By Chet Yarbrough
The Anatomy of Peace
By: The Arbinger Institute (Third Edition: Resolving the Heart of Conflict)
Narrated by: Kaleo Griffith
The Arbinger Institute offers leadership training and consulting to organizations, families, and individuals around the world.
In “The Anatomy of Peace” a story is told about an Israeli and Palestinian who run a youth camp for troubled children. One presumes this is a story, not an actual event, that is designed to advise reader/listeners of the “…Institutes” beliefs.
“The Arbinger Institutes” objective is to identify the causes of human conflict and how it can be resolved.
As the world knows, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues to rage without any evidence of resolution. Some argue the solution is splitting the area into two states. Others insist only one state is necessary with representation by resident voters. “The Anatomy of Peace” argues neither solution addresses the fundamental cause for conflict, nor will it result in peace.
Before explaining the camp leader’s histories in the middle east, the story begins with a young girl arguing with her family about being left at the camp for two weeks. The young girl refuses. The camp is in Arizona where temperatures rise well above 100 degrees in the summer. This young girl runs away with no shoes on her feet. She is followed by two young people who were once miscreates enrolled at the camp but are now employees. They follow her, and catch up after several hours of flight to find her feet bloody and burned. One of the two camp employees offers the shoes she is wearing to the runaway. The runaway refuses. Both employees choose to take their shoes off and continue running after her. When she stops in a shopping center where she sees a friend of hers, they all come together. The runaway looks at the camp employees and is shocked to see her pursuers had taken off their shoes. The runaway agrees to stay for two weeks at the camp. Her reason for staying is symbolic.
The troubled children’s camp is run by an Israeli and a Palestinian who are at peace with each other despite the conflict in their home country. Both have lost their fathers because of war. In their younger adult lives, both harbored hate for their enemies, the killers of their fathers and countrymen. Their respective stories are about how each overcomes their hate. It is same as the story of the runaway. They recognize each other as human beings. They refer to Martin Buber who wrote the book “I and Thou” which recognizes the importance of reverencing the humanness of all human life.
The point is made that all people conflict with themselves when they treat others as objects rather than fellow members of humanity. The principle of meditation is raised to get in touch with yourself, to understand yourself, to realize that in-common humanness is what must be recognized for peace to come among combatants.
What the authors argue is that humans create boxes that carry the weight of who they are–which is not who they really are or mean to be. In knowing oneself and the boxes we create for ourselves, we act in ways that defy the truth of all people’s humanness. This idea is old. It is the same idea that ancient Greeks spoke of when saying “know thyself”. The Institute teaches that in self-understanding (knowing what boxes one is in) and realization of all people’s humanness, one can find peace.
The idea is to stay out of boxes that define you. This seems too simple. However, it is not simple or easy because of our inability to break out of boxes that have been formed over years of experience. The first step is to not objectify other human beings. Human labeling puts one in a box. The box creates someone who is an object, not a fellow human being. The second is to know yourself and understand your boxes. The last step is to get rid of the boxes. Have empathy and do the things that make you feel good about your humanness.
They argue you are in a box if you do not feel good about what you do. Self-awareness sets one free to find peace. There is a great deal to offer leaders and managers of other people in the teachings of the Arbinger Institute. A skeptic may find the Arbinger Institute’s formula for peace Pollyannaish. It will only change those who choose love and self-understanding in the face of human nature’s desire for money, power, and prestige.
The Arbinger Institute’s formula for peace seems to have no application in the realpolitik of Russia’s interest in Ukraine and Georgia.