Can we do the same with conflict? Can we transform that sour human problem into a creative, constructive activity?
Yes, of course. Indeed, say some, transformed conflict is often the best way to positively evolve in our individual lives, in our relationships with others, in our communities and workplaces, and in our political lives from local to global. Fighting bitter wars at the family, neighborhood, job site, or transnational levels are always done in the name of positive change and always have nonviolent, transformative, helpful, creative alternatives.
The conflict is transformed because we have modified and twisted the goals a little bit.
Johan Galtung (2004, p. 17)
And so, we are horrified by the slaughter in Aurora, Colorado, and we hate guns and their owners, all of whom are bloodthirsty murderers or potential murderers. The goal is to outlaw and confiscate and melt down and refashion all guns into plowshares. Where is this conflict going? Straight south, to destructive. How can we transform it?
The goals need to be modified. We can consider a range of alternative goals and see if any might be doable and might satisfy us. If we find one, that is the new goal, twisted from the old one, and we stand a chance of progress toward a nonviolent world. What are some of the many many possible permutations on The Goal? The short and very incomplete list:
- Outlaw the worst assault weapons and monitor the results.
- Devote more resources to assessing troubled young males (the majority of the perpetrators)
- Outlaw online ammunition purchases.
- Educate parents on the harmful psychological effects of depictions of violence on TV and in movies.
- Educate teachers on educating children about alternatives to violence.
- Create media that demonstrate practical alternatives to violence.
- Create media that show overwhelming disgust for violence.
- Make background checks for those who would purchase weapons far more restrictive and rigorous.
- Teach about the stupid side of guns as opposed to the smart side of dialog and negotiation.
Of course there are many more facets to this problem and the idea is to find a new goal that won't prompt a destructive response. Yes, there are those who may cling, obdurately, to the irrational libertarian or anarchistic notion that government should never tell anyone what to do in any event, but those extremists are not numerous enough to create any political wind unless our goals are perceived as so extreme that many align themselves with extremists (like the NRA) on the gun lobby side.
Research can help us find goals that the majority can support and thus are winnable. This research should be designed, supported, done and used, perhaps using surveys or focus groups, and we can move toward a less and less violent society instead of staying stuck in our destructive frustrations at the ongoing violence. Each small victory is another glass of lemonade in our parched trek across the Valley of Death and each step brings us closer to the end of that valley and toward a more bountiful garden of humankindness.
Galtung, J. (2004). Transcend and transform: An introduction to conflict work. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.