Last week was remarkably unproductive. I did not plan for it to be so, but there it is. It is not as though I didn’t do anything, but considering I had the entire week off, what I completed doesn’t look like much compared to what is left. I should have accepted what I already know to be true and just enjoyed my time off. Self-imposed deadlines work to an extent, but by definition, self-imposed can also be self-modified and self-removed, all of which occurred last week.
But this week is different. This week there are real deadlines with real consequences and with all that comes the controversy and conflict that I believe has been the driving force in human evolution. Mine is in an academic setting, but individuals and groups of individuals in our species have been trying to be “right” ever since we could think. Regrettably, that need was often manifested in force – might equaled right for much of our history – but in more modern times words have proven to be far mightier than the sword.
But it is not due to some kind of grand utopian ideal that some believe is possible. Indeed, there are those who believe we are somehow “meant” to achieve world peace and harmony. Inasmuch as peace means an end to the sort of physical violence that is still represented in events as large as multinational wars to a simple bar-brawl, sure, that is a worthy goal and, though perhaps unattainable, it is certainly worth striving for. But other “conflicts” are not only not possible to eliminate, they are necessary to further our advancement as a species.
In most issues there are varying viewpoints… probably as many different views as there are viewers. Of course, these viewpoints can be culled into categories of similar views thereby creating groups with a commonly held conviction. This conviction is based upon a number of factors and those factors, too, will vary greatly. Some might feel as they do because a similar belief is held by someone who is greatly respected – a parent or hero perhaps. Others might want to be part of the same group his or her friends belong to. Still others are prone to look at the arguments on all sides and decide based upon the evidence presented who is right…
And who is wrong.
Yes, unfortunately and often these conflicts will produce a winner and a loser. It’s not always looked at in such stark terms, but it is what it is. That does not mean the winner is awarded some kind of prize or that the loser must accept his or her view is wrong, but it does mean that when taken in total over thousands of years of evolution, our species's collective victories have delivered us to the top of the food chain. What about when wrong beats right? It could be argued that we have learned from that as well, and it further raises the question that if wrong won, was it really wrong? Please, I know that the Holocaust was wrong; I know that genocide is wrong; I know that slavery is wrong; I know that many of the great human accomplishments were built upon “wrongness.”
And today, many of those conditions still exist – and many do not. The point is that history is contextual and to an extent, so is rightness and wrongness. Justice is another story and a philosophical question that has been debated for thousands of years. It will likely continue to be for thousands more – but not here. This essay is not about the avoidance of conflict but rather the embracing of it. We need it. Utopian harmony is a pipe dream and furthermore, it is not good for us. We need to disagree about whether the world is flat; about what the moon is made of; about quantum theory; about the nature of God; and about whether or not we should all just get along. If life becomes for us one big vacation, nothing will get done.