Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On Change and Conflict

On this Independence Day, I'm thinking of the birth of our nation. Not a peaceful enterprise. So what?

We were having a nice conversation -- you know -- the kind that stimulate thinking, beget opinions and reactions, and possibly even amplify voices. As my father once asked of my mother and me, "would you please stop arguing?"; to which we both replied in unison, "we're NOT arguing!" Anyway ...

So my brother-in-law posited that increased global communications would inherently bring about greater conflict. I challenged by suggesting the opposite -- increased multi-cultural exchange of views, presented by the people rather than by institutions, could actually reduce conflict by wearing-down our parent's (and societies') stereotypes and prejudices.

Upon reflection, I believe it was only a semantic argument. And here is why. What the internet brings to the 21st century seems to me to be as influential as oceanic steam ships and intercontinental jet planes to world travel; as revolutionary as Johannes Gutenberg's printing press to mass communication; and as transformational as the transistor and ultimately the PC on which you are reading this blog. What that translates into is Change, with a capitol "C". The internet provides the means (which of course can be exploited or denied) to give voice to individuals all over the globe. True, it represents only the developed, interconnected world, but surely this is orders of magnitudes larger than each of us practically had available before hand. And an extremely diverse set at that. And those nations, tribes, peoples that do not have access, will likely be given at least an occasional voice, or at least a distant whisper, by those that do.

So what of change and conflict? Charles Darwin said,
"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."
It seems to me that what the internet, and global communications in general, really brings to our species in the 21st century is Change. And taking the long view, evolution's "interest" in this change is our adaptability. If we adapt to this change, we may survive to evolve further. If we do not, we may extinguish this flame. But my point is not apocalyptic.

I believe there will be increased understanding, and the growth that naturally follows from exposure to different ideas and new information. AND, I think there will be conflict from those that cannot -- or really choose not -- to adapt, and try with all of their might to interrupt our slow, steady, increased planetary integration. Because that is what is really underway, is it not? The world is getting smaller and smaller by all measures. Fewer resources (and more people). Exposure to cultural differences developed over millennia -- instantaneously. And in some, perhaps very few, a growing awareness of the only constant when seen from above (or within): Change.

So will there be conflict? Yes, indeed there will be. Because some of us will choose to embrace this change, and others will (literally) choose to fight it. Is that good/bad, right/wrong, just/unfair? You know -- it is none of those judgments. It just is.

So expect (continued) conflict as the world adapts (or not) to the continual change, amplified by noteworthy advancements like the internet. You may be asked (or feel the need) to take up arms (physically or mentally) to defend this new reality from forces that wish to deny it. Can conflict be avoided all together? I doubt it. I think that is Life. I think that is Evolution. I think that is Reality.

Is there another way? I think there are many ways -- Christ showed one, Gandhi showed another, as did MLK. You cannot deny there was conflict there -- but that does not imply that violence is the only answer. However, do not be too sanguine -- consider their personal outcomes. And of course there was Buddha and Lao Tzu. So beliefs and behavior in the face of change have been modeled for or explained to us.

So what of this reflection on change and conflict? Only this: that both will surely continue. The more we take advantage of this change (global communications), the more we can adapt as a species to a more integral view of life. In the end that may reduce conflict, but that will require that we take the long view. In the mean-time, do not be discouraged by conflict. Accept it as reality, and decide how you will deal with it. Wishing it away will not help. Believing it can be forever avoided, or willed away, will only result in a fool's paradise. So embrace the change, and begin to adapt.


Pat said...

Well said. Joy in engaging in the "conflict", joy in the moment, and letting the outcome be what it will.

Steven Crisp said...

Yes, Pat, you make the ultimate point here that I left out -- detachment from the outcome. Probably the most difficult for us Westerners to get our arms around.

And why is it important? Because as you know, it is attachment to the outcome -- when two people are attached to different outcomes -- that brings the conflict in the first place.

So does that mean "going with the flow" in spite of principled beliefs? I would say "yes and no". Yes --becuase more often than not what we defend as our "principled beliefs" are nothing more than desires and opinions -- we would do well to let those fall like autumn leaves into the river of life. No -- because there are some positions that come from wisdom and provide guidance for all that you do (non-violence might be an example), and should not be given up without fundamental introspection.

How do you know the difference? Well, that is the rub. It really comes only through insight, wisdom, introspection, contemplation, and for some, meditation. It is an "awakening" of the Self, with a capital "S", to Life with a capital "L". And the ego is best left behind.

I find that to be a good test in any of these inquiries. If my "prinicipled belief" directly benefits my ego, I become very suspcious. And the ego is a very clever fellow.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Change starts with self. You have to make that commitment for betterment. If it falls within religious faith, working a 12 step program, building a log cabin--it is your choice. This is why I object to religious prosletization; human will is precious and authencity comes from an eager heart. Maybe that sounds odd from a Christian, but no one forces change and should expect good results--that results in despotism.

Steven Crisp said...


You said "Change starts with self ... This is why I object to religious prosletization; human will is precious and authencity comes from an eager heart. Maybe that sounds odd from a Christian ..."

Not odd -- just somewhat surprising and refreshing. There are many who label themselves Christians who believe it is their duty to proselytize. From the best of intentions of course (to save us), but proselytize nonetheless.

Now let me ask you a follow-up ... given that it *starts* with self -- where does it go after that? Anywhere? Say you're totally committed to your own "betterment". What about others? What about the problems of the world? The conflict, the suffering? Is it enough just to be waiting with an open heart of love and compassion, or should you be doing more?

Does activism have a role? Should you cry out at the injustices. Should you work tirelessly for the oppressed? Or do something? Anything? Or should you just work on bettering your self, and learning to accept the world as it is -- again with an open heart of love and compassion. This is a line of inquiry I've been pursing with someone via e-mail, and since you answered a questions that wasn't even asked, I thought I'd at least ask a follow-up. And if you believe activitism has a role, who gets to judge the outrage, the victim, and the enemy, enemy ;-)

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I welcome and appreciate the dialog.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I have some time to give you a decent reply. I believe in activism; I have protested the Iraqi War, moneys diverted to the war by Congress, the Patriot Acts, you name it. When you see something wrong with the world, you try to do something about it. Change starts with self, because no one else can change you other than God, in my view, and even so, he does so according to his plan, not ours. You make the choice to believe or not, and that's how it should be. Yes, Christians have a responsibility to share Christ, but with discernment and leadership from the Holy Spirit. This approachs another point I want to make: motives for action. Do some Christians really give a hoot whether you or anyone else might go to hell? Probably not. Instead, they have points to make with their church and other Christians. How many lead people to God (or try to) through fear or through gross-out techniques like the fetus on a stick posters. I see nothing Christlike in this, and before I became a Christian, those people at best got on my nerves.

Do we do charitable works because we should or because we have empathy? Granted, if we have massive poverty, any help is welcome, despite selfish motives. But giving should never have strings attached, then it isn't a gift but a bribe. The same goes with activism. You don't jump on a cause because you are left, right, evangelical, pagan, military....you do it because it makes sense to your world view and it has to be thought out. Many Christian people who hate gays, hate sex period and think that their heterosexuality makes them better. That is pride, not a good thing. I don't agree with the church's stance on gays; I think homosexuality is fine. But that's another discussion.

I hope I answered some of your questions. Thanks for the discussion.

Steven Crisp said...


I think I agree with you in substance, though we may have gotten together from two different paths. I think it is necessary to work on yourself first -- whether that is seen as God's plan, or your own introspection is probably based upon your religious/spiritual predilection To try to pursue activism without first removing/transcending/killing your ego will not work, I don't think.

Why? Becuase your cause and my cause may be at odds, and work to cancel each other out, or worse, create conflict anew. But from an authentic source, based solidly on compassion, wisdom, and love, and from a perspecitve that sees all beings -- indeed everything -- as interconnected, such that my benefit comes from your benefit, then we will be working in unison.

I thank you for your visit and thoughtful reply. I hope to hear from you some more.