Friday, October 16, 2009

Boxing and the peace movement

Recently the most important Dutch peace movement IKV Pax Christi held its yearly Peace Week. In order to attract new young people as peace activists a short video has been published on the Internet with a leading role for Jan Pronk, president of IKV and a former Dutch cabinet minister who performed also several high functions for the United Nations. In this video we see Pronk entering the training room of his wrestling school in a boxing outfit. He looks around and sees only an old man there, hardly able to do his exercises. Apparently it is not the right opponent for him. Pronk walks a bit around and starts with his boxing workout. While doing that he is a bit daydreaming about how he beats an opponent in a wrestling match. Then he wakes up again and he sees the old man playing chess with another old man instead of doing his workout. Next we see a poster with the text: “Wanted: A New Generation of Peace Fighters”. The video ends with a call to come to the Night of Peace. ( ; the website is in Dutch).
This video is not the only instance that the Dutch peace movement links fighting for peace to fighting sports. In the Night of Peace just mentioned Jan Pronk passed over his task as peace fighter to a new generation in a boxing ring, which was the central stage of the evening. Moreover, the Dutch peace organisation “People Building Peace” appointed a kickboxing promoter as its “peace ambassador”.
Here I do not want to talk about boxing and kickboxing as such. However, my problem of linking peace to these sports is this. The purpose of boxing and kickboxing is to beat your opponent by hitting and hurting him and if possible to knock him down. Your opponent has the right to do the same with you in order to win. In other words, it is a mini-war. What has this all to do with peace? Another website where I also found the video says that the peace movement is looking for people that can build bridges, and that is what in fact peace is: building bridges in order to bring people together. However, what this video suggests is that peace activists must be persons prepared to knock down (at least mentally) people that do not agree with his concept of peace and peace proposals. A peace maker, so it implies, is a person who wins by beating the person who does not agree. But what then is the difference between bringing peace and fighting a war, even if it is a war for a just cause (whatever that may be)? But peace is not a situation where someone who thinks that he is right can take this right at the cost of the opponent. Peace is a situation where people try to come to common solutions, not by fighting but by a process of negotiating where both parties give and take. And a peace activist has to be a mediator in this process. How far has a peace organisation gone from reality if it does not see that suggesting a relation with boxing and kickboxing undermines this idea.

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