Living in a World of Conflict (Without Being Hopeless)

Nobody enjoys seeing destructive conflict in the world. Whether it’s when bombs go off in Chad or a mass shooting in California. It can be shoving in the metro or a shouting match at the workplace. It’s a sad, terrible, and scary reality to know that these kinds of events happen on a regular basis throughout the world. The recent blow up of the gun control debate has shown that this year in the US alone there are more mass shootings than there have been days in 2015. That statistic should bring a scary, visceral feeling to all Americans. The problem is  that we can’t ignore it, but it’s a reality that most of us have a hard time digesting.

How can you process so much pain and hardship being experienced by so many people on a day to day basis?

Most people choose not to experience it. In this world life is short and most people find things that make them happy. They look to be fulfilled. Whether it is family, a career, or a hobby, most sane people don’t look for the pain of others. We have enough ourselves. Yet this is a dangerous way to live. “Ignorance is bliss” is very true-until it gets so bad that you don’t have a choice but to hear it. Being ignorant (or a less harsh word; being uninformed) perpetuates this system of violence we are so scared of knowing about. The systemic violence of minorities, the impoverished, and various other types of repression do not simply go away. They are deep-seated in society and take active change to rebuke. Our current trend of Islamophobia is just one of the plethora. This isn’t why I’m writing this post tonight though.

I’m writing this post because it’s important to understand that this violence and these injustices won’t go away overnight. They are integrated in to basic animal survival instincts and human nature. We are fighting a battle against ourselves. But that doesn’t mean it’s a battle that we can’t win. It’s not a futile battle in regards to human violence, it’s a promising battle in human conflict. Conflict is NOT always negative. It is how we handle conflict that is important.

The most important thing a person can do to stop violence is to listen. Our society is too social not to understand the other . By listening we begin to do that. We begin to better understand our similarities and the pain the other person is going through. We are all humans and have similar core values and needs.

Recently there has been a firestorm around the gun control debate. It is one regarding how best to protect the citizens of the United States. One is advocating for more personal use guns, and the other advocating stricter laws. Both are looking for the same purpose. Listening and understanding both sides can help navigate this issue. It helps push through the positioning and politics. The problem has come in though that at this point the government simply is not doing what it is supposed to be which is protecting its citizens from violence. If you can’t do that you have a failed state. In that situation it is completely rational to buy and own a gun for your own self defense. I think that’s where we’re at right now- a precipice- will the government be able to protect its own citizens from this violence? The problem that comes in is if they CAN’T, we have a whole lot more problems than the violence associated with people owning guns more freely. A failed state looks something like Afghanistan or Yemen. The mass shootings that have been happening have a lot of systemic violence associated with them. Terrorism comes from multiple root causes, both domestic and international, and really the only way to prevent it is strengthening civil society in as many aspects as possible.

My career is focused on conflict analysis and the violence that happens in the world. It takes a great toll on me many days. Sometimes I want nothing more than a tall drink. Or to move out and live in the mountains. Or become an accountant. But what keeps me functioning, passionate, and energized is that every bit of learning and listening I do helps me on the path to more constructive conflict. It helps me share my knowledge and play some role in how the world works. It helps me understand both my pain and others. It helps me understand how that impacts all of our actions.

If we remove ourselves from the destructive conflict in the world we are dooming ourselves to it. We are dooming ourselves to perpetuate it, and we will make decisions that exacerbate it. Bombs and discrimination only bring more of the same. We are all people that have basic needs such as a decent standard of living and self respect. If you start to look at these situations from that view you will make a much more positive change on the world, and you will end up being more fulfilled yourself. Take that last part  from me.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. -Mahatma Gandhi


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