Large Barometer: Violence
Pieces of paper prepared with statements (see exercise description)
The Large Barometer method
Some statements for the barometer:
1. Balkan countries are racist.
2. The diaspora shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
3. The state should help cure homosexuality.
4. Citizens are against Roma moving into their neighbourhood because they don’t want to see it turned into a dumpsite.
5. HIV-positive children should not attend school with other children.
6. Christianity is the most peace-loving religion.
7. Refugees from Muslim countries spread fundamentalism in Europe.
8. Minority languages should be mandatory school subjects.
9. If you don’t like the country you live in, you can leave.
10. People should be allowed to display any flag they want on their homes.
11. Macedonia is the country of all Macedonians.
12. Minorities should fight for their rights themselves.
13. National minorities and persons with disabilities should have priority when it comes to employment.
14. The international community is establishing democracy in Libya.
15. It would be best to build a special residential area completely adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities.
16. It’s easiest to find employment if you’re a member of a ruling party.
17. NATO countries bombed Yugoslavia to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
18. Let revenge become justice.
19. The German people started the Second World War.
20. Unemployed refugees are getting their power shut off because they did not pay the bill.
21. Operation “Storm”.
22. He is a loyal citizen of this country.
23. A third entity should be established in BiH for Croat national interests.
24. Laundry is women’s work.
25. Those who came first have the right to the land.
26. War criminals have the right to repentance.
27. Republika Srpska should be abolished.
28. The Roma are a carefree people.
29. A call to prayer can be heard from the only mosque in a majority Christian town.
30. Sexual orientation is a private matter to be kept within your own four walls.
31. Serbia is a country of the Serb people and all the citizens that live in it.
32. Serbia is a Christian Orthodox country.
33. Everyone should learn the official language of the country they live in.
34. All the Chinese should learn our language.
35. All those who served in the army during the war were in favour of the war.
36. We should help Africa become civilised.
37. At the Hague Tribunal they decide how guilty we are.
38. All sides are always to blame in a war.
39. The army makes a man out of you.
40. If people can’t live together, it’s best to separate them.
41. Great Albania
42. Great Britain
43. Great Serbia
44. Religious instruction ennobles the spirit.
45. Women are more peace-loving than men.
Type of exercise:
The large barometer method is one of our favourites because it can be useful in many ways. It is excellent for developing sensitivity towards violence and bringing to light less visible forms of violence – structural and cultural. Listening to others explain why they experience something as violence adds nuance to our own perceptions and creates room for empathy, or at least makes us think before we start justifying a behaviour or policy. It is also useful for sharing information about the social contexts we come from and better understanding of those contexts.
At the very beginning participants may be reluctant for fear of conflict, because the suggested statements are closely linked to social conflicts as well as our emotions and identities. However, when they see that opposing views can be discussed constructively, they will be encouraged to continue the dialogue. And that dialogue is what we sorely need. Dialogue about difficult topics can bring us closer together and build trust.
This is an exercise that is difficult to stop and it can go on until everyone is completely exhausted. You should bear in mind that it can be very demanding for participants who are not used to listening to and following what some twenty people are saying, because it requires a high degree of concentration over a long time period. If possible, this exercise should be done in the morning session, because concentration tends to decrease in the afternoon. You should also take a break after 90 minutes. Depending on the energy of the participants, the exercise can be continued in smaller groups (but not too small) that can discuss the statements from the barometer they care about the most, because working in small groups is not as demanding and can be helpful for people who do not feel comfortable speaking in larger groups. If you are not sure whether to continue in smaller groups or in the plenary, ask the participants. Sometimes, despite being tired, they want to continue working in the plenary.