I’ve previously looked at how conflicts can get resolved through exercising power. But what about influence? It’s hard enough to define, but the results of it being used can always be felt, sometimes in controversial ways.
At least that’s what a recent USA contraception scandal brought to mind. Long story short: a (female) law student testified before a House committee in favor of health insurance plans covering the cost of contraception; as a result, she was called a “slut” by popular conservative radio talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh. The result? Controversy and media uproar, including public statements against Limbaugh’s gesture from president Obama and Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/73549.html
Despite this, the fact remains that Limbaugh is extremely popular with Republican voters. A popularity which can easily translate into influence. Freedom of speech dictates that anyone is free to express their views, so there is no question of legality here. But, to my mind, this illustrates how using one’s influence can result in full-blown manipulation, which, let’s face it, major parts of the population are quite susceptible to.
… That brings me to my next example of influence where it doesn’t belong: religion. I have nothing against religious people, as long as they don’t have anything against me for not being religious. But after reading this gem: http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news/article/16117269, I can’t help but get angry.
While it is completely understandable to want to try every possible option when desperate times strike, it obviously takes a great deal of blind faith to decide on stopping the confirmed solution in favour of a hypothetical one. So, when using the massive influence that an established institution like the Church has accumulated over its supporters, should members of the clergy not be supervised in some way? And in the extreme cases where people actually suffer and die because of their beliefs, should the people who “sold” these notions to them not be held accountable? It is my strong opinion that they should.
Therefore, as hard as it is to exactly quantify it, I believe there are cases when a lot of influence can become too much influence. And, sadly, the world is full of such examples, from corporations to biased media to that one colleague you can’t stand but always act nice to, because of their standing within your social work environment. Go ahead and contradict me!
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?
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