1. Back at the wheel

    Time passes so quickly. Since I last posted I got married, moved house, and we are now expecting our first child. Life is definitootly what happens when you’re busy making other plans. 

    I haven’t forgotten about Crafting Gentleness. I’m currently regrouping and working out where to go next with this project.  I’m about to become redundant at my university job due to job cuts, so I’ll need to do things that support my family. This may be one of them, but time will tell. 

    In the meantime, thanks for visiting, and please come back soon :)

    All the best,

    Anthony McCann

  2. I have the Tumblr feed set up for http://www.craftinggentleness.org now, linking to @CraftGentleness on Twitter. 

  3. Commoning.

    Calling libraries the ‘Information Commons’ doesn’t quite feed the more helpful notions of the commons, or of education, in my opinion. The notion does nothing to challenge the idea that education is just about information delivery, which does nothing to challenge the idea that students are just empty vessels to be filled up (which cliché popped up again in an episode of Fringe I was watching last night).

    I’m playing around with the notion of the Conversation Commons at the moment, particularly in relation to freeschool or free university energies. This idea is closer to what I value about education. It takes the notion of conversation, at its best a non-urgent space and non-urgent time for respect and listening and adaptive exploration, and joins it to the notion of the commons, at its best a way of talking about non-commodified and non-commodifying relationships. I’ve written a lot about notions of enclosure and the commons in the past (see http://www.anthonymccann.com for more), and I think there are ways to rescue meanings of the commons, to make them more suitable for resistance to the everyday enclosures of managerialism, or overbearing commercialisation. What’s very important, for me, is to steer my own use of the notion of the commons away from discussion of resource production, management, and consumption. There be dragons, as they say, dragons that offer us few ways to talk about our emotional lives, resistance, the unhelpfulness of increasing encroachments of enclosure, or particular qualities of relationship. People and qualities of relationship before resources. For the moment, allying the notion of conversation to the notion of the commons maybe moves the commons conversation away from being primarily about resources, at least a little, and towards people and presence and being there and working in withness and seeing how it goes.

    The idea is to start a regular gathering in Derry/Londonderry based around the notion of the Conversation Commons, to invite people to a safe space of vulnerability, where people are also invited to become more accountable, response-able, and transparent in their thinking about their thinking. Just chat for chat’s sake is occasionally fine and dandy, but there is work to be done, and we can become more subtly aware of the differences we always-already make. It’s time. Indeed, it already was. 

  4. Moving right along …

    2011 is well under way, and it’s time to reinvigorate the Crafting Gentleness energies. There are a number of concrete developments happening, but they won’t be happened for another few weeks yet. When the seedlings blossom, shortly, all being well, we will let you know about them here. So, no, we haven’t gone away, and yes, we are planning wonderful and exciting things :)

  5. Thoughts on Tuesday in the Guildhall Square

    I was born on the 28th January, 1972. Two weeks late, and hungry, so Mum tells me. Two days later, while Mum was still in the hospital recovering, the news came in that paratroopers had shot 13 civil rights marchers on the streets of Derry, on what would become known as Bloody Sunday. By the time I was two my family had emigrated, like so many others. I spent my childhood years playing on the beaches of the North Island of New Zealand. But the story remained. I was born two days before Bloody Sunday. A long shadow that stretched 13,000 miles across the planet.

    Bloody Sunday was, to the best of my knowledge as a child, THE story of Northern Ireland. All of the violence, hurt, pain, and injustice rolled into one. It was a story that let me learn that the Official Story is always questionable, and, in that case, tragically, maliciously, violently wrong.

    Our family returned to Ireland in December, 1980. Growing up in Warrenpoint as a teenager, I got to live in a place with another big story of ‘The Troubles’. The British army suffered their largest loss of life, 18 people, in an IRA ambush attack there in 1979. My journey to school in the morning passed the site of the attack. There was never a single story.

    I left Northern Ireland in 1994, after finishing my degree at Queen’s University in Belfast. I can admit that part of me thought of my leaving as an escape - I was becoming less and less Catholic, less and less nationalist, and I couldn’t really work out how I belonged, or what part I could play in all that was going on. By the time I returned to work in Derry four years ago, I had lived outside of Northern Ireland for 12 years.

    As I made my way to the Guildhall Square to join my friends and thousands of others in support of the Bloody Sunday Set The Truth Free campaign, it felt like something of a homecoming for me. Walking through the Bogside to get to the Square, passing the site of the Bloody Sunday shootings, I thought, yes, I had left, but I’m here now, and I want to take my place among those who are facing up to the violent histories of Northern Ireland trying to make a helpful difference.

    I have at times made mention of the cynical joke about Derry people that “they’re very balanced individuals. They’ve chips on both shoulders”. Part of the joke, I imagine, speaks to the ways that when people are victimised for long enough, they can start to embrace victimhood as an identity that keeps them warm at night. That’s a conversation that interests me greatly. Another part of it, though, is truly cynical, making light of deep violences and injustices that have been inflicted on people in the city, Bloody Sunday being the most notorious of those.

    What tears I saw in the Square came quietly. There was always the possibility that there would be another whitewash, another deepening of the wounds. Sometimes, though, the lies dissolve, the shit clears, we can indeed give a thumbs-up to a closer, more intimate telling of what actually happened. I’m not a fan of truth, understood as an exact retelling of our staging of life. Life’s too complex for that. I am a fan of truth, understood as a willingness to be present with honest tellings and retellings of the best and worst we have to offer, so that we might learn from those tellings and retellings. Yesterday was a day for that kind of truth, a time to clear away the wilful distortions, a time to honour the dead and the wounded, a time to wake the dead with joyful applause and declarations of their innocence, a time to sit with the tragedies of what might have been otherwise, a time to celebrate the differences that the dead had made in life within families, within communities, within a city. Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of loss, tears of remembrance. A time for dignity.

    The relatives acknowledged all of the dead of the last forty years. They mentioned the atrocities of Ballymurphy and the Shankill. They looked to Sharpeville, Tiananmen Square, Darfur, Fallujah and Gaza. But it was also a time for hope. There are other stories that we can tell. They also looked to a present which is quite a different place to the Derry of 38 years ago, and to a future that we make ready for those not yet born. I wonder what new stories we will be able to tell about Derry? Maybe one of them will be about how thousands gathered in the Guildhall Square on a sunny day in June to celebrate the families who waited.

  6. 5 Ways to Save the Planet (Blue Planet Green Living)

    The website Blue Planet Green Living interviewed me for their 5 Ways To Save The Planet item. These are my responses:  

    BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?


    1. Stop trying to save the planet. This sounds a little counter-intuitive, but there are a few things behind my answer. The first is the idea that it’s not our job to save the planet — the planet doesn’t need us. It was here before us and will be around long after we go (and I’m guessing we eventually will). Second, trying to save anybody or anything often ends up with well-intentioned blindness, where I become so convinced that I’m on the Side of The Angels that I don’t think to question myself. That, then, all too easily comes with shouldsmusts, and have tos, directed at other people. Third, I find that it can get a little disheartening to have expectations or aspirations that are so huge that they approach the infinitudes of impossibility, when I think of little ol’ me in my little ol’ life. I’m all for avoiding despair where I can, and Saving The Planet sounds like something for a superhero; last time I checked, I’m no superhero. However, I do assume I always-already make a difference. So, I’m less a “Save the Planet” kinda guy, and more about …
    2. Staying “here”. We can often think of hope for helpful change as being located somewhere else, somewhere better, somewhere in the future, somewhere just out of reach, somewhere very different to what’s happening here. I’m not interested in those kinds of hope. For me, hope works better when it’s here. Right here, part of my life. For me, politics also works better when it’s here. How can I become more present here? How can I learn to listen better to what’s going on for me, within me, around me? What possibilities do the current situation open up for helpful change? What can I helpfully do in my own neighbourhood, my own town, my own family? What resistances can I find within myself that draw me away from a focus on being here, living here, making a difference here? How can I open myself up more to the uncertainties of what happens that “here” involves? Do I ever assume that here is just not good enough, even when it’s all I’ve got to work with? Can I learn to be more patient, and not assume that things have to be, must be, should be, different than what’s already here and available? How can I contribute? How can I help? Might not helping be more helpful, in some circumstances? Remaining here invites me to simply keep breathing, and to ask …
    3. What “smallest meaningful actions” can I undertake now, here, today? I love that E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” mantra has become influential, and I think the invitation to smallest meaningful actions need never go away. I’m also a big fan of filmmaker John Cassavetes’ belief in the power of “small emotions”, those micromoments of everyday life where we experience difference as we make a difference. Being shaped as we shape. Being changed as we change. I love small and specific, as it tends to fit with “here”, and with embodied, present hope. It’s one of the reasons I love the BPGL website, the Green Is Sexy website, or the work of Baglady Productions (ASAP), and other websites like these that encourage people to think about small, manageable, meaningful differences that we can make in our lives. Becoming more aware of participation in the small stuff is crucial for me, but also …
    4. Placing small stuff in a wider context. I think it’s really important to consider the way that our small differences can link to larger currents, structures, movements, and resonances. That, for me, includes, for example, the challenge of facing up to unhelpful, expansionary, encroaching changes with social, political, economic, and environmental impact — the various enclosures that people experience around the world. Clear cutting happens. Mountaintop removal mining happens. “Ethnic cleansing” happens. Corporate greed happens. War happens. I think we encounter many opportunities to either challenge or support “the way things tend to be”, opportunities to respond to the structural violences, coercions, dominations, and obediences of daily existence. Every day includes multiple invitations to respond, multiple opportunities to clarify what’s important to me, multiple moments of potential resistance, co-optation, and acquiescence. Which leads me to …
    5. Clarifying what’s important to me. I think it’s important to regularly check in with myself about what’s important to me. Kurt Vonnegut and many others have warned about the dangers of being careful who you pretend to be for that is who you are likely to become. Similarly, for me, it’s crucial to really hone my sense of what’s important to me, as I find myself involved in particular situations. To do that, I use a “question cycle”:  1) What’s important to me? 2) What’s important to others? 3) What about what’s important to me comes from others, other times, or other places? 4) What would I like to be important to me? I try to revisit this question cycle often. Each person or situation I encounter on my way can be an invitation to clarify my priorities. The more I do this, the more I can trust myself to feel my way, as I listen to what’s going on. I trust that people can make sense of things for themselves, in a helpful way, bit by bit.
    6. Being prepared to adapt the framework or structures that I’m offered (“being cheeky”). So, here’s a sixth one to tie them all together — having courage: courage to remain small; courage to be and be in place where I happen to be; courage to learn; courage to keep going; courage to open myself to people, especially when I am inclined not to; courage to become more thoughtful, accountable, responsible, and transparent about whatever differences I can make; courage to listen.

  7. Facebook Fan Page for Crafting Gentleness

  8. 15:30 22nd Mar 2010

    Notes: 4

    Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century

    The copyright for the edited volume ‘Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century’ (published in 2001) has reverted to the editors: Daniel Christie, Richard Wagner, and Deborah Winter.  They have made the book available online for downloading at no cost to encourage course and program development in peace psychology worldwide. For a pdf file of the book, use the following link:


    The Table of Contents is as follows:

    Foreword vii
    Preface ix
    Acknowledgments xiii
    Contributors xv
    Introduction to Peace Psychology
    Daniel J Christie, Richard V. Wagner, and Deborah Du Nann Winter


    1 Intimate Violence - Naomi Abrahams

    2 Anti-Gay/Lesbian Violence in the United States - Bianca Cody Murphy

    3 Intrastate Violence - Ulrike Niens and Ed Cairns

    4. Nationalism and War: A Social-Psychological Perspective - Daniel Druckman

    5. Integrative Complexity and Political Decisions that Lead to War or Peace
    Lucian Gideon Conway III, Peter Suedfeld, and Philip E. Tetlock

    6. Genocide and Mass Killing: Their Roots and Prevention - Ervin Staub

    7. Weapons of Mass Destruction - Michael Britton

    Deborah Du Nann Winter and Dana C. Leighton

    8. Social Injustice - Susan Opotow

    9. The War Close to Home: Children and Violence in the United States -
    Kathleen Kostelny and James Garbarino

    10. Children and Structural Violence - Milton Schwebel and Daniel J Christie

    11. Women. Girls. and Structural Violence: A Global Analysis - Dyan Mazurana
    and Susan McKay

    12. Understanding Militarism: Money. Masculinity, and the Search for the
    Mystical -
    Deborah Du Nann Winter, Marc Pilisuk, Sara Houck, and Matthew Lee

    13. Globalism and Structural Violence - Marc Pilisuk

    14. Human Rights Violations as Structural Violence - M. Brinton Lykes

    15. U.N. Peacekeeping: Confronting the Psychological Environment of War in
    the Twenty-first Century - Harvey J Langholtz and Peter Leentjes

    16. The Cultural Context of Peacemaking - Paul B. Pedersen
    17. Conflict Resolution: Theoretical and Practical Issues - Ann Sanson and
    Di Bretherton

    18. Crafting Peace: On the Psychology of the TRANSCEND Approach - Johan
    Galtung and Finn Tschudi

    19. Introducing Cooperation and Conflict Resolution into Schools: A Systems
    Approach -
    Peter Coleman and Morton Deutsch

    20. Reducing Trauma During Ethno-Political Conflict: A Personal Account of
    Psycho-social Work under War Conditions in Bosnia  - Inger Agger

    21. Reconciliation in Divided Societies - Cheryl de la Rey

    22. Psychosocial Interventions and Post-War Reconstruction
    in Angola: Interweaving Western and Traditional Approaches - Michael
    Wessells and Carlinda Monteiro

    Daniel J. Christie

    23 Toward a Psychology of Structural Peacebuilding - Cristina Jayme Montiel

    24. Psychologies for Liberation: Views from Elsewhere - Andy Dawes

    25. Gandhi as Peacebuilder: The Social Psychology of Satyagraha - Daniel M.
    Mayton II

    26. Peacebuilding and Nonviolence: Gandhi’s Perspective on Power - Manfred
    B. Steger

    27. Giving Voice to Children’s Perspectives on Peace - Ilse Hakvoort and
    Solveig Hagglund

    28. Redressing Structural Violence against Children: Empowerment-based
    Interventions and Research - Linda Webster and Douglas B. Perkins

    29. Gendering Peacebuilding - Susan McKay and Dyan Mazurana

    30. Psychologists Making a Difference in the Public Arena: Building Cultures
    of Peace -
    Michael Wessells, Milton Schwebel, and Anne Anderson

    Conclusion: Peace Psychology for the Twenty-first Century - Deborah Du Nann
    Winter, Daniel J Christie, Richard V. Wagner, and Laura B. Boston


  9. blgpst: all in good time

    Blogging is a little slow at the minute here, but it will be picking up fairly soon. We still have a few weeks left of the university semester before classes end (in May), and I’ll hold out for the clearing in the trees before giving this my full attention. There are a few things waiting in the wings … I’ve been making a list of blog post ideas that I’d like to do something about. We (the team) are also getting ready to redesign the Crafting Gentleness site with a bit of help from someone who knows more about these things than we do - we’d like more pictures for a start, and we’d like more activity on the front page of the site to make it clear that we’re as active on the site as we are behind the scenes. We also want to turn the Hope Archive into something more manageable. A bit more fun would be good, too :) Lots of things to work on, and lots of ideas flying around. With a bit of luck we should have the main redesign in place by the Summer. 

  10. MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at Maynooth

    Another world is possible: learning from each other’s struggles

    For decades community groups, the women’s movement and other social justice movements have been the driving force behind equality in Ireland, while global justice activists have highlighted the crisis of climate change and neo-liberalism. As economies falter and social partnership collapses, what do we already know about how to change the world?

    This course brings together experienced activists in community education and social movements with those interested and motivated about social justice to create new knowledge and develop alternatives. Do you want to join us on this learning journey? What is this course? How can we bring about social justice and environmental survival in Ireland and beyond? This course will offer some answers to this question with a view to enabling students to think about how to build real alternatives to challenge existing structures of oppression and injustice. It seeks to develop the capacity of ordinary people to change the world through community education, grassroots community activism and social movement campaigning.

    One of the main forces behind positive social change in Ireland and globally has always been “people power”: those who were not “on the inside”, without property, status or power coming together to push for change where it was needed. Community activism, the women’s movement, global justice campaigners, self-organising by travellers and new Irish communities, trade unions, GLBTQ campaigning, environmentalism, international solidarity, anti-racism, anti-war activism, survivors of institutional abuse, human rights work, the deaf movement and many other such movements have reshaped our society and put human need on the agenda beside profit and power. Participants have developed important bodies of knowledge about how to do this, which are fundamental resources for anyone trying to make a better world possible.

    The Departments of Sociology and Adult & Community Education are collaborating to develop thinking about critical pedagogy in community education; power and praxis in social movements and understandings of equality, transformation and sustainability. Our commitment to the public use of academic knowledge is a long-standing one and we have a wide range of practical experience as well as research-based knowledge. This includes involvement with social movements, community activism and issue-based campaigning; media work and public debate; active involvement in political parties, trade unions and lobbying groups; community education and literacy; development and human rights work. Our student body is very diverse, with a wealth of different experiences and a strong tradition of involvement in community development and social activism.

    Three core strands of thinking will be explored in this course –

    1. Critical and praxis-oriented forms of thinking: critical adult and community education; critical media and cultural pedagogy; knowledge for social change; critical social and political theory; community art; politics of knowledge, utopian imagination and social change .

    2. Understanding equality and inequality: economics of equality; development education; politics of gender; environmental justice; politics of sustainability; political economy and alternatives to capitalism; the search for good work; world-systems analysis.

    3. Power, politics and praxis: social movements; active citizenship; critical community development; participatory and radical democracy; popular praxis; skills for grassroots organising; history and politics of social change; revolutionary theory and practice. The course content is all taught from the standpoint of “praxis”: the understanding that theory without practice is meaningless, while practice without theory is likely to fail.The basis of our work is dialogue between reflective practitioners, systematically including both elements.

    General Information Both Departments have a long history of attracting students who are concerned about social and global justice and keen to draw on their analytical skills to develop a professional life in these areas. This includes a body of mature students who have already had such an engagement and want to develop their practice further. This programme is designed to meet the needs of this diverse cohort of potential or continuing students. This includes those involved in adult learning, community development, social movements, grassroots activism, workers in NGOs and state agencies, and advocates with minority groups. The course is geared to bringing together the best of practitioner skills in the field with the best of academic research. Our workshops are not traditional classroom experiences but draw on our extensive experience with community, popular and radical educational practice to bring out and work with participants’ existing knowledge. We bring our own lived experience into the classroom, and encourage other participants to do the same, creating a conversation between practitioners in which students are not passive learners and teachers are not unquestioned experts.

    This full-time MA programme consists of 90 Post Graduate credits, at Level 9 on the Qualifications Framework. Students will complete the Thesis and Research Module (30 credits), four core modules (10 credit) and select 20 credits from the rest of the programme of elective modules 5 credit each). The programme will offer a choice of 3 elective modules per semester, of which, students will complete 2.

    Participants will leave the course with a deeper understanding of how the politics of equality and inequality works in a range of substantive areas. They will have developed the skill of practicing “politics from below”: active citizenship, civil society, community education and development, social movements and other forms of popular agency. They will have gained skill as a reflexive researcher, developed their writing and presentation skills and completed a practice-based research project.

    The course involves two days a week on campus (typically Monday and Tuesday) over two twelve-week semesters, along with independent reading and study which you should expect to take another two days equivalent during the rest of the week. Your thesis, which is usually linked to an activist project you are involved in or aiming to develop, typically takes about four months after the end of formal classes.

    For more information, please contact the Dept. of Adult and Community Education, NUI Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland at adcomed@nuim.ie or (+353-1) 7083937.

    Please forward this to anyone you know who may be interested.