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Becoming a mediator

I could swear, as I looked around the whare wananga, that I must have been sitting in the middle of the biggest joke in the school. Was it these thirty-six people that were to become mediators? Before us, on chairs, were the eight "advanced" mediators that had been invited to share their "wisdom". But I was also looking at some of the biggest heads I’ve ever seen. There were perhaps two sincere comments; the rest made it abundantly clear that the badge was, well, pretty much it. Something, somewhere, must be wrong.

No, it wasn’t a bad dream. This was my final mediator training session, the one in which certificates and badges would be presented to the new graduates of the system; the forty who would become part of a hundred and fifty students entitled to wear a badge — slightly oversized compared to the school service and leadership badges—that says, "mediator", in block capital letters.

Did I care about it? Well, I thought I didn’t. I mean, who else does? But during the training, I must admit: yes, I did semi-care, and yes, it did seem, well, semi-interesting. On a relative scale, it could be worth upgrading both to omit the "semi". Because, well, to be honest, I felt a tinge of sadness when we were told that the reality is, not everyone gets a chance to actually mediate.

Whether the tinge of sadness in me was shared by many would be a completely different story. But, with a hundred and fifty mediators, it’s no wonder.

A lot of things have to go both right and wrong. Conflicts occur often enough, so I won’t count that as one of them. But the disputants have to want to resolve the conflict. I guess you could even take that as a given, so then they have to not be able to talk to each other to resolve it. But then they have to want to talk to each other. In other words, the mediation has to be both needed and consensual; and in a process where the mediators are nothing but facilitators, this seems strangely unlikely.

In fact, at best, a mediator could hope for maybe one a year. Wait a minute—did I say "hope"? I meant "expect". This programme is no true commitment except the commitment to be a role model, to be guided by the same principles as those which are applied in a proper mediation; this becomes somewhat powerless when as many as one in fifteen people are mediators. Nor is it a difficult programme to enter, or at least you wouldn’t think so when eighty applicants are accepted each year; though because of this, there are over two hundred applicants. People are catching on to an idea that this is a job for anyone.

While this might be the "right" idea, it is not a good one, nor a practical one. Not good because the idea that anyone can do it can, and does, lead to an unhealthy popularity, one that is used by some as a stepping stone to prefectship and others to get something—anything will do— on their CV. Not practical because it is unlikely that anyone could do it—certain personality factors are required: factors, I admit, I once thought I didn’t have—that is, until I took a look at last year’s selections and saw for myself. One of my most ill-conceived decisions was that to not apply for mediatorship last year. Now I can confirm why.

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