(Note) This is a work in progress. Your suggestion will be appreciated.)
CONFLICT IS NORMAL
Conflicts are always around us, and many of them seem irreconcilable: Israelis versus Palestinians, environmentalists versus apologists for the industries, advocates for free market versus ones for government interventions, Pro-Life anti-abortionists versus Pro-Choice advocates for women‘s rights, Creationists versus Evolutionists, Democrats versus Republicans, and many others. On the micro level. There are constant battles between sexes, between friends and neighbours. Problem is few are interested in finding justice or truth. All are determine to win, right or wrong.
I hate conflicts. Conflicts had always affected me badly be they the ones I was involved in as well as the ones other people were. So my approach had always been avoidance. It was only after retirement I realized that conflicts were normal human conditions. We are individuals, not an uniform and corporate personality. Humans are all different from each other with unique ideas, opinions, and ways. We all like our ways to prevail because we all think, “my way is just and the best.” Hence there is always conflict. If there is no conflict, something is wrong: you are living under tyranny in total frustration. The most important question in such a situation is how to deal with a difference without a fight. I believe that the answer is to learn to live with difference and in ambiguity.
We love power, because power gives us an ability to prevail over others. We seem to prefer winning and prevailing over other than finding justice or truth. Many conflicts seem irreconcilable. Fighting it out seems to be the only way to reach a quick resolution. The winner gets an instant gratification of feeling that they are just. We don’t seem to have patience to live in ambiguity. Neither side is ready to live with difference. We want to overrun the difference and prevail. We aim to win, be it in court, family, between friends. We exercise wilful blindness where there is a gap in our arguments. “Don’t confuse me with facts. My mind is made up.” Somehow we think that power allows us to ignore gaps and contradictions. Dialogue is impossible as the result. Thus, fighting continues in many venues.
During the yesteryears, our ancestors applied rough justice called “trial by combat.” It was determined that the winner was just and the loser was guilty. It is totally barbaric and irrational. Sages of old like Socrates, Jesus, or Mohamed rejected such notion through their own self sacrifice by crucifixion or martyrdom. But barbarism continues. Just listen to the popular sayings: “You can get away with murder if you can afford an expensive lawyer” “Victory proved that the winner was right.” The victim is truth and justice in such process.
Lately, we have become a little bit more civilized and do not burn heretics at stake. It didn’t used to be like that. I remember as a child in Japan hearing stories of folk heroes who were executed for insolence: they wrote appeals to Daimyo – feudal lords. Dissension was not permitted during those days.
Democracy means a licence to differ. Freedom of speech means our society is a mixed bag, we are all different and have different ideas but agree to co-exist peacefully. If the road is too narrow to walk together all at once, compromise is the solution. Nobody is 100 % happy, but we have to agreed to live with inconvenience. It is messy and sometime chaotic, but that’s how we live in democracy. We do not want to live dictated by one person or a minority of people.
Another barrier to coexistence of differences is our unwillingness to change. Somehow we feel that change is a result of defeat and a sign of weakness . We feel we should be ashamed of ourselves when we change. That is actually nonsense because everything changes constantly. Many sages of yore said that change is natural and normal. Heracleitus, Gautama Buddha, and Jesus of Nazareth all proclaimed that the world was constantly changing like a river. I think that inability to change is a sign of cowardice and weakness. We and all around us are changing all the time. But we are reluctant to admit that we have changed, but we have.
When we learn to live in ambiguity and are brave enough to admit that ours may not be permanent, we will be able to see the logic in other points of views, we will be able to realize that we are not all that different from each other. It will take a long time. But there is hope.