Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Give Peace a Dance?

Who would not agree that a night at the disco is better than a night with a Kalashnikov? Hence, "the supply of discotheques in conflict resolution is often underrated. The loudest music wins." That is what Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said during a seminar with the presidents of Georgia and Estonia - Mikheil Saakashvili and Toomas Hendrik Ilves - at the German Marshall Fund's Brussels seminar on the Caucasus this Monday.

President Saakashvili was quick to agree with Bildt, proposing to build "lots of discotecques" to contribute to peace in the Caucasus. "There is a lot to be won if you can get people to dance instead of running around the streets with weapons," the two statesmen argued.

Following up on this idea, Carl Bildt later wrote on his blog: "I suspect that we during the seminar introduced the idea of 'discotecques for peace.' It was about giving - with small means - young people in confrontation and conflict zones a possibility to naturally spend time with each other. A night at the disco is better than a night with a Kalashnikov. Especially in South Ossetia."

As much as this idea might seem daft, one should not underestimate the significance of a neutral meeting-ground during conflict. Giving people a chance to concentrate on something else for once except war and conflict, indulging in pleasure instead of shooting at each other might, at first glance, seem like a good idea. Also, bars and restaurants have in recent years become the target of terrorist attacks, much motivated by the fact that they represent values not tolerated by extremists and war-mongers.

However, when regarding the issue more closely, one wonders who would constitute the disco clientele. Who could really afford going to the discotecque in a conflict or war zone? The answer is obivous for all who have seen conflict: It is mainly the profiteers of war that can allow themselves such luxury during conflict. Ordinary people just would not even consider it when they can hardly win their daily bread, and for them establishments of this sort are only associated with criminality, prostitution, and possibly foreign soldiers and aid workers.

Still, the idea might seem novel and original. However, it is far from a new concept. Dancing for peace first came in vogue during the "flower-power" era in the late 1960s, and formed part of the expanding international peace movement. Peace dance festivals have since been a recurrent phenomenon to promote pacifism. For Carl Bildt, this is perhaps a sign that he is getting old, as his youth was much spent combatting exactly this sort of "leftist" ideas. But perhaps he has come to realise that with more discos "peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars."

As for the "discos for peace" proposal one cannot but wonder how distant and distraught political leaders are from the realities of war and conflict, thinking that such ideas might give peace a chance to dance. What is there then left to say but: "Send in the clowns!"

No comments: