New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Incubator for Peace

February 22, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Family, Robert C. Koehler

Gaining a Foothold in the Forgotten Neighborhoods…

by Robert C. Koehler

You’re young and prone to trouble. You get triggered quickly. Someone tells you that you’ve screwed up and you’re about to lash back. Then, instead, you think:

Restorative Justice1. Look at the other person.

2. Say “OK.”

3. Stay calm.

This is what you do. And nothing happens, except that the moment passes and life goes on. Got it?

This column is another dispatch from Chicago, murder capital of America. How many of the murders — 506 of them last year — were committed by people who had no grasp of this particular social skill (accepting criticism or a consequence), or any of the dozen or so others tacked to the bulletin board in the peace room at Fenger High School? (more…)

Lasting Peace

February 15, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Robert C. Koehler

Can We Get Our American Violence Under Control?

by Robert C. Koehler

A child is murdered and we thrash about once more in the spectacle of tragedy.

“With outrage over Hadiya Pendleton’s slaying spreading from City Hall to the White House,” the Chicago Tribune reported last week, “the 15-year-old became a symbol Wednesday of escalating violence in Chicago while fueling the national debate over guns and crime.”

The media, trapped in their Chicken Little outfits, report the death in detail, make sure we understand how deeply parents and friends are grieving. They interview the neighbors, kick-start the political debate. They demand some sort of superficial or fragmentary change that will get American violence under control. And then the news cycle moves on.

No one “in charge” has a commitment to actual, holistic change — you know, to the creation of a lasting peace — because, whatever that might mean, it would be asking too much. The best we’re going to get from the political system and the mainstream media — from the heart of the status quo — after every high-profile violent tragedy, is a ritual of impotent outrage followed by a shrug of regret. (more…)

Giving Back to the Future

November 22, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Randall Amster

Making Peace with Generations Yet to Come

by Randall Amster

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night; he was alive as you and me — although that’s not saying much anymore. Maybe it’s a dose of 2012 cynicism creeping in, but it’s hard to shake the escalating feeling that we’re here merely on borrowed time. The strangest part of this sensation is that if one said it openly even just a few short years ago, it may have seemed irrational and alarmist; now, with empirical observations and the grim predictions of most credible scientists firmly in hand, it seems more irrational not to hold the view that the paradigm in which we’ve been living is rapidly approaching its prophesied closure point.

This does not, of course, relieve us of the obligation to get up every day and keep trying to promote the values of peace and justice in our lives, communities, bioregions, and the larger world. The apocalypse is perhaps the ultimate “off day,” but that doesn’t mean it’s also a day off. (more…)

Constructive Conflict

September 18, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Robert C. Koehler

‘Just Get a Rock and Talk’ 

by Robert C. Koehler 

The thing is, he’d won his case. He got custody of his daughter.

This is the limit of conventional justice: “victory,” which of course means defeat for the other person, in this case, the mother of his daughter. Why not celebrate? His lawyer was satisfied. I mean, come on, you won, man!

But Bill Heenan, a Chicago fireman, had the nagging feeling that his daughter was also one of the losers in the decision. The case had been dragging through Parentage and Child Support Court, one of the busiest in the Cook County Circuit Court system, for a year. The court hears child custody and other child-related cases in which the parents were never married, a situation that may cover nearly half the kids in Chicago.

“The court system is the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bill told me. “You sit there, you don’t say a word. The lawyer does all the talking. Then you go out in the hallway and the lawyer explains what the judge said.” (more…)

A Healing Justice?

May 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Overcoming the State of Fear Through Restorative Practices

by Robert C. Koehler

This was the headline: “Zimmerman, Martin’s parents to face off in court.”

The words, of course, merely summed up a moment in the news cycle last week. We, the news-consuming public, were primed — by CBS, but it could have been any mainstream outlet — for a tidbit of potential drama the next day in the hottest murder trial around right now. But in the process, we were also silently reminded, yet again, that everything is spectacle. At the level at which we call ourselves a nation, nothing is serious, not even matters of life and death.

There’s something so painful about all this — painful beyond the horror of the crime itself, or the national murder rate. The 24-7 media trivialize the stakes and gleefully report the “courtroom drama” as a sporting event; but even more distressingly, the legal bureaucracy swings into motion without the least awareness of any value beyond its own procedures. It all happens with a certainty of purpose that generates the illusion that things are under control and social order prevails. But none of this has anything to do with what social order actually requires when harm has occurred, which is . . . healing. (more…)

Restorative Education

February 09, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Robert C. Koehler

Transforming Our Troubled Schools — and Society

by Robert C. Koehler

What happened?

Can the world shift on such a simple question? Imagine yourself sitting eye-to-eye with a kid in trouble and that’s the first thing you ask. No lecture, no sarcasm, no judgment, no explosion of lost patience and a cry of “Why did you do that?” Just: What happened?

And then you wait for an answer. When it comes, however haltingly, you press gently and firmly on, still without judgment, just the need to know:

What were you thinking at the time?

What have you thought about since?

What do you think you need to do to make things right?

These are the four basic questions of restorative practices, a movement slowly transforming troubled schools and troubled communities around the globe — a movement replacing zero tolerance and other punishment-based and wildly ineffective practices that increase people’s feelings of separation and alienation from one another. (more…)

Claiming a Better Future

October 18, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Robert C. Koehler

Lessons on Building Community and Restoring Peace

by Robert C. Koehler

In our techno-saturated society, we have the casual capacity to capture any unfolding event on film — even an act of shocking violence — and send images of the live action around the globe just by whipping out a cell phone.

Two years ago, Chicago’s Fenger High School had its 15 minutes of horrific fame when the beating death of one of its students, an honor student named Derrion Albert — waiting for a bus after school, caught suddenly in a surge of gang violence, savagely beaten with two-by-fours and railroad ties — was recorded on someone’s cell camera and became an international spectacle.

What we lack, it would seem, is the capacity to do anything about the violence itself. We remain trapped within a context of thought that reduces our interaction with the world, and ourselves, to winning or losing, domination or defeat. (more…)