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It would have been easy to resolve had either one of us wanted to end the squabble. Looking back, it is unbelievable to me that I acted the way I did. Again and again the situation runs through my mind, unveiling new ends to the argument. It was a perfect example of similar scenes playing themselves out all over the world – the most basic level of social conflict we have, the easiest to resolve.
I’d challenge anyone to speak out if he or she has not argued over trivial matters with his or her loved ones and closest friends. These relationships cannot be broken, just like a coastline never really disappears, even though both are subject to terrible pressures. I had been studying for the past three hours and felt in need of some refreshment. I saw that my brother was passing the room and called out and asked if he could get me a drink. He shouted back, “Why should I? Get it yourself, you lazy so and so.” This, for some reason aggravated me quite a lot as I was beginning to be frustrated by the difficulties of the study material. I did not say anything, but my anger smoldered. For the next two days, I did not speak or communicate with my brother, a feat in itself considering we lived in an apartment. I look back and am ashamed of the way I treated my brother. I also look back and remotely see myself as a desperate Green peace kid trying with one last throw of the dice to save his sanity, by throwing his anger towards them, those who obviously couldn’t see the predicament – although that would be a purpose altogether too important to imagine. However, as we all know, this is not an isolated incident. Arguments and fights happen again and again. Just like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim and his daughter, I have an ongoing feud with my brother that flares up from time to time. However, of all the social conflicts we face, this should be the easiest to resolve. People with whom we share mutual love and trust are willing to resolve conflicts that do not in the long term mean too much.
That scenario does not repeat itself everywhere. Social conflicts can occur when neither party can see nor wants to see the resolution. Some fights are not based on trivial matters. For example, we have the unresolved black-white supremacy battle. It has not been made any better in two hundred years, when we can estimate the contact between the two to have begun. Efforts have been made, but the conflict between white and black is not something that, I think, will ever evaporate. It is a deep-rooted cultural conflict. This type of conflict can manifest itself in many ways. We see it every day in America’s truly cosmopolitan society: skin color; accent differences and so on and so on. I myself have plenty of first hand experience with this particular category, as I have lived ‘abroad’ for over nine years. One thing that has dogged my family and me is the fact that Indian cooking generates a lot of smoke. Thick, filmy smoke that always fills a room, no matter the length of time cooking was done. Often, cultural conflicts bring about racial slurs in our everyday language. Whether it is the British deriding the foolish Irishman – or the French doing the same to a remarkably ‘Irish’ sounding Belgian – these slurs can become a routine and the conflict can escalate beyond mere remarks and can hurt a person quite deeply. Over time, cultural differences can lead to aggravation at a larger level than a passing comment in a corridor, just as the examples of the Irish and the Belgians have. We all know how feelings of inferiority can lead to insubordination.
In the same way as fights with parents and friends, culture clashes can also lead to better relationships. So you see, both positive and negative aspects of social conflict can co-exist. Social commentators have often claimed that it would indeed be a dull world where everyone was white or black or yellow. However, underneath the facades that we display and the differences that we harbor, we are all essentially the same. Having migrated to different places thousands of years ago, Homo sapiens has created what sometimes can indeed be a ‘positive’ conflict. What if there were nobody to challenge the ideas of the Bolsheviks at the end of World War I? Would Europe be entirely communist? The positive effects of social conflict are to be seen anywhere there is a yang to challenge another’s yin, to use a cliché. There are many times when I reach a stumbling block in some part of my life. Usually, I hurdle said block through the advice of a friend who is not Indian. The difference is in the mindset. I don’t think the same way as an English person, and this has helped on many occasions during my life. I’m sure you have felt that your friend’s suggestion would in no way have come to you in a million years. This is what creates collaborations, innovations. A conflict of ideas is a kind of cauldron, where all and sundry may throw in their newt’s legs, to create something one would not have even imagined. I am glad that I usually have someone there to conflict my idea with their own to create this hybrid entity that just adds to up to far more than the sum of it’s parts. In essence, I am portraying the normal, modern community, with its fair share of conflict, arguments and theoretically impossible addition.
However, there are incidents where I sometimes wish that I were living in India. Having lived in England for eight years, I know more about Christianity than I do about Hinduism. It’s a shame. It’s a shame because I do not think that I will ever convert into a Christian, and yet, I do not know enough about my own religion to fully practice it or to appreciate its ideas. This is a conflict that I deal with in my life alone but it is a social conflict, one that meanders through every nation, town and hamlet. I am by no means alone in my situation. Some people though, are forced to endure the same situation through no choice of their own or their ancestors’. Due to some political fighting, some people of one religion are forced to live in a country predominantly of another religion. This is the basic premise of the fighting in the Middle East over the last few decades since Israel’s independence. Islam happens to one of the most protective religions in the world today. Muslims who hold the book of Koran to be the self evident truth will not under any circumstances accept the God or customs of Jews. It recently seemed that a lull in fighting had been reached. However, it has since emerged that the time was used as ‘recuperation’ time. It is difficult – for me at least – to imagine an end to fighting any time soon. It seems that the people do not want to face a compromise that may ultimately better quality of life. Religion of any sort, any kind, anywhere has a huge part to play in the role we play in society. Some are so fervent about the ideals of their own that conflict is the only solution. So we see that this is a social conflict that is based on an intrinsic difference that has no foreseeable end. We see that there is something intrinsic about humans that will not allow us to see the larger goal, the intangible end to it all, or at the very least, just how similar the religions actually are.
Ends, however they come, whatever one’s faith, come the same way. Humans do not live long in the greater scheme of things. And yet, we literally kill ourselves in order to seem different, to be revolutionary and to be called visionary by later generations. Even while being essentially the same as the next man, we cannot allow intimacy, in fear of a subtle show of weakness. No, I believe the real weakness lies in the intricate governments we create to protect ourselves. In the olden days, it would be quite unnecessary to take a man to court because he did not pay his share of some deal. The solution would be found through the law of the land, the laws of nature or a duel between the two adversaries. This may not seem fair to those of us who sit draped in wigs and black capes, behind the tall altars of the judicial system. However, we cannot deny that God – whichever one may happen to believe in – meant life to be just so, whereupon it would appear that Rudyard Kipling took up quite the wrong end of the stick offered to him through his own brilliance and that the giraffe did not ‘acquire’ his long neck through a mishap one sunny day, but through the brutal necessities of life. Social conflict is in all its phases and forms an intrinsic part of nature. The great mystery, it appears to me, is that the sheer intelligence of man is the only thing that holds him back from true, consummate greatness. I personally cannot recommend a return to the law of the land. I do not want a person who has not offered a modicum of intelligence to his world to be feeding better than me just because he is stronger. Do you see? Here I am writing about the solutions to lack of greatness in man, and straight away refuting the theories as impossible in practice.
Social conflict, whether you see it through a law of the land filter, or a ‘modern’ filter, offers no escape for the civilized society. It is seemingly impossible for a man to live in harmony with his neighbor. We can really see this inevitability in the actual term: social conflict. Social: meaning living or preferring to live in a community. A community is a collection of people that ultimately survives by depending on the services of its separate parts. From this definition, we can infer that there will be constant communication between these parts and so – aha! – a chance for conflict. Social conflict is an enigma that revolves around vicious circles and age-old arguments of what came first – the chicken or the egg? One of the reasons that humans have – even recently – become more successful is collaboration between people of different backgrounds. And yet this interaction is what has brought about prejudices, conflict and ultimately, hate. While it is beneficial to all society for people to work together, the fact that people bring differences with them to a new community does not hold well with us, and really, it is unbelievable that someone, somewhere has not come up with a better system. It would be interesting, would it not, to look at the society that had not mastered the fact that they were supreme beings on the planet and had not exploited the earth and their fellow man?
How we could all laugh – all of us, Chinese, Brazilian and Australian together – how the pitiful community was cultivating its crops in a way that provided everyone with food, and yet produced little waste. Analysts could spend weeks observing the strange customs of the people: meals with three families at one table; a bully accepting the reasoning of his victim’s father; and look! No official looking buildings. I mean, how do they think that the populous can support and officiate itself without support from a central power! Where is the power in this land? How do they punish criminals? All these questions serve just one purpose: to finally show that main dish humanity never, ever comes without side dish social conflict, obviously coming at some extra cost, whether that be fighting or repressed, smoldering hate. But who’s paying for this meal? Who cares? I’m not, right?
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