Thursday, July 19, 2012


“Conflicts pursued constructively are creative and form a necessary means of bringing about change.” 
 --Oliver Ramsbotham, Tom Woodhouse and Hugh Miall (2011, p. 124)
Why do these authors make this claim, that constructive conflict management is creative? Of course it's because managing a conflict in a way that is constructive creates a solution that everyone can live with; managing a conflict with violence is not creating, it is destroying. 
Searching for what will give all parties to a conflict something so that they are better off in some way--even if they are also worse off in another way--is a very creative process. Gandhi pioneered this, MLK developed it further, and Happy 94th Birthday, Nelson Mandela! And it's a collaborative process, since the basis of all constructive conflict is a co-created agreement, which also means it's much more sustainable than an imposed solution that seems fair to an authority, or seems advantageous to the one with the guns or the money.

It is this basic fact that offers hope. Nonviolent solutions are the only ones that can do this. Nonviolence is creative and not destructive, tending to create more of the same. Violence creates nothing except increasingly grotesque ways to destroy and also tends to create more of the same.

Yesterday, in my capacity as editor for PeaceVoice, I sent out a piece by David Swanson on the struggles of a Minnesota woman to get her town, Little Falls, to stop harassing her about her lawn signs, which were about peace and justice. The editor of a small town paper in another state called such views 'naive and dangerous' in an email response to me. He cited "people in the Mideast" who didn't care about such views.

Actually, the naive ones are those who believe that our military is sustainable, that people in the Mideast will attack us if we leave them alone, that free speech should only be for those who support war, and that the ecology or economy can long sustain the general assault of the least creative method of managing conflict--war. Naive and dangerous indeed, as we have plainly seen. 

Our best hope is our creative and collaborative search for nonviolent solutions.

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

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