We Find Ourselves on Different Sides

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

Conflict – a recurring theme in this and other blogs.  How do we deal with it, how do we humanize the Other, the one we want to poke in the nose?   How do we get what we want without resorting to violence (violence? like I would know how).  Or by means other than cheating, stomping on the Other’s rights, being a bully (and creating more conflict)?

I haven’t been able to empty my mind to let this week’s Blog take shape. Usually strands of thought coalesce around a particular stimulus and there it is – the topic I’m going to try to write fewer than 500 words about (haven’t yet succeeded).  But this week, my head has been buried in a real-life situation echoing a fixture from the late-night detective and law and order shows I still watch avidly – a court case, of sorts.

In this case, my task is to get into the head space of the person bringing charges, to anticipate what the main arguments might be.  This has taken over whatever mental processes are available to me now I’m no longer receiving pay cheques.  (I do think that retirement nurtures a more creative and free, but not particularly efficient, Mind).

So because I want to stay in touch with you, dear reader, I’m going to try to let you in on what I’m working on.  It’s helping prepare a ‘case’ defending an organization from which a former client wants a small pile of money for grievances.  The litigant is someone who has a gift for creating conflict around himself.

The Lover of Conflict

I know such people – lovers of conflict – who function among us, but I think as we get older, we choose to avoid spending a lot of time with them.  And are startled when we run into them again.  And have to give lots of mental energy to understanding how they are thinking.  And what they really want.

Individuals of this temperament draw others to themselves through their energy, presence, intelligence, verbal ability.  Strong personalities, I’ve noticed.  They are potentially contributors to a better world – they have the goods to make positive things happen.  But until they get the quirks out – which may be never – they cause lots of trouble for other people

I am allowing myself a couple of paragraphs of negative description.  Must need the outlet because trying to negotiate with a Conflict Lover requires repression of feeling.  So you’re getting it instead.

They stir up dissension all around.  It seems a matter of pushing a little hard to get more out of a situation than the situation has to give. Or of complaining that someone else is getting more than they are.  Simply put, if the rules say “No more than three of these free loaves of bread per household”, they’ll argue that they should have five because they have more at home to feed than does the neighbour.

Escalating the Stakes

With greater success at being winners, they go for bigger game. “Let’s try law suits”.  There’s an arena for conflict, writ large, where they can maybe come away with some money.

“If the place that gave me shelter and support raised my rent when I got work even though I needed the money for new expenses – go after them!  And if they didn’t tell me enough abut the income rules when I moved in, maybe I can take them to that Small Claims Court I’ve heard about.  And isn’t there something called a Rental Tribunal?”

A little learning about the right terminology comes with the game of litigation and representing oneself as a victim can be done skillfully.

And once into the big game of suing and going for bigger money, I can get myself into the papers with my stories!!

Enough Negativity!

The temptation is to see the Lover of Conflict as an Other – someone far out of one’s own orbit.  Ah, but I know that’s not the truth.  It’s why I’m always imagining Continuums.  It’s a more true way of seeing.  It places the awful qualities that may indeed be out there onto the extreme end of fine qualities.  A ‘good’ taken to an extreme to become a ‘bad’.  And I’m capable of being positioned anywhere along the continuum, given the right circumstances.  That’s the reality.

So that guy who wants to sue to get his just deserts is an extreme of trying hard to always be fair.  Good, but it can go nuts taken to extremes.  He has to be controlled in his case – doesn’t deserve a pile of money for having been supported and cared for.  But he needn’t become a pariah either.

Ah, but he’s a pain in the whatnot!!!

Once again, Leonard nails it:

We find ourselves on different sides

Of a line that nobody drew

Though it all may be one in the higher eye

Down here where we live it is two.

I to my side call the meek and the mild

You to your side call the Word

By virtue of suffering I claim to have won

You clam to have never been heard.

Leonard Cohen, Different Sides



Filed under A Bigger Circle, Rosemary's entries, Uncategorized

7 responses to “We Find Ourselves on Different Sides

  1. Piki

    My quick reply, and one that hit me immediately, is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”

    I have long wondered why the recipients of others’ generosity so often destroy the very things which they are given, like trashing outreach centres. These meeting places seem inevitably to become hated in their districts. Years ago I worked on playgrounds, and the kids in the poorer districts were more likely to destroy the equipment.

  2. Juanita Rathbun

    Here in Florida I seem to be surrounded by negative, often hateful people. The local newspaper seems full of letters to the editor complaining about something or other. Those letters are often quite long , I have noticed. On the other hand, when a complimentary letter is published it is remarkabley short. Some people seem to thrive on confrontation which often makes matters much worse. Why can’t we all just get along

  3. Shen

    Hi Rosemary ! The last paragraph reminds me of how corporations/politicians have fanned the flames to make labour unions less accepted. If the seesaw that is being shared by the corporations ,and the workers is unbalanced , then many negative qualities of human nature will become obvious . Imagine the seesaw with a ball rolling back and forth in a groove. Its a powerful and magical ball, that brings with it the ancient negative qualities of ego, greed , waste , etc… That ball has easily rolled into both groups.

  4. Mike Gouthro

    Probably ill-advised but I’ll post a thought I offered on another discussion forum……

    “I’ll cop to being a 22nd century commie of sorts, although a piss poor one, since I don’t put my money where my mouth is. This is a view that has begun to form in the last three years of economic turmoil and increasingly irrational behaviour among the masses – after 67 years of my being a conventional middle class establishment type.

    Spare me references to Stalin and Mao please. To me, 22nd century communism is a convenient label to describe the aftermath of the industrial revolution, capitalism, consumerism, unrestrained consumption, the nation state, grow-or-die populations/economies and the venerable work ethic.”

    • Can you say a little more about what a 22nd century commie world will look like – micro (in your neighbourhood) and macro (what we’d see on news screens or transmitters)? Just a sketchy outline unless there’s detail you can imagine. I realize we’re talking aftermath of all the prevailing Big Ideas that govern our present world. Are there hints in the present of the future shape of things?

      If there’s a lot to say, like 500 words worth, it would make an interesting Bigger Circle blog…..Rosemary

  5. They do it because when they were young no one helped them. Now, they can’t forget the earlier time and must defend themselves even when the ‘enemy’ is often the very people that helped them.
    They do it because they are so used to strife that they don’t ‘see’ that what they are doing is hurtful. Their skins are too thick as it were.
    They do it because with a history of living on the street and jail has made them hyper defensive. Essentially the first two points put together.
    And they do it because they think that people who help without an agenda are weak. And they see open-handed giving and non-judgemental-ism (to them you not fighting back and telling them off as they are used to) as 1. agreeing with them and 2 as weakness.
    Last night I watched a program that is begun in the inner city of Chicago. It is about reconciliation. The men and women who go into the communities and talk to warring gang members have mostly ‘been there done that’ people. They are armed with nothing but experience and tough love compassion. They do not allow themselves to be abused but they take a certain amount because they know that they would have, and surely have done the same. They tell them that.
    The response of each gang member was always the same. They ( the others) will think that we are weak and they will dis us if we don’t beat-up and or kill the person they even think committed the act. Their hair trigger response, sometimes wrong is unsurprising. I have lost my cool over small things because the big things were keeping me defensive and afraid of others, even when there was no one after me, as it were. Have you not? Else what is road rage?
    I experienced it in a person who was a CEO of a company that taught you how to change your thinking patterns(OOPS).I was shocked and horrified that I was put in danger in their car because they had to get through the light cause it was “their turn’. I am the one who would have been hit and I am a senior with fragile bones. How much thought was put into that little exercise of a few seconds. At the meeting later this person was as sweet and supportive as you could wish. The dragon was gone.
    Consider then that this seemingly unwarranted attack on either you and or the agency for whom you work is seen as weak and easy pickings. Like a senior with their pension money, a child with a toy. They don’t know how to stop. Their history is against them.
    Lastly, they don’t have a ‘brake’ on their emotions and actions. That is why history repeats itself for them. They quite literally do unto others that which was done unto them.
    I wish you luck and though I am not religious I will pray for all of those involved. Awakening is a long and slow process, I should know, I am in process.
    Love Diana
    Hope I wasn’t too verbally redundant.

  6. Mike Gouthro

    It’s hard to imagine a future consisting of more of our same behaviours and attitudes without ultimately turning on each other and permanently fouling our nest. At best, a Blade Runner world might be in store. I do not see a positive future with us lurching along as we have been doing.

    But if we can hang on long enough, technology will slowly take over most of the work that billions of us are now required to do. A fully automated clean sustainable supply chain will provide “to each according to his need”. “From each according to his ability” will only apply to the very few human overseers of technology and governance.

    The rest of us will have to adapt to living without earning, using similar goods, facilities and services, raising families, seeking enjoyable activities and relationships and most of all, coming to terms with new reasons to feel needed and deserving of life’s bounty. Our wiring is not designed for this model. As a result there will likely be substantial social engineering dovetailing with the fully automated world – a world which needs no worker bees. Not really a commie model but certainly far closer than to a capitalist one.

    Beyond referencing science fiction descriptions of the future, I’m unable to suggest how any of this might play out at the micro or macro level. There are some interesting initiatives like the Zeitgeist Movement and the fanciful Venus Project which touch on these areas.

    I hope this does’t come off as pontificating because it’s really just idle imagination and wishful thinking on my part.

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