DEEP Events: Peace, Conflict and Education On(the)line

DEEP Germany, also known as DEEP Deutschland e.V., kicked off a new project called DEEP Events in  January 2021. The aim of DEEP Events is to create a place to come together to share ideas, skills and  information through platforms like Zoom (for now…) and includes workshops, discussions and  interviews with guests from a wide range of subjects. The underlying philosophy parallels the Global  DEEP Network’s mission statement, which works towards a peaceful and ecologically regenerative  world by bridging divides, promoting understanding, and transforming conflict

Our first guest was author, cognitive behavioral psychologist and Stoic philosopher Donald J.  Robertson and the title of the first DEEP Talks event was “Responding to Anger: A Stoic Approach”. 

Since conflict and anger can often be seen hanging out together in intense situations it is wise to better  understand how anger functions as well as strategies to deal with it. Anger and conflict can be quite  rowdy characters when hanging out together and any moment can quickly escalate into violence if  left only to their unbalanced dispositions. 

As a teacher-facilitator I see the strong connection between education and the conceptual domains  of peace and conflict. Transforming conflict is not necessarily easy and any challenge includes some  form of change in relationship, whether it is an internal relationship to one’s self or an external relationship with another being or the environment. Challenges presented can be physical, structural  or cognitive for example, but some form of learning hopefully occurs. In this sense, education, like  peace and conflict, are a constant variable in life which ebb and flow like the air that we breathe. 

One challenge that many have been facing throughout 2020 and continuing into 2021 is dealing with  the way Covid19 has impacted all aspects of life. Everyday conflicts coupled with a lower stress  threshold create a recipe for even the smallest of problems to surface as Covid19 shakes things up  and exposes often what was already there.  

As a guest lecturer at a private international university, or Hochshcule here in Germany where I live, I  am a month away from starting my third semester of classes on Zoom. E-learning is the new way, but  not only for the traditional brick-and-mortar schools. 

I saw performing arts like improvisational theater also go online. My longform improv partner, Vero,  along with other local improviser in Cologne, started the online improv platform I was slightly skeptical at first, I must admit, but I found great value in the  workshops and expanded my online teaching skills too. Talented improvisers from all over the world  were able to facilitate a wide range of valuable workshops through Zoom. 

One of the potentially transformative characteristics of theater – specifically improvisational theater – is that it encompasses the many faces of life from breath and voice to movement, proximity, timing  and pace. There’s an opportunity for cognitive faculties and emotional capacities to get a good  workout on stage – relationships characterized by sensorial connection and nuanced communication.  Would most of this be lost in a Zoom breakout room? Perhaps, but if there is one perspective that I  have taken from my research in the social sciences – specifically in Peace and Conflict Studies – is that  conflict can be a powerful change agent if approached in a nondestructive way. Covid19 was the 

metaphorical fallen tree on the footpath winding up an already steep mountain trail. This is the  journey of life for many. 

Covid19 mapped the complex, interconnected and overlapping connections of human interaction. The  virus penetrated our social networks like the clandestine agents of the Cold War and gave the global  community one more antagonist to fight. It changed how people communicated and related to each  other asface-masking,social distancing and quarantining became common practice. The theater stage  lights were now highlighting the holes in societies world over from a lack of healthcare infrastructure  to adequate financial support among many. Those fortunate to have home-office, or for many just  simply no office, came face-to-face with perhaps a false sense of security that comforts normalcy and  every-day routines. A false calm before the violent storm that follows.  

When a time, space and place open for reflection the spotlight can easily turn inward toward our own  Jungian shadows as well, whether we look or not is another thing. I digress. For those with access to  the internet it became an even greater place to meet, communicate, zone-out, consume, work and  learn. 

As traditional learning went from filling physical seats and classrooms to taking up internet bandwidth,  I saw everything from podcast shows, video channels and academic conferences to even Cologne’s  infamous Carnival go online. Yes, this year my wife, Wibke, and I celebrated the annual Kölner Karneval on Zoom. What?!? Yes, Zoom. It was for a fundraiser and the show must go. I was skeptical at first, I  must admit. 

The experience of overcoming change, which happens to be a constant theme in life, is the basis for  the universal story. The journey the protagonist goes through to transform conflicts, solve problems  or reestablish a new normal is the educational experience. I wonder how pragmatist philosopher John  Dewey would have incorporated a platform like Zoom into his theory of education and experience. What would JD do? We can only hypothesize. 

Education has gone from the local to global level through the internet and opened spaces for new  networks to emerge. The way we exchange ideas, skills and information is unique to our Zeitgeist.  Societies harness available tools, and should still look critically at what constitutes a quality education  and what purpose does it fulfil? 

The internet has broken down the walls of who can share or teach. Anyone can host their own show  and distribute it through any number of platforms. Decentralized communities can easily emerge  around a theme, ideology, interest or personality whether labeled as for fun or for educational  purposes. Of course, the quality can vary significantly, but that’s for another topic. There’s no shortage  of shows and whatever your taste, there’s something out there. If not, then you can create it. You  don’t have to be a professional or seek approval in the form of certifications or titles. It is ok to fail.  This is part of the learning journey as well. 

The DEEP Events project, including DEEP Talks and DEEP Yoga, was started by DEEP Germany co founders Wibke Gehringer and Lina Westermann, as well DEEP member Kevin J. Brenneman. 

tldr; we host free events on Zoom and explore themes related to peace and conflict

About the Author

Kevin Brennemen is an educator and freelancer-entrepreneur. He holds undergraduate degrees in Professional Flight Aviation and Psychology from Purdue University in the USA, an M.A. in Peace, Conflict, and Development from the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace in Castellón, Spain, and a TEFL diploma in Business English.

His freelance work includes teaching Business English at the International University of Bad Honnef’s Cologne Campus and he is the co-founder and CEO of the mobile coffee cart, “The Coffee & Cookie Co.”.

Other interests include: improv theater and peace studies, as a curriculum,  with a focus in interpersonal relationships & communication, storytelling, and group collaboration. Hobbies include: rock climbing, traveling, the great outdoors, van life, film production, …

Kevin is a member of the Global DEEP Network and DEEP Deutschland e.V.