Pretty much every day I bang this drum.
The beat I’ve chosen has been for deep-rooted revolution in our broken world of conflict. Our nations’ shared established order is vested deeply in the fueling of conflict, in the enticement and entertainment of debate over dialogue. Despite everything we know now about our brains, about how much we could achieve if only we learned how to control our innate mechanisms of survival, the world has continued to be drawn unprepared into conflict. And we’re struggling.
Every day we hear of war, poverty, earth-shattering pollution, inequality, discrimination, injustice, crime, hate, intolerance, and more and so much more. Every day, each one of us seeks to preserve our identity, our self-esteem in a world of instantly-judged perception, but we do this in ignorance or without being afforded the right tools, the skills in conflict resolution and engagement that would help us connect and empathise and understand and love.
We know that we want to love, that we want peace and happiness. We know this. It’s in our bones to act with humanity in every singe moment we face conflict, and we know how challenging it is to our quest for happiness if we face that conflict with a closed fist rather than an open palm.
We know this.
And yet, aside from a noticeable minority, our world continues to build its walls and glass ceilings, to curl fingers tightly around triggers, to maintain border lines drawn on a map that mean nothing to the earth beneath them. We continue to trust in the status quo, to trust that our experts and elders will make things better for us, to believe that those elected to represent our interests really have those at heart, this in the face of a history of politics and nation-building that tells us otherwise, a history we forget so easily in the here and now. And we continue to reflect this approach in every conflict we face at home and at work and even at play.
So am I banging the wrong drum?
Why is it that we’re built for love, but find conflict so enticing even though we know it’s no good for us?
I’m reminded of this quote by Bertrand Russell, in his text, “Proposed Roads To Freedom”:
The great majority of men and women, in ordinary times, pass through life without ever contemplating or criticising, as a whole, either their own conditions or those of the world at large. They find themselves born into a certain place in society, and they accept what each day brings forth, without any effort of thought beyond what the immediate present requires. Almost as instinctively as the beasts of the field, they seek the satisfaction of the needs of the moment, without much forethought, and without considering that by sufficient effort the whole conditions of their lives could be changed.
A certain percentage, guided by personal ambition, make the effort of thought and will which is necessary to place themselves among the more fortunate members of the community; but very few among these are seriously concerned to secure for all the advantages which they seek for themselves. It is only a few rare and exceptional men who have that kind of love toward mankind at large that makes them unable to endure patiently the general mass of evil and suffering, regardless of any relation it may have to their own lives. These few, driven by sympathetic pain, will seek, first in thought and then in action, for some way of escape, some new system of society by which life may become richer, more full of joy and less full of preventable evils than it is at present. But in the past such men have, as a rule, failed to interest the very victims of the injustices which they wished to remedy.
Add women into that quote, and for me it pretty much sums up what’s at work here. Those of us invested in change, those of us who want to see our children thrive in an education system concerned less about pass marks and more about self-esteem and self-empowerment, those of us who want to see our children supported by those around them throughout their lives to engage constructively with the conflicts and challenges they face, those of us craving social collaboration and equality in every community across the globe from the playground all the way up to international politics, we need to think carefully about how we’re going to reach out.
Because right now, it looks to me that we’re failing.
Right now we bang this drum and pat ourselves on the back for how enlightened we believe our answers are in the world of conflict. We think that mediation and ‘mediating ways’ and dialogue are a better way forward than court and war and debate. We sit as delegates in conferences and events and connect with those who were already sold long ago on what we’re yapping about. We speak to and connect online with the same kind of people, change the minds of such a small number of souls in conflict, and we go to sleep at night thinking that we’ve done OK, that maybe because we’ve managed to help a few of those souls find a different way of engaging, then it’s been worth it, we’re on the right track. One by one we’ll get there, right?
Well for me at least, it’s not enough.
The time has come to withdraw my consent to the status quo. I’ve been building all these online dispute resolution and conflict coaching tools for mediationinyourpocket.com, and although it’s doing OK, I know I’m not reaching the people who need those tools the most. Ideally, I want pocketconflictcoach to be free at source, supported by my government which claims among its strategic objectives to want a fairer, safer and stronger community whilst maintaining funding for the indoctrinated systems that led to the necessity of those objectives.
Right now, therefore, I’m reaching mostly mediators, conflict interveners, peacemakers, in other words those who get it already, and although I can’t thank them enough for all their support as I’ve tried to get my little project off the ground, really its those in conflict who I want to reach.
I need help.
I began this project with another quote in mind, one from the economist Milton Friedman. No matter what you may think of his theories and approach, this quote has stuck with me for many years:
Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
Those in power at all levels and walks of life may not admit it, but my belief is that the world is in crisis. Just look into your heart as you peer out the window.
We need to connect with each other more than ever, right? But given the policies and approaches to conflict that we’ve continued to nail into place, given our deep financial commitment to established authority and procedure and culture that dictates our way of life, nothing will change, absolutely nothing, until our repressed majority in the world wakes up, until it takes real note of the unnecessary chasm separating it from the opulent minority it’s sustained itself through tacit consent within systems of democracy and justice and subordination that failed us long ago.
The ideas lying around then, you have them within you. I want to hear about them. Help me understand how we’re going to reach those struggling with conflict, how we’re going to persuade them that it doesn’t have to be like this, that together we can make it better?
I want to do this, but am not sure how. I want the drum I’m banging to be heard by those whose lives it could improve.