conflict

Practicing Factfulness

Practicing Factfulness

"Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people. And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear about more disasters than ever before. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite." 

~ Hans Rosling

Get Caught Up in Minutiae or See the Texture

Get Caught Up in Minutiae or See the Texture

"When we get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, there's two ways of seeing that. You can see the texture of that person, the qualities that make them unique. Or you can go to war about it – say, That person is different from me, I don't like you, so let's battle."

~ Mahershala Ali

The Mighty Strings of Pleasure and Pain

The Mighty Strings of Pleasure and Pain

"The universal war is not limited to the relation between different states, but takes place between villages, between households, and between individuals, and that it takes place even between the different parts of each individual soul."

~ T. K. Seung

Solution Aversion

Solution Aversion

"A new study finds that deeply held beliefs can undermine rationality: When confronted with solutions that challenge deeply held values, people may be inclined to disbelieve the problem."

~ Brandon Keim

Hard Work

Graham Dean

"Their faces, as different as honey and soot, looked identical. Hate does that. Burns off everything but itself, so whatever your grievance is, your face looks just like your enemy's. Like friendship, hatred needed more than physical intimacy; it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself."

~ Toni Morrison, from Love

 


 

See also: "Toni Morrison, The Art of Fiction No. 134," Paris Review, Fall 1993

A Battle of Arguments

 

Excerpt from "What Can You Learn about Persuasion from Hostage Negotiation?" a Barking Up the Wrong Tree interview with Chris Voss:

What are the most common mistakes people make when negotiating?

They neglect to pay attention to emotional factors, and they really neglect to listen.

I compare a lot of negotiations to dealing with a schizophrenic, because a schizophrenic’s always got a voice in his head talking to him which makes it very hard for him to listen to you.

Now most people in business negotiations, they approach the negotiation, and they’ve got firmly in their mind all of the arguments that support their position. So when they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. They view negotiation as a battle of arguments.

If while you’re making your argument, the only time the other side is silent is because they’re thinking about their own argument, they’ve got a voice in their head that’s talking to them. They’re not listening to you. When they’re making their argument to you, you’re thinking about your argument, that’s the voice in your head that’s talking to you. So it’s very much like dealing with a schizophrenic.

If your first objective in the negotiation, instead of making your argument, is to hear the other side out, that’s the only way you can quiet the voice in the other guy’s mind. But most people don’t do that. They don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument. They don’t pay attention to emotions and they don’t listen.


See also:

Do You Have Time For Some Conflict Resolution?

Donna and Leslie are roommates who trigger each other. Now they have neuroscience terms to help them communicate and resolve their issues. 

Donna: When you don't wash the dishes for two days, it really triggers me and it brings up a lot of implicit memories from my chaotic childhood. 

Leslie: When you bring up your chaotic childhood, my central nervous system drops into a fight, flight, or freeze state, and I'm having trouble accessing my prefrontal cortex.

 

Pain Bringers

A black poplar (populus nigra) tree with lightning damage

Facebook post by Jonathan Carroll (12.21.12):

"I now fully believe there are people who spread pain wherever they go. They aren’t necessarily bad like a Hitler or some other outsized villains. Often they are just you and me’s trying to live their lives. But somehow pain bringers are cursed with a dark talent for making things go bad; leaving behind them suspiciously long trails of angry broken hearts, or dreams, or plans...

Whether it’s conscious or unconscious they continuously mess life up, or make jobs harder for others to do, confuse where confusion is not necessary, grate where smoothness was once the norm before they arrived. It can be on a small scale or large. Whenever they enter a life or situation they tramp a kind of psychic mud onto clean floors that is difficult to clean and sometimes permanently stains.

Now and then these people are unquestionably mean or selfish, but not as a rule. Like those poor souls who are struck by lightning again and again for some mysterious reason throughout their lives, pain bringers only have to become involved in something and too frequently for it to be chance or coincidence, they cause it to go south in very negative ways.

I was thinking about this for a long time today and could specifically name three people I have known who fall into this category. You couldn’t identify it by looking at any of them. They’re often compelling, passionate, funny, capable, alluring, attractive, or even generous people. But bond with them in any other than a superficial way and you can almost be certain you’ll be hit by their lightning. Beyond any doubt it will leave some kind of nasty scorch mark on your psyche/heart/life/business/confidence/values/beliefs/soul or otherwise."

The Indispensable Silver Lining

Consolation
by Wisława Szymborska, from Poetry (April 2006)

Darwin.
They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.   

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,   
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,   
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

See also: "Wisława Szymborska," by Janusz R. Kowalczyk, Culture.Pl  

 


Charlie Darwin

by Low Anthem, from Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

Set the sails I feel the winds a'stirring
Toward the bright horizon set the way
Cast your wreckless dreams upon our Mayflower
Haven from the world and her decay

And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
Fighting for a system built to fail
Spooning water from their broken vessels
As far as I can see there is no land

Oh my god, the water's all around us
Oh my god, it's all around

And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
The lords of war just profit from decay
And trade their children's promise for the jingle
The way we trade our hard earned time for pay

Oh my god, the water's cold and shapeless
Oh my god, it's all around
Oh my god, life is cold and formless
Oh my god, it's all around

The Art of Letting Pass

El Parque del Retiro, Madrid, August 3, 2012

All That We Have
by Stephen Dunn, from Local Time 

            to John Jay Osborn, Jr.

It's on ordinary days, isn't it,
     when they happen,
those silent slippages,

a man mowing the lawn, a woman
     reading a magazine,
each thinking it can't go on like this,

then the raking, the turning
     of a page.
The art of letting pass

what must not be spoken, the art
     of tirade, explosion,
are the marital arts, and we

their poor practitioners, are never
     more than apprentices.
At night in bed the day visits us,

happily or otherwise.  In the morning
     the words good morning
have a history of tones; pray to say them

evenly.  It's so easy, those moments
     when affection is what
the hand and voice naturally coordinate.

But it's that little invisible cloud
     in the livingroom,
floating like boredom, it's the odor

of disappointment mixing with
     kitchen smells,
which ask of us all that we have.

The man coming in now
     to the woman.
The woman going out to the man.

 

[Thanks, Whiskey River!]

Right Through Every Human Heart

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, during his first months in prison in 1945"It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhlemed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil."

~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from The Gulag Archipelago

To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

"We naturally long to sequester our doubts and fears, to disavow pain and worry. Unfortunately, to vanquish doubt is to leave the domain of the human being. Conversely, to embrace both one’s doubt and faith, one’s fear and courage, is to relate to the totality of the human experience." 

~ Dennis Palumbo

The Need to Put the Values of Life above Self-Identity

Excerpts from "The Evolution of Change with Sari Nusseibeh," with Krista Tippett, On Being, September 15, 2011:

I do not see that the Palestinian has qualities that somehow differentiate him or her from being an Israeli or an Egyptian or anything else. Pluralistic by nature — to go back to my own upbringing and the openness of my being both a Muslim and having Christianity right in the middle of my own house at more than one level, my having been brought up in a Christian school, a missionary school that my parents who are Muslims — very Muslim — would send me to, was a reflection of a kind of openness of society that does no longer exist, I'm afraid, at the moment.

I think healing is important. I'm not sure how long it will take. I still feel that hope — not feel — I have a gut sort of faith in the fact that things will somehow right themselves, will eventually come back together. I'm not sure that we will be able to replicate what we had, but I think that with awareness, alertness, to the good things that we lost and the bad things that we've acquired and the ability to distinguish between the good and the bad, eventually we'll be able to create a new future with better, you know, with more things that are good, not necessarily the same.

I think we'd have to find a way to resolve the politics. You know, resolving the politics is something that's not impossible. And I think it's something that's happening anyway. It's not necessarily happening in the way that people assume it is happening. It's not happening in the sense of reading the headlines, that there's a solution and it's been signed by the two parties, but it's happening. It seems to me it's unfolding slowly in the sense that people on both sides are more and more aware of the fact that living in conflict is intolerable and that there is a way that can be found which would allow the two sides to live together.

Now, what way is not clear in my mind. For some time, it was two states. Perhaps in the future, it could be a federation of regions or city-states. I'm not sure how it will look, but I think, in general, people are slowly maturing, if you like, to the need to put life and the values of life as human beings above — not in place of — but above perhaps the more limiting aspects of self-identity and identification of themselves as being Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Arab or from this town or from that and so on and so forth.

In general, if you sort of compare between the attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians towards each other, fifty years ago, say, and today, you'll find we've gone through a sea change. Now, it's not been perceptible on a day-by-day basis, but if you make the comparison between those two periods, you realize that we've covered a long, long, long distance.

And if you ask people on the whole today, for instance, about two-state solution — I think even my mother would tell you — they're happy with a two-state solution, but it would have to be one to which also the other side would agree to. This is my mother's condition. And I think it's the condition that's probably put by most Israelis and most Palestinians. They're happy to come to solution on the condition that the other side is also willing to come to that particular solution.

And I think this attitude is new. I mean, it's open. It's basically saying we are prepared to live at peace. We do not wish to continue living at war, and that's, I think, what's most important.

Listen to the whole conversation...

A Crash of Territorial Cultures

Excerpts from “Demonstrations, Hopes, and Dreams,” Being, Feb. 10, 2011:

Dr. Scott Atran: If you take these polls like the Gallup and Pew polls, you find that about 7 percent of the Muslim world has some sympathy for bin Laden. That's about 100 million people out of 1.3 or 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. But then if you look who actually is willing to do something violent, you find that it's an extremely, extremely small number of people. But when you look at of those thousands out of the 100 million who actually do anything, you find that the greatest predictor has nothing to do with religion.

The greatest predictor is whether they belong to a soccer club or some action-oriented group of friends. In fact, almost none of them had any religious education whatsoever. They're all born again, sort of between the ages of 18 and 22. So if it's not religious inculcation, if it's not religious training, if it's not even religious tradition, what could it possibly be? And again, it's first of all who your friends are. That's the greatest predictor of everything. Then there's a sort of geopolitical aspect to it. I mean, people talk about a clash of civilizations. I think that's dead wrong. There's a crash of territorial cultures across the world.

Krista Tippett: Yeah. I want you to talk about that. I think that's a very intriguing distinction you draw that it's not a clash of civilizations, but you've also said a crash of civilizations. So tell me what you're describing there.

Dr. Atran: Well, globalization, of course, has provided access to large masses of humanity to a better standard of living, better health, better education. But it has also left in its wake many traditional societies that are falling apart, that just can't compete. So what you have is young people especially sort of flailing around looking for a sense of social identity. These traditional territorial cultures and their influence disappears and it's happening across all of this sort of middle attitudes of Eurasia and they're trying to hook up with one another peer to peer.

And this is paralleling another new development in history of humanity and that is this massive media-driven global political awakening where, again, for the first time in human history, you've got someone in New Guinea who can see the same images as someone in the middle of the Amazon. And so you've got these young people paradoxically focusing in on a smaller and smaller bandwidth in this sort of global media trying to hook up with one another and make friends and give themselves a sense of significance. And the Jihad comes along.

I mean, the Jihad — you know, I interviewed this guy in prison in France who wanted to blow up the American Embassy and I asked him, "Why did you want to do this?" and he says to me, "Well, I was walking along the street one day and someone spit at my sister and called her sale Arabe, a dirty Arab, and I just couldn't take it anymore and I realized that this injustice would never leave French society or Western society, so I joined the Jihad." I said, "Yeah, but that has been going on for years." And he goes, "Yes, but there was no Jihad before."

So it's a sort of receptacle. You find it's especially appealing to young people in transitional stages in their lives — immigrants, students, people in search of jobs or mates and between jobs and mates, and it gives a sense of empowerment that their own societies certainly don't. I mean, the message of the Jihad is, look, you, any of you, any of you out there, you too can cut off the head of Goliath with a paper cutter. That's what we did. We changed the world with paper cutters. That's all you need. All you need is will and truth and meaning, and you will correct injustice in the world and you'll be heroic and you'll have the greatest adventure of your lives. That's surely powerful.

*     *     *     *     *

Ms. Tippett: You know, at the beginning of your book, which is called Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists, right before the table of contents, you have this absolutely beautiful picture of children. It looks like they're either coming out of school or going to school. They're beautiful children. It's kind of a heartbreaking picture in a lovely way.

Then I read underneath that it's a school that you mentioned early on. You say, school's out at this school in Morocco from which five of the seven plotters of the Madrid train bombing who blew themselves up attended, as did several volunteers for martyrdom in Iraq. Tell me why you put that picture at the beginning of your book and what you would like a reader or someone coming to these ideas to see in that picture.

Dr. Atran: Because those are the terrorists. Those are those who would be terrorists or would be us or our friends. And it is up to us and how we deal with the political world and the hopes and dreams that emerge in their own societies that will decide whether they go one way or the other. It's not, again, the fact that there are good or bad ideologies out there. It's not the fact of lack of presence of economic opportunities per se. It's whether there are paths in life that can lead them to something that's more congenial to the way we live in the world. I think we have many things to offer, but not in the way we're doing it.

I mean, I'm reminded very much of Maximilien Robespierre's statement to the Jacobin Club in the French Revolution, a statement he promptly forgot, which was, "No one loves armed missionaries." No one loves armed missionaries. No one loves the fact that we have troops out there in the world trying to preserve or push democracy or whatever. As Jefferson said, "The way we're going to change the world is by our example. Never, never can it be by the sword." Now sometimes you have to fight things. When people want to kill you, when people want to blow you up, then you have to fight them. There may be at the time no opportunity.

But that's not the case with the vast majority of people who could possibly become tomorrow's terrorists. That's where the fight for the world will be. It will be in the next generation of these young people, the ones caught between should we go the path of happiness as martyrdom or should we go to the path of yes, we can. They're both very enticing paths. I think one has a lot more to offer, but we have to show them it has more to offer, and we have to show them now. And that's what they're asking for right now.

Listen to the entire conversation on Being…

Different Paths

 

Jitish Kallat's “Public Notice 3” uses phrases from a speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda at the First World’s Parliament of Religions held in The Art Institute of Chicago's Fullerton Hall on September 11, 1893. Words from the address line the steps of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase in LED lights using the colors from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s alert system. The installation is on display through May 1, 2011. 

Excerpt from the speech delivered by Vivekananda on September 11, 1893:

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.