would have done. That scrap is still influencing international relations in the world but for the better now.

Anyway, so blinking what?

The next morning when I saw the exam paper, one of the documents to evaluate in the first question was… The Commissar Order! Either the gods smiled on me, or it is true that the more you practise, the luckier you get.

Smart missiles

Because of the current proposed airstrikes on Syria, I was trying to remember where the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital was that was attacked in an airstrike fairly recently.

Now that these days we have ‘smart missiles’ and ‘smart bombs’ and ‘laser guided precision’ and assurances civilian casualties are avoided, I just wanted to check the details.

On Googling it I found:

  • Médecins Sans Frontières hospital – Kunduz, Afghanistan – October 2015 – sustained air attack by USA – 42 dead, hospital destroyed
  • Médecins Sans Frontières hospital – Maaret al-Numan, Syria – February 2016 – 2 raids by Syria or Russia – 7 dead, hospital destroyed
  • Médecins Sans Frontières children’s hospital – Azaz, Syria – February 2016 – ballistic missile from Russia – 10 dead, hospital destroyed
  • Médecins Sans Frontières hospital -Hajjah, Yemen – August 2016 – airstrike by Saudi-coalition – 11 dead, hospital partially destroyed and closed down
  • Médecins Sans Frontières supported hospital – Saraqab City, Syria – January 2018 – 2 airstrikes – 5 dead, hospital closed down

They just go on and on.  Then I saw:

“In 2016, 32 MSF-supported medical facilities were bombed or shelled on 71 occasions. In 2015 we documented 94 attacks on 63 MSF-supported hospitals and clinics in Syria.”

It’s a good job there’s GPS and smart missiles and the like guaranteeing civilians don’t get killed in airstrikes.

MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂