“How it was I don’t understand, but we always seemed to be getting, with the best of motives, in one another’s way. When I wanted to go upstairs, there was my wife coming down; or when my wife wanted to go down, there was I coming up: And so we passed five years of misunderstandings on the stairs.” - The Moonstone:Wilkie Collins
Let’s face it— conflict is the state of the human condition. Not deviance from the norm of peaceful co-existence, but a constant misunderstanding on the stairs. In the face of that truth, it’s remarkable that we are so ill-prepared to deal with it.
At the lowest level, there is war. But as others have commented, “war doesn’t determine who’s right, only who’s left.” And as poet William Stafford noted, “every war has two losers.” A very bad idea that we keep repeating, though some signs that perhaps we're beginning to re-consider — the world response to Putin’s current atrocities with collective outrage, economic sanctions and open doors to Ukranians.
The judicial system is a step up, a complex process to determine who’s right and who’s wrong and who has to pay for the transgression. One person or institution “wins” and receives a settlement and/or the pleasure/ safety of seeing the transgressor locked up. I watch courtroom dramas the way that I watch basketball games, with a certain pleasure in the tension between two sides and hopes that my side will win. Accompanied with the pleasure that the bad guys get their just desserts and the better team wins the game. The law and sports share in common our fascination with conflict and the former is certainly a necessary safeguard in a healthy society. But in the end, there's still a winner and a loser and in the case of the law, the “losers” in the conflict still share the planet with us.
So I find myself looking for a more win-win structure, something more akin to music where two bands at a concert can each offer some kind of healing to the listeners without one having to be declared "the winner." In the next three posts, I propose a conflict resolution revolution that could go further than we have collectively gone before to consider new ways of a more harmonious co-existence, to come to terms with our misunderstandings on the stairs. Two of them we have never tried as a species and one in only some fledgling form.
Intrigued? Stay tuned.
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