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..:: Conflict II ::..

"The Development of Conflict"

By

Alan Schneider

 

              Once conflict has reared its woeful head, a more or less predictable pattern of subsequent developments emerges, depending somewhat on the specific circumstances present in given cases. The general patterns of conflict can be classified by the socio-cultural circumstances present, beginning with political conflict episodes. 

            Political conflict generally proceeds from the original issues of (customarily) greed and resentment into organized expression very quickly, perhaps even bypassing the intermediate stage of gossip in the process. These expressions can involve both lawful and extra-lawful modalities. Harassment campaigns against rival factions are not necessarily illegal per se, but can still involve a wide range of illegal actions, such as property vandalism and personal assault.  The ever popular malicious gossip campaign, boycott of rival businesses, voting district gerrymandering, and advertising smear efforts are some examples of legal tactics, if still morally questionable ones. In fact it is questions of tactics and goals that define the development of conflict. In this stage of post-origin manifestation, the conflicting parties are usually posturing for position as they probe each other’s organizations or personalities for weaknesses to be exploited. Typically, very little thought has been given to any of the possible long term consequences of conflict behavior by any involved party. The probable focus of involvement is aggressive, defensive, or manipulative for a given party, and may well morph around from one of these to another as the conflict becomes socially defined across time. 

            It may well be that all conflicts can be classified as political in nature. If politics is “the art of the possible”, it is certainly also the art of the conflicted. It is doubtful if any form of political action would exist if some extent of disagreement between at least two opposing factions was not present in society. As a modern example, the American political system has made this a literal consideration with the historical ascendance of the rival Democratic and Republican parties displayed as the dominant features of the American political landscape. The “platforms” of these two fundamentally class-defined entities then subdivide into secondary manifestations along various cultural lines, which are quite useful in defining some of the subsequent aspects of modern conflict. These are the religious, racial, ethnic, sexual, class, and career arenas, all of which have features that fall under the general rubrics of conservative and liberal considerations. Of course, the Democratic faction is prone to be more relatively liberal, while the Republicans are traditionally more conservative, again based on levels of social status and income. 

            And these sub-categories also expand beyond domestic boundaries in every case mentioned, becoming international modalities in the process.  The Post-modern world is defined by the presence of an Internet-mediated global economy, emergent global language pattern (English), and global conflict patterns represented in all of the sub-categories. As the real global resource base has become more depleted, the levels of conflict have become proportionately more aggravated in a given category, and in all categories, taken collectively.  It is in our natures to consume any resource at the optimal rate possible, without regard to any but the most immediate consequences – “where and how can I get more?”  This regrettable human characteristic has now brought us to the brink of global economic catastrophe, and may well carry us over that brink very soon, as the world conflict scenario deteriorates into armed confrontation both domestically and internationally, emerging unpredictably from local to worldwide “hotspots” of expression with increasing frequency. As long as any one progenitor of conflict at any level anywhere maintains the belief that their victory is probable or appropriate, this situation will only continue to deteriorate. Superior ability breeds superior ambition – the more powerful competitors soon realize their status in the global order, and almost invariably react with oppressive gestures to the apparently less advantaged around them, convinced by the logic of the ego that they are heavily favored to win the war of all against all

            It is doubtful that any participant in any conflict has entered the fray in the open belief that defeat was inevitable, although there is abundant evidence that conflict participants often are motivated by the ideology of their cause to such an extent that they do not feel concerned with the eventual outcome of, but simply the current political statement to be made by, hostile action. Might does not always guarantee victory in struggle – The United States – apparently the most militarily powerful nation in the world, and in the history of the world – was eventually defeated in the Vietnam conflict, and is currently similarly embroiled in the Iraq conflict with no prospect of clear victory on the horizon.  Belief plays a very significant role in the human spirit and human motivation. Whether one group or another likes or accepts a given belief system is not nearly as important as acquiring the understanding that a strong belief in anything is far more formidable than any collection of weaponry or armaments, particularly once a given population’s resentment of a perceived invader has been aroused.  

            This is a lesson that America badly needs to learn about conflict. Our conviction that we cannot be defeated in conflict makes us ready to use force to settle any issue. We must learn that the arbitrary application of force and violence as problem solving techniques in a conflict before the social complexities of a situation are clearly understood merely tends to engender the deep resentment of the target population, steeling their resolve to stand and fight without regard to the outcome. We ourselves have responded this way repeatedly in history when being exposed to unprovoked aggression. Admiral Yamamoto has been famously quoted, following the successful Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, as saying ”I fear that all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Yet, when the tables are turned, and we are clearly placed in the aggressor’s role, we seem to have no perception of this at all, but charge on blindly in the dogged certainty that we are in “the right” no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary, and this “right position” will somehow cause us to emerge victorious.  As was presented in Part I of this series, The Origin of Conflict, resentment is one of the three most powerful conflict generators, and should never be underestimated as a factor in a disagreement! If the preceding arguments are valid, then why do we persist in what would appear to be a doomed course of ignorance and aggression?  

            One of the most influential conditions at work in sustaining a conflict once it has been provoked is profitability. Regardless of whether we won or lost the conflict in Vietnam, or will win or lose in Iraq, certain classes of people in both Vietnam and Iraq, both foreign and domestic, won and win handsomely through their involvement. These are the purveyors of weaponry and supplies to feed the war machines on all sides of the struggle. This “organization” was frequently referred to as the Military-Industrial Complex in the Vietnam Era, and included American weapons manufactures and logistics suppliers at one end of the spectrum, Vietnamese blackmarketeers and prostitutes at the other, and a graduated hierarchy of intermediaries in between, from a variety of nations and with a variety of motivations. There was of course, a comparable “organization” on the “other side”, composed of similarly profit-motivated vested interests (Communism or no Communism!), who stood to reap enormous financial gains no matter who won the military struggle.  This conflict lasted over twenty years all told (including the French attempt to pacify Ho Chi Min in what was known as Indochina at the time), with the Merchants of Death emerging as the real winners! At this time, the modern Military-Industrial Complex on both sides of the ideological fence is once again profiting lavishly from the invasion of Iraq, as hundreds of millions of dollars in “defense” contracts pour into open national and international corporate pockets. 

            Yes, war is very profitable – usually for those who do not have to do the hands-on fighting. Presumably, there will always be a demand for the technology of destruction, and the architects of this technology will also be in demand. After the fall of The Third Reich in Germany, both the Soviet Block and the Western Allies were involved in a frantic race to recruit as many former Nazi weapons experts as possible, particularly in the areas of rocketry and missile development.  Everyone knew that this was going to be the military growth front of the future, and nobody wanted to be left behind! The moral questions that might have been raised regarding the introduction of these individuals into the supposedly progressive societies on both sides never even came up. So, there is a world subculture of professional killers in uniform, colluded with another world subculture of those who furnish them with supplies, technology, and tangible rewards for their activities – the spoils of war – a conjoint Culture of Conflict that has lasted throughout history into prehistory and beyond. Why is this the case?  

            The attempt to answer this simple question requires that we look beyond even the basic human psychological motivations for engaging in conflict, and reexamine two themes that have often graced these pages – Karma and the Soul

            The generally accepted spiritual theory of existence, at least in the Eastern traditions, is that God creates and releases a multitude of Souls as the outcome of Divine Love. These Souls can be thought of as fragments or “pieces” of the Divine Consciousness, infinite in variety and expression, and manifest in every possible way – as pure energy (both Dark and Light Angels), imaginary constructs (Fairies, Nymphs, etc.), as partial energy and form in combination (i.e. human beings), and as dense form (rocks, heavy matter, etc.). All of the Souls are on an evolutionary path back to God. The whole process can be thought of as God’s Cosmic Dance of Creation. 

            Karma, apart from whether one believes in reincarnation or not, is the invisible “shape” of God’s thoughts that holds a given Soul entity in an envelope of probable expression. Through Karma, the Logos decides what the possibilities of expression for a Soul are, and are not. As a Soul evolves within the Mind of God, Karma is completed and released, changing the shape of possible expression for that Soul. At a certain point in the process, the Soul can emerge into human expression – where we are now – and will eventually move on into other states of being after the “human” stage of Karmic evolution has been completed. Eventually, the Soul returns to God and completes the Divine Thought associated with it – in this sense, even God evolves in manifestation, becoming ever more subtle and sublime as an expression of Divine Love with the addition of each reabsorbed Soul expression. 

            On the human Physical Plane of manifestation – the sight of conflict in real time – there is an apparent requirement for the occurrence of suffering as an adjunct of human Soul evolution.  If we accept the Eastern spiritual theory of things, then the Soul and its evolution are the ultimate cause of existence, and this process does not continue unless it is driven forward by suffering. Discomfort is the crucible of all productive transition. When we become too comfortable, growth – the Physical Plane indicator of Soul evolution – stops, and does not resume until some level of external motivation is reestablished. The wise among us have learned this fact of existence, and lead lives of discipline and austerity as measures of self-induced discomfort in acknowledgement of this requirement of the Soul’s growth and development. 

            It would appear that the global Culture of Conflict exists to fulfill the Karmic requirement for an ever-present baseline of suffering. This culture is certainly populated by the least compassionate, most sadistic, and customarily most powerful, elements of humanity, elements that we must all recon with for our ongoing daily existence. Because the rapacious tend to prosper, we are continuously challenged to evolve in the Spirit! Somehow, the Soul is refined in the crucible of suffering. Stagnation is simply not a possibility in the scenario of life – we must move forward and ultimately upward as the Soul evolves. Fascism is the secret friend of freedom – the two could not survive without each other – the Yin and Yang of conflict. A terrible truth is thus revealed... 

            The German philosopher G.F.W. Hegel expressed this concept very well in his famous theory on the Dialectic of Change. When an idea or condition – a thesis – is placed into manifestation, it inevitably begins to reflectively generate its opposite – an antithesis – producing conflict between the two. As this conflict develops, the interaction – even in absolute hostility – between the two conflicting elements begins to establish communication. Even if this communication is no more than an assumed mutual hatred, that much understanding and agreement has taken place. As the conflict between thesis and antithesis matures, and even if one side appears to vanquish the other, the inevitable communication process that cannot be avoided in human affairs begins to generate the third stage of the Hegelian Dialectic – synthesis – the emergence of a new, higher expression of Truth. The synthesis represents the best elements of the thesis and antithesis – the least functional elements have been purged by the conflict process. This is precisely the mechanism of Soul evolution restated in more strictly philosophical terminology. The dross is burned away through conflict, and the conflicted elements are combined into a higher Form of Expression of the Light – a more evolved Soul.  

            The final question to be considered here is whether willful human agency can constructively effect this inevitable mechanism of change through instrumenting the final stage of the conflict process – resolution. Hegel felt that the Dialectic was self-sustaining and self-justifying, simply occurring throughout history as the process of change, and requiring no external support or rational for its operation. “Winner take all” or not, the result was still some degree of synthesis and, therefore, progress. Can we regulate the outcome of conflict through negotiation? Should we? Resolution approaches and techniques will form the subject of the third and final article of this series on what is quite possibly the defining element of human history, consciousness, and Karma – conflict!

              

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                                  (CR2007, Alan Schneider)

 

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