Is conflict good for society

Conflicts

What are Conflicts?

The word conflict comes from the Latin language and means "clash, conflict". Conflicts are as old as humanity. And they exist on all levels of coexistence. The billions of people on earth all have different desires, opinions and interests. When different ideas collide and it seems impossible to realize both at the same time, a conflict arises.

The peace researcher Johan Galtung explains conflict as follows: "We define conflict as a property of a system in which there are mutually incompatible goals, so that the achievement of one goal would preclude the achievement of the other." Still, there are often amazing solutions, because the ability to overcome problems is a creative human quality. Only when violence comes into play does a conflict become a threat.

It always takes two to argue

"Hanna took the apple away from me," Hans complains to his mother. But she knows that this dispute must have a history. At least two parties are involved in a conflict, although each side likes to blame the other alone: ​​of course, the other is always the bad guy. Recognizing your own part in the dispute is a very difficult step, without which there is often no solution.

Sometimes there are also more hidden parties involved in a conflict. For example, when teachers and students clash, parents and society with their educational desires can play an invisible role in the dispute.

Conflicts can also take place within a single person who has several wishes at the same time. The behavioral researcher Konrad Lorenz observed so-called jumping over actions such as cleaning the plumage of gray geese when two opposing impulses (flight and attack) met. People can also react to internal conflicts with such seemingly pointless actions.

The bone of contention sparked the Trojan War

Conflicts usually have an issue that is then disputed. There are some recurring issues in human history. For example a beautiful woman, money, the only water point in the desert, the best way of life, the right belief.

Greek mythology tells of a famous dispute: Eris, the goddess of discord, threw a golden apple with the inscription "The most beautiful" among the goddesses. Paris decided the controversy over beauty in favor of the goddess of love Aphrodite, because she had bribed him. She promised him the beautiful Helena.

Paris kidnapped Helena from Troy and the disappointed rivals Hera and Athene decided to destroy Troy. This is how the long Trojan War broke out. The golden apple of the Eris went down in history as the "apple of contention".

Causes of conflict can be far-reaching

Even more important than the subject of the conflict are its actual causes. As with an iceberg, these causes are often very far-reaching and hidden beneath the surface. They can be in the past or the effect of events that at first glance have nothing to do with the current situation. They are related to the experiences, hopes and fears of the people involved.

Hanna took the apple away from her brother because the day before he had received a ball from her grandpa, who always prefers Hans. He then strutted past his sister conceitedly and did not let her play along.

In the case of the Paris judgment, the cause of the war is the envy and vanity of women and the sexual possessiveness of men. The roots of a conflict can sometimes reach deep into the human psyche.

Conflict is creativity

The peace researcher Ulrike C. Wasmuth points out that the conflict and the form of implementation must not be confused. No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, what matters is how the people involved behave. Hans could also have used his physical superiority to bring the apple back by force. Instead, he turns to his mother as a mediator. The way to a non-violent solution without losers remains open.

The conflict researcher Johan Galtung once had an exercise carried out with an orange and two children. Many creative solutions were found: the orange was peeled and its pieces divided, it was squeezed, an orange cake was baked, a lottery was held and the proceeds were shared, another orange was bought or, as the most far-reaching solution, the kernels of the orange were planted and an orange plantation was created.

Galtung's basic thesis is: the more proposed solutions, the less likely the violence. The most important thing is always the desire of everyone involved to find a solution that goes beyond the satisfaction of their own needs.

The escalation: he or me

Unfortunately, conflicts are often seen as a threat and we react with defense, fight or flight. Your own advantage is instinctively secured, your ears become deaf to the wishes of the other, your eyes close to your own mistakes. Fear prevails and the feeling that only defeat of the opponent can save your own situation. Compassion and understanding have disappeared and the other person is no longer perceived as an equal person.

If the conflict has come to a head and there are no occasions to save reconciliation, such as regular conferences, the escalation is almost inevitable. Escalation can lead to the destruction of the enemy. Sometimes, however, it is only through such an explosion that a conflict becomes apparent that has long been suppressed.