Conflict is more than an ethical issue; it can be seen as the driving force of our species. Whether it takes place between two parties, or between two different ideas within the same individual, conflict is a spark that either generates warmth or spawns destruction – it can bring forth underlying issues, create new solutions to old problems, as well as turn social environments into hostile ones.
Since every person is unique, it can be argued that there are as many ways of dealing with conflict as there are people. However, based on our determination in achieving our own goals and on our willingness to cooperate with others, we tend to fall into certain categories. These can range from highly competing to accommodating, to collaborating.
Or so they say… But think about it: is it really true that all these approaches can be effective, and it’s just about using the right one at the right time? I don’t think so. It seems to me that if history teaches us anything, it’s that those in power will always win in conflicts against those who lack power. Unless they do something really stupid and shoot themselves in the leg – but that rarely happens. Conflict resolution methods will only work in the rare cases in which the two parties come from equally powerful positions.
A recent example is the eviction of the Occupy London campers from outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was accompanied by the demolition of the “School of Ideas”, which the activists had inaugurated. http://www.london24.com/news/video_occupy_london_protesters_evicted_from_st_paul_s_cathedral_camp_1_1221771 The Occupy London movement, an ongoing protest against social inequality and corporate greed, had made this particular encampment its centre since October.
A valiant struggle to be sure, but when going against authority, especially in such a vocal manner, you are unlikely to win by being peaceful and full of wonderful ideas. To my mind, it’s general public apathy that led to this eviction. Had there been wider support for the activists, the authorities might have been more willing to show their collaborative side and try to meet the protesters halfway. Why? Because public support can translate into votes and votes can obviously translate into power. And at the end of the day, it’s power that solves conflicts, not carefully considered words…
What about you? What do you think?
On the 17th of September 2011 about 1000 people marched through the streets of New York in peaceful protest. Their demands? Economic justice, the separation of the political and financial systems, and the re-evaluation of taxation policies, among others.
Less than a month after this initial protest, on the 15th of October, under the slogan “We are the 99%”, similar movements mushroomed across the world in support of the original one. The UK has a few of its own, with the largest activist encampment established outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. They continue to this day.
So who is in the wrong here? Surely many can agree to the fact that there is a deep economic inequality across the world, with statistical evidence showing that a small minority controls the majority of resources, while billions live below the edge of poverty. There is little doubt that the protests have a strong moral backbone, at least in theory. Is this enough however? Should “doing the right thing” be sufficient to start a fundamental change of the system? And if so, out of the millions of us who are affected by these global issues, how is it that only thousands are camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral?
The Occupy movements have been criticised for a number of reasons. Firstly, the solutions they suggested, which involved stronger government interference in the economy, were seen as anti-capitalist and socialist. But if a system fails, as many believe capitalism has, is it not natural to try to change it? Or is it better to move forward, toward complete economic independence from the state?
Furthermore, many right wing advocates have claimed that, while the vast majority of people suffer from the effects of the recession, they should take responsibility for their own well being, instead of blaming outside forces. Are they right? Or is it safe to assume that if external factors, created by banks and faulty regulations, turn the economic environment against the common people, they are no longer solely responsible for themselves?
Surprisingly perhaps, the 99% have received some support from the 1%, with high-income members of the public following the activists’ example and sharing their stories online, ending with the phrase: “I am the 1%, I stand with the 99%”.
But in the end, who is right and who is wrong? The movement that calls out for true democracy and says that the people should be above banks and greed-stricken corporations? Or their opponents, who claim that the current state of things, as faulted as it is, is still better than the others out there?
So far, the 99% themselves, the common people, have yet to take a decisive position regarding the Occupy movements. What I am asking is: where do you stand?
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