The seduction of conflict

I’ve been watching with interest the many protests and sniping on the socio-political “right” and “left” during the past few weeks and months. The topics have ranged from whether the Octu-Mom should be allowed to keep her babies, to marriage equality in the cornfields of Iowa, to protesting the taxes that have built the sidewalks and courthouse steps upon which the protests have taken place, to whether the Portuguese Water Dog as a breed is suitable for the Executive Residence, etc. I found it seductive to take a stand, especially when I see a fallacy in the argument presented. In some I have resisted, in others I have joined in with gusto. But then I got to thinking….

There’s a basic fallacy in the whole conflict model of engagement.

That fallacy? Being right is a realistic intellectual objective.

Perhaps in the realms of scientific evidence persons can claim to be right, but frankly, it doesn’t last for long. Our understanding of science has generated Nobel prizes for science one year and then in subsequent years generated another for disproving that  previous leaureate’s work. Happens all the time, according to a scientist friend. “Our understanding is constantly changing according to our grasp of the relationships we can see at the time.” He was speaking of particles and atoms and the like, but it might well apply to the socio-political climate of the day as well.

The fallacy of rightness implies a certain unified perspective, from a particular value or belief system in the social strata and theoretical orientation in the scientific world. Therefore, we can only be right if we all agree on what we see/feel/think/believe/and/or experience. 

In that model relationship implies agreement. Absolute agreement, in fact.

Which is why it doesn’t work.

The seduction of conflict lies in the power we are given by our preferred social group when we win an argument, a fight, a war, a marriage license, etc. It is simply the power of being right, and, as such, illusory and fleeting, as our ability to see and judge things is constantly changing. Nevertheless we want it- or, we are supposed to want it. It seems to me to be the adult form of the peer pressure we were pressured to forego in high school. We neglect the differences that make life interesting. We forget that tolerance and curiosity toward something foreign to our own experience only increases our experience and therefore the database we maintain for making judgments about things. When a mind is closed to new information, it becomes, much like my first computer, obsolete.

So, here’s my insight for the day: I’m going to work at being curious rather than being defensive.

This comes from my fundamental belief that everyone has something valuable to offer, even if it seems crude to me at the time. I want to enjoy engaging with others and presenting my thoughts and experiences rather than defending them. It seems a less stressful approach. I want to remember the openness of curiosity and attention rather than defaulting to the tightness of defensiveness, anger and sarcasm.

This isn’t an ideaological, high-brow approach, it’s simply that I like myself (and others) better when I can manage to do that.

Let me know what you think….

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