There is a movement under way to make society more civil: to turn down the volume, blunt the needles, stem the bloodletting and soften the tone of public debates.
In this quest for consensus rather than confrontation, activists are learning that aggressive strategies that once attracted so great a following may now be counterproductive. Because society is so consumed with violence that "road rage" is becoming a major national health threat, people are seeking alternatives. Anger, even directed against evil, doesn't make a positive statement.
Environmentalist Diane Heminway is comfortable with this non-violent trend. She thinks women who keep in touch with their spiritual natures will easily meet its leadership challenges.
The Western New York director of the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, Ms. Heminway is also a member of the steering committee of the Great Lakes Women's Leadership Network. She has invited activists involved in cancer and health care issues, alternative science, education, consumer causes, the environment, food and agriculture to participate in a network-sponsored regional seminar that she will conduct on Oct. 25 in Brighton Town Park Lodge.
"This will be a relaxed gathering of women committed to restoring balance in our community," she stated in her invitation. "We will begin to explore our feminine concerns, such as health, family, environment and education, and discuss the importance of recognizing and celebrating the forces that trigger, inspire and motivate us."
Ms. Heminway stresses this is not "New Age stuff," but she does emphasize the spiritual when trying to unleash women's leadership potential.
There will be some basic training in communications, public speaking and stress-reduction techniques. But the thrust is to magnify the caring, nurturing side of women's nature. Ms. Heminway hopes to do this by mixing and matching women of differing leadership styles.
She says her experiment will give women an opportunity "to celebrate the importance of our work, make meaningful personal connections and, most importantly, to renew our energy through shared inspiration."
Funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the seminar is free, but registration is limited to about 30 participants. For information, call 798-0111.
Erie County Commission on the Status of Women heard from a few women of diverse talents and skills at a public hearing last month. Fifty-two women and a couple of men added to the pile of information the commission has been collecting for an update of its 1987 report on the status of women in the county.
The committee did a lot of listening in a five-hour period in which invited spokespersons and an equal number of volunteers shared expertise on the 13 areas of women's concerns that will be covered in the report, a first draft of which may be ready in December.
YWCA of Western New York will be making its annual contribution to civil society when it celebrates another Week Without Violence.
Opening Oct. 19 with a day of remembrance in St. John Baptist Church, the program extends throughout the community both in venues and the subjects it addresses through speakers, workshops, dramatic productions and panel discussions.
Activities on Oct. 20-21 will concentrate on ways to shield children from violence. On Oct. 22-23, programs will confront violence against women and violence among men. Oct. 24 will focus on racism and hate crimes, and winners in a high school essay and poster contest on racism will be announced. Oct. 25 will be devoted to a "Heal the Hurt" walk and fun and games.
The YWCA's national observance is trying to reduce violence by drawing attention to remedies and alternatives. For a complete local schedule, call 852-6120.
YWCA of the Tonawandas and Niagara Frontier has its own agenda for the week, which will highlight its domestic violence program. A forum on Oct. 23 will be devoted to that topic, and proceeds from an "Aerobathon" on Oct. 26 in Bally Total Fitness, Amherst, will go to support the program. Call 692-5580.