The two grey, stray tabby cats are licking some sort of substance off of the street. Perhaps it is spilled flavored coffee or food that had been dropped by one of my neighbors’ visitors. There is one young couple in the four-plex next door whose visitors are litterbugs.
Anyway, the cats are engrossed in eating something directly from the tarmac. Suddenly, the smallest cat assumes an aggressive posture and swipes a paw towards the bigger cat’s face. A chase ensues, with the big cat sprinting after the small cat. They run out of sight, but I hear some screeching. A couple of minutes later, the big cat casually walks across my yard to the street and resumes licking the stain on the concrete.
Strong disagreement and tension have been part of the animal kingdom for as long as there have been creatures. These seem to be ingrained in animal life, and in turn, humans. The root of conflict is generally some sort of competition. In the case of the two cats, it was all about who was going to eat the goop off of the street. Frequently, territory is the root of conflict. Assertion of dominance is another factor. This is evident in fights between two stray cats to the threat of thermonuclear oblivion.
Everyday, mundane human conflict is evident and can be witnessed when we watch videos or read news stories. Crime, domestic violence, intranational and international wars abound. The current election cycle has been unusually fraught with anger and contempt for peace. Most of us are craving for life to settle down to quietude.
If we observe ourselves as objectively as we can, we notice that there are times when we try our best to argue to a favorable resolution of disagreements. Regardless of how much rational logic we employ, whomever is sparring with us is not listening. They probably feel the same way about us. The quarrels escalate to the point of impasse. Too frequently, such fights end up in reluctant draws. Nobody wins. Resentments become solidified, and the seeds for future strife are planted.
There is so much conflict in this world that I once thought I could make a fortune in the field of conflict resolution. I’m guessing corporate and governmental mediators make a lot of money. The problem is that the mediators have to endure superhuman levels of hatred and hostility. When push comes to shove, the mediator then shares in the blame. When friction reaches a certain point, the embers of resentment become inflamed. Such unpleasantness is unappealing, so I decided against becoming a professional mediator.
One of the most damaging aspects I’ve noticed among people engaged in arguments and hostility is that certain people refuse to apologize. Sometimes they even refuse apologies from their opponents. With the lack of an apologetic nature, each side simmers in resentment trying to justify why they are right. When neither side seeks forgiveness, more skirmishes are likely to happen. Sometimes conflicts result in inter-generational feuds. The classic one being between the Hatfields and McCoys.
When both combatants are too invested in pride, the less likely one or the other is willing to admit their mistakes. They refuse to seek common ground and become further entrenched in hostility. Despite heroic efforts, the result is a lose/lose scenario. Then there will be continued disillusionment, blaming, verbal sparring, intrigue, and outright conflict. Graceful retreat becomes more difficult for either side.
Thankfully, in many instances, after prolonged conflicts, people are eager to move forward with life and want closure. Compromise is achieved. Apologies are made, forgiveness is granted, and the foundation is built to provide the footing for collaboration, compromise, and cooperation. Hopefully sooner rather than later, the time comes when adversaries make amends and become allies.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a thought from the 19th century poet, critic, editor, and diplomat, James Russell Lowell. “Once to every person and nation come the moment to decide. In the conflict of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.”