Rampantly playing across television and computer screens all over the world are virtual representations of concrete things. In our day and age, people have even attempted to digitize intangible experiences and bring them to our finger tips so we can experience real life without having to leave our beds. Facebook, LinkedIn and other forms of social media have attempted to bottle acquaintanceship and friendship. These things have become so prevalent in our lives, the distinguishing line between actual reality and virtual reality have faded and dissolved.
Social media attempts to solve problems of inconvenience, loneliness and difficult professional networking. Reality television tries to bring the “interesting” lifestyles closer to us, so we can experience them and understand what it’s like to live as these people do. Though it seems that the innovations of modernity are evidence that we are closer and more open to other humans than ever before, the truth of the matter could not be more dissimilar.
Throughout history there has been conflict. Early humans most likely experienced just as much violence as we do today, except in much closer proximity. As Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it, “Hostility / is second nature to us. Having promised / one another distance, hunting, and home, / don’t lovers always cross each other’s boundaries?” Conflict was necessary for survival.
The old movie cliché, used to comfort (however ineffectively) the soon-to-be victim of violence, goes, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” While this is intended to absolve the victim from any problem with his or her character, it highlights the precise problem with unrest in today’s world: nothing is personal, it’s always business.
Discord quite often begins when a person or group of people perform an action or actions with their best interest in mind. The scenarios are infinite, however, the consistent failure to account for the impact of a decision or action on other beings or consider the situation from another’s perspective is responsible for nearly every conflict, large and small, to date.
Many enormous decisions are made everyday. There are millions of examples of a few corporate executives getting together for a round of golf and ending the outing by devising a plan that will bring revenue to a business. Sounds great, right? That decision could be to relocate manufacturing to somewhere that costs less to produce goods. The company will make money, but at what cost? Perhaps at the cost of quality; customers will be less satisfied. Or, maybe, jobs will be lost, financially debilitating a community.
A decision could be to mine an irreplaceable natural area. Not only will there be irreparable environmental consequences, but the community which lives in the area surrounding the potential mine will most likely receive none of the financial benefits from the resources mined. All the while, their cultural and spiritual heritage is being destroyed.
There are activists who shake their fists at corporations, saying their greed is responsible for evil, the unequal distribution of wealth in the world, environmental destruction, a failing economy, etc. Much of this is true. The thing is, corporations are made of people, too. There are many who rely on that company for an income or perhaps goods and services. It then becomes very difficult to choose which is the greater good or greater evil and act to increase the former and eliminate the latter.
So, what are we to do when striking a balance between promoting one’s personal well being and the well being of other beings is so difficult? A solution is not impossible. There is a reason The Golden Rule is golden: it is through empathy and consciousness of the impacts of our decisions on the world and its inhabitants that appalling struggles can be eliminated. Mostly, conflict arises from an unintentional ignorance of the residual effects of our decisions and the proximity of that domino effect to all other denizens of this planet.
A massive paradigm shift in human consciousness is required starting early in life. In the words of Wade Davis, “A child raised to believe that a mountain is the abode of a protective spirit will be a profoundly different human being from a youth that is brought up to believe that a mountain is an inert mass of rock ready to be mined.” We need to overhaul our idea of progress. It needs to be realized that it is through symbiotic relationships with all beings that humans progress. This reformation of consciousness is perhaps the nonpareil thing for which conflict or fighting is warranted.