Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The ABCs of conflict


Source: Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, & Miall, Hugh (2011). Contemporary conflict resolution (3rd ed.). Malden, MA: Polity Press (p. 10).

Johan Galtung (1969) asserts that a conflict is an interaction between the attitudes--e.g., the way a conflict party talks about another party--the behavior--e.g. acts of coercion or cooperation, statements of threat or conciliation--and the contradictions in goals and power. It is instructive to those who hope to transform a destructive conflict into a constructive conflict because it calls upon us to consider all the elements, not just the more mechanical (behavior) or the more expressive (attitude). Each affects the other.

So, for example, if we want to end corporate personhood, how are our behaviors going to affect the attitudes, and thus the behaviors, of those who benefit from corporate personhood? Will our hatred or dehumanizing language cause the corporate officials to stop their fight to keep their special rights and the riches and power they derive from those rights? Or will our invitations to them to negotiate, even as we build coalitional power toward ending corporate personhood, help them to see the advantage of good faith discussion?

In the end, the contradictions also alter, don't they? By constructive attitudes and constructive behaviors--which can occur even as nonviolent coercion is applied to the recalcitrant representatives of the defenders of corporate personhood--we hasten the day of good faith negotiation and a mitigation or elimination of the contradictions that define the conflict. This creative process is nonviolent and yet may include serious force in order to induce the parties to negotiate honestly. Ignoring any piece of this triangle, including the multidirectional force vectors, will prolong the conflict and all its destructive outcomes.

In the struggle to end corporate personhood, what are some potential constructive coercive components? They might include (but are certainly not limited to):
  • seeking individual corporate official endorsement 
  • seeking individual corporate organizational support
  • seeking organizational support from ethical bodies (religious sects) and individuals
  • boycott or buycott or corporations that defend or wish to end corporate personhood
  • seeking endorsement or replacement of politicians
  • publicity campaign via social, advocacy, alternative and mainstream media
  • public hearings to take testimony from all parties 
  • dialog groups that discuss how best to create a more fair political and economic society
  • mass protest and possibly goodwill occupation of offices of defenders of corporate personhood (either corporate or politician)
All of these coercive actions and more will either push toward or away from reduction and an end to the contradictions and the conflict, depending on the attitudes and behaviors of those engaging in the actions. These are sensitive considerations involving thin but bright line differences. Folding this into a strategy enhances chances for victory. Simple as ABC.

Galtung, J. (1969). Conflict as a way of life. In H. Freeman (Ed.), Progress in mental health. London: Churchill.
Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, & Miall, Hugh (2011). Contemporary conflict resolution (3rd ed.). Malden, MA: Polity Press.

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