Conflict Management…

…might just as well be called dominance management, because conflict usually arises when two parties can’t agree with each other. The most likely results are: (1) one party gives in rather than deal with the conflict; (2) one party forces the other to give in through greater force of some sort, physical strength, financial strength, political strength, strength of personality, sheer endurance, some combination of those, or the threat of those; (3) compromise of some sort; or (4) total disengagement, which can range from polite and cordial agreement to disagree to absolute and continued hostility, either concealed or overt.

Most people, I’ve discovered, don’t think of conflicts in that way, but from what I’ve observed that’s the spectrum of responses to ideological, political, financial, or physical conflicts.

What complicates such conflicts is usually, but not always, the assumption by one or both of the parties of some form of superiority, either moral, intellectual, or physical, which can make any form of real agreement difficult. And when one party is forced to agree to or to accept the terms of the other party, the result is almost inevitably anger and resentment, particularly when the party forced to agree believes fervently in his or her moral or intellectual superiority, which is all too often the case, or that they’ve been wronged in some fashion.

That also means when someone is coerced/forced into agreement against their will, such agreement will only last so long as the “superior” party can enforce their will.

All of which is a reason why the United States eventually “loses” wars and conflicts in places like Vietnam and the Middle East, because we don’t want to pay the price for continuing to enforce our desires on others, which is what is necessary when the belief structure of the majority of the people of a country is at odds with our belief structure. In places where we have “won,” it has taken generations of occupation to shift belief structures, and, in the case of our own southern states of the Confederacy, one could make the case that even 150 years later, those “old south” belief structures still persist in a large number of people.

That doesn’t mean the United States can always avoid using force, but if we don’t want to spend or bleed ourselves dry, most use of force should be restricted to simply stopping the worst of what we can stop, without attempting to force ideological/political change on other cultures.

On the domestic front, we’ll also end up locked in an exhausting and debilitating deadlock unless we return to the basics of the “civil society” envisioned by the Founding Fathers, that is, a society based on a compromise over what should be legal and what should not be, because with more than a fifth of the country now identifying themselves as non-religious, and with very differing core beliefs between evangelicals and other faiths, any attempt to impose religion-based strictures on the entire population will only fuel more conflict… and that’s the last thing any of us need in these troubling times.

1 thought on “Conflict Management…”

  1. invah says:

    There is a line from “Gravity Dreams” which has stayed with me over time: “We don’t make an artificial distinction between those who create violence and those who carry it out.”

    And it has really clarified, for me, the largely unacknowledged factor in conflict, and that is the role of the ‘third party’ or audience

    I’d posit that dominance is the outward orientation of entitlement combined with desire to assert power, irrespective of whether that power actually exists or is able to leveraged; persuasiveness (charisma) of the dominant party, and the ability to subtly influence the non-dominant party, as well as any third parties or audience to the conflict, determines the level of overt or obvious violence.

    But the genesis of the violence is in the entitlement and assertion of power. What generally determines whether this is reasonable, or perceived to be so, is the third party/audience’s belief in whether the underlying entitlement is reasonable.

    What are parents entitled to from their children? What power can they (reasonably) exert over that child before it is considered violence?

    Heteronormatively, what is a husband entitled to from his wife? What is a wife entitled to from her husband? What power can be reasonably exerted over the other?

    Same for teachers and students, police and the public, boss and employees…

    It becomes even trickier when the primary participants to the conflict are perceived as having equal power, when that may or may not be the case in considering interpersonal hierarchies.

    On the macro level, as you’re discussing, the issue of who the third party/audience is more convoluted, and can mitigate the application of force in those situations. Political will is, therefore, a public expression of entitlement in some form or other.

    I’ve just finished “Rex Regis”, and the point is made and emphasized that Quaeryt didn’t create the violence, he directed it as he was able, which I think links back to the point made in “Gravity Dreams”.

    Public perception, the view of the third party/audience, is where he (and a lot of victims of violence who end up lashing out at their bully) ran somewhat afoul… However, I think the character was cognizant of that on some level, which is why he insisted that he never sought power for himself.

    Most people don’t separate the cause of violence from the person who enacts it…which is what happens, for example, when discipline ‘problem children’ without looking at the family system and who ACTUALLY has power; or when the court system prosecutes a victim of abuse who has physically retaliated against their abuser; among other examples.

    Culture and public perception and the gaze of the third party/audience is intrinsic to conflict.

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