Brexit and Other Puzzles

Mediators and mediation featured twice in the London papers last weekend.

The first and least obvious reference was a crossword clue: 2 down in Saturday‘s daily Telegraph crossword clue read:

“Press and TV nonsense upset referee.“ (8 letters)

Meanwhile and less trivially the Financial Times carried the suggestion that in tackling Brexit “the UK and the EU should immediately engage a mediator – former President Barack Obama could be a candidate.”

The immediate consequence of that suggestion has been a fascinating online debate amongst mediators. Some think that any such involvement would be a disastrous over-reach for the work we do, and the skill set we possess. Others support the suggestion and think that active listening and re-framing would help the parties resolve their profound structural and cognitive problems.  

My Brick Court colleague John Sturrock asks tellingly why the developed world is only too ready to recommend mediation to others to deal with conflicts around the world but regards its own problems as too sophisticated to benefit from it.

These issues clearly have a distance yet to run and will be tackled in future posts. But stepping back, what is striking is that we see an increasing national familiarity with the whole idea of mediation. The fact is that people and organisations who hit conflict increasingly see mediation as one of the options. It is becoming culturally normal. Increasingly they know (albeit roughly) what it is. Some of them even know the difference between arbitration and mediation.

I do not think that 15 (maybe even 10) years ago “mediator” would have featured as an answer to a crossword clue, still less as an answer to a major national issue.

If I could deconstruct the clue for you it goes like this:

“Press and TV“ = MEDIA

“nonsense upset“ is “ROT“ turned upside down =TOR The whole means some form of umpire.

Media + tor = MEDIATOR

The idea that there might be alternatives to litigation or abuse or violence is seeping rather than flooding into the national consciousness. But one article, one crossword clue at a time it is getting there.

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