Monday, 22 June 2009

Nature of Conflict

One of my twitter friends @Trevoke (follow him... interesting, thoughtful, mindful posts) asked me about the nature of conflict.

From an anthropological viewpoint, conflict is how nature selects the strongest, most successful attributes for survival. Conflict - at it's most basic is the struggle for life against the forces of nature and competition for procreation and scarce resources. It is driven by the need to survive and tempered with a fear of death. It is commonly known as the survival instinct.

Sometimes, we forget how things are. We perceive our environment to be more dangerous than it is. Our eyes and ears were designed to detect immediate threats. But with an international media industry, mobile phones and computers we are informed of every mishap around the world. As we become more knowledgeable, the more threats we will perceive. The more threats we perceive, the more our survival instincts will be triggered.

In a modern society, our survival instincts are expanded by technology and intelligence. This is a great source of inner and outer conflict. But your survival instinct can also be distorted. Consider money. Can you eat it? Can it protect you from the elements? No. Yet every day, people kill each other, fighting over money. Their survival instincts have been distorted by modern values.

Taoists have a name for distorted or expanded survival instincts. They call it "failure to see things as they are". Another Taoist teaching is to "put aside comparisons". For the more we compare one things to another, the more we risk being disappointed, angry and depressed.

In the basic natural struggle to survive between competing species, there is no absolute morality. However, we live in an organised society where are actions can provoke the survival instincts of others, which cause repercussions. One single action can send ripples that extend well beyond our immediate field of view.

Reflect on conflict for any period of time, and the enlightened mind has to acknowledge that as everything is connected, the cycle of violence, suffering and retribution has been rolling on since before recorded history. As we have become more analytical in our thinking, we have sought to exert ever more control over our environment and also each other. The resultant conflict has been inevitable.

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