I had my first virtual reality experience at MIT recently. The program was called The Enemy and the point was to introduce us to three pairs of enemies, get up close and personal, and hear them talk about their beliefs and experiences. The three conflicts were in Israel/Palestine, the Congo, and El Salvador.
As I expected, all six wanted peace and better lives for their children. And all six grew up in circumstances, mostly desperate, that defined the enemy and, seemingly, limited their options. Across the board, their actions were violent, heartfelt, and contextually defensible, if misguided. I walked out as I walked in, wishing for a better world and wondering how you get people to step out of their circumstances long enough to find common ground and peaceful alternatives that lift all people. My wishes extend to all three of these conflicts, as well as to today’s USA and beyond. Imagine a world governed by civil, rational, collaborative problem-solving!
We could have left feeling pensive, I believe, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the MIT crew ushering us through this experience tainted the experience by breaking one of my cardinal rules: (more…)