Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gangs Make Peace

Rapper The Game along with anti-gang activists, Police Chief Charlie Beck, Will.I.Am., and rival Los Angeles gang members gathered at a community center this month to bring an end to gang violence. The Game shared a powerful story about the recent loss of a former gang member he grew up with in foster care before calling on the crowd to make the world a better, less violent place. Some 2,500 responded to his invitation by arriving at the summit. Back in the era of Rodney King and the LA Riots of 1992, hundreds of young black men from warring factions of the Blood and Crip gangs gathered not to protest the Rodney King beating, but to declare a ceasefire. This new peace treaty included Crips, Bloods and ESEs. In a graphic example of change, a Blood and a Crip took off their red and blue T-shirts, handed them to each other and embraced in friendship. Reportedly, The Game, whose real name is Jayceon Terrell Taylor, has been vocal about building a better bridge between police and their community. He and Snoop Dogg led a march to police headquarters in Los Angeles earlier this month following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castle. They met with the mayor and police chief to discuss ways to improve things between cops and minorities. The LA police chief said about 1,000 people were shot last year. Almost 300 of them died and 80 percent of the victims and 80 percent of the shooters were young men of color. See news stories here-- and and

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Join me for PMI in Orlando 8/21!

On August 21, 2016, I will be joining my colleagues on an ethics panel at the Professional Mediation Institute at the Orlando Marriott World Center. Our panel will address ethics, professionalism and practices unique to mediation. Common and uncommon problems that arise complicating the settlement process will be discussed as well. Other speakers will address confidentiality, diversity, domestic violence and winning strategies to employ in negotiating a settlement. Top mediators from Florida and around the nation are expected to attend. This event takes place during the WCI360 worker's compensation conference, but is not about that substantive area of law or those types of litigated cases. PMI registration includes access to 16 hours of CME/CLE, so you can fulfill a two-year credit cycle requirement in just one meeting. I have been attending this conference for many years and was last a speaker in 2013 on the subject of commercial mediation. This conference is the same month as the Florida Dispute Resolution Center's annual DRC meeting, but the continuing mediator education is more geared for Circuit-Civil Certified Mediators and continuing legal education practictioners who use mediation to resolve lawsuits. The program has been endorsed by The Florida Bar Alternative Dispute Resolution Section's Executive Council, on which I sit. The theme this year is "Getting the Most out of Mediation: Tips and Tools for Everyone Who Attends Mediation." See more here-- and registration details--

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Primate Proclivity for Peace?

I recently read with great interest about Frans de Waal's work studying primate behavior in The New York Times Book Review of Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? Empathy, cooperation and fairness seem like distinctly human traits, but biologist Frans de Waal explains why animals might share those same qualities. He maintains that for centuries, our understanding of animal intelligence was obscured in a cloud of false assumptions and human egotism. A primatologist examining boundary lines between our species and others for thirty years, he is said to painstakingly untangle the confusion through research, revealing a wide range of animal capabilities. He studied prosocial choices in apes, showing yawn contagion, synchronization, consolation behavior, and altrusim. Even after fighting viciously, Chimpanzees reportedly reconcile due to saving a valuable relationship damaged by conflict. In a Ted Talk, he shows video of Capuchin monkeys which demonstrated empathy when there was clear inequity in being rewarded. Evolved morality exists in his opinion, rather than believing our bodies may have evolved from monkeys, but that our brains are their own miraculous and discrete inventions. He argues cognition must be understood as an evolutionary product with what he calls “cognitive ripples.” We tend to notice intelligence in primates because it’s most conspicuous. It looks the most like our intelligence. However, “after the apes break down the dam between the humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, the floodgates often open to include species after species.” See book review here-- and Ted Talk here--

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Recent shootings by law enforcement caught on video and now snipers taking out police officers have me thinking of the refrain from Rodney King, "Can we all get along?" Though now almost a quarter century ago, it seems like the LA riot events was last time we really had a national debate about police brutality and racial injustice. Peacemakers such as Doug Noll, with whom I've taken courses at the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals, remind us that neuroscience has established an irrefutable fact: human beings are emotional, not rational. Still, we have a belief that humans are distinguished from all other creatures because of their rationality. To be irrational is to be something less than human. People engaged in peacemaking long assumed that despite the emotions of conflict, people are fundamentally rational. The truth is, we are ninety-eight percent emotional and about two percent rational. Research demonstrates that we must strive to be far more aware of neuropsychological factors of human conflict. Noll believes these factors explain much about conflict behaviors. They also provide insights about new interventions in intractable conflicts. Conflict starts with a problem serious enough to cause anxiety, reflected in a feeling of insecurity. When anxiety or insecurity is first experienced, he says we have a choice between reactivity and reflection. If we do not make a choice, Noll says our default mode is to be reactive. By being reactive, we might reject the problem, give up, or feel inadequate to deal with the problem. If the problem is persistent, we might struggle or exit. As the conflict develops, we perceive it as a threat, and we may blame, attack or withdraw. These behaviors constitute our fear reaction system. If the choice for reflection is made, we have learned to reflect, relate, and relax. The insecurity arising from a conflict situation is recognized as pointing to a pathway of growth towards greater peace and self-realization. The brain's altruistic, cooperative social attachment systems actually allow us to be compassionate, tolerant, and exhibit loving-kindness. Perhaps through this, we can engage in conflict resolution and achieve peace. See more here-- and