Everyone fights. Disagrees. Argues. Feuds. It is the way of things. It’s natural. We aren’t all the same and we have conflicts because of it. In many ways it is a good thing.
But, in many other ways, it is not. It is particularly bad in a small community. In small communities there is just enough separatness to keep the disagreement strong and yet enough closeness to re-encounter the problem person all too often. In effect it is like a family dispute – an extended family to be sure and several of them should be at least twice removed – but it is all very family.
In the city surrounded by strangers all day long you can have a tiff or a spat with someone and never see them again. In our small community, you’ll see them on Wednesday.
Aside from the right or wrongedness of any given issue, the matters in dispute are usually petty in the larger context. Often ego-based and/or destructive to everyone involved including innocent bystanders, they are barely tempests in which to brew tea. But they can be bitter. And enduring. Think Hatfields. Think McCoys.
Resolution mechanisms are minimal. In fact, there are none. Even though disagreement is part of the dynamic tension of life that produces answers and creative solutions, it is also just as often destructive and unpleasant when carried on for any length of time. Small communities have plenty of time. Disputes out here fester. They linger. They carry baggage. And there are precious few ways in which to address the problems. We don’t have magistrates, respected elders or counselors out here. But we have plenty of different points of view.
People generally rely on time to heal the wounds that come from that.
But fussing and feuding, I think, is even more destructive than just fighting it out to the end. Fussing and feuding is a constant state of negative energy that has no end in sight. It is like death by a thousand cuts. In time everything may heal but most of us are over 60! Time is becoming less of an option.
Anyway, I mention all this because dispute resolution was (and, I suppose, still is) my job. I still think about it. I have an interest in the concepts, the psychology, the mystery of it all. But I have little time or patience for the practice anymore.
And yes, dear reader, we have a current dispute flaring up out here. It is why the topic came up. But I won’t bore you. It’s a NIMBY issue and, fortunately my backyard is not involved. So, I am out of it. And I will stay out of it. But it is going the way of petty-ugly, that is for sure.
Dispute resolution seemed like a good thing to do when I was younger. I was helping people. I was a good guy. ‘Blessed be the peacemakers‘, ya know?’ Even better, there was a rewarding result when two disputants made amends. They felt better. And I felt great! Getting paid was just a bonus.
Now, I am not so sure.
Now I think that many disputes hide a larger, deeper problem. The resolution of one small manifestation of that larger problem – the immediate and current dispute – does not make the real problem go away. Those people who live out of harmony with others will likely always live out of harmony with others and no jury, no judge, no amount of mediation will ever keep their demons at bay. For some, being out of synch is a way of life.
I should know. I think I am one.
Well, maybe not so much a destructive, ego-driven maniac who wants to be king of the world but, well……………… Is there a crown and a pension that goes with that job? And where do I send my resumé?
You see, I dispute. I disagree. I even live off-the-grid, out-of-the-rat-race and sans the cul-de-sac because I don’t agree with most of it. I am not comfortable there. And I even think I am right a lot of the time about a lot of things. Doesn’t really matter what the question is, I usually have an answer. (Yes, moving to a remote island is an answer but to what question, I am not so sure. Doesn’t matter. I just really like the answer.)
I used to like to debate. I liked the give and take. Well, I used to. Now? Not so much. Such parrying and thrusting requires some basic mutual understanding of the rules beforehand and more than a reasonable level of civility training. There is not a lot of that these days, it seems.
Now that I am older and more mature (read: frail, impatient and not-so-hip) I am less likely to fight over anything but I can still raise my voice with the best of them if I have to. Or, I suppose, the worst of them.
But this is not the place for it. The ring is too small, the memories too long, the positions taken too personal. Lots of ego rides on small issues in families and we are a family. Facts, figures, objectivity, reasonableness? Not so much.
The point: I have had to come to terms with my basically contrarian nature out here by learning to shut the hell up. The tinder is too dry, the houses made of cards. So, I’ll let even the current topic lie for a bit. Sleeping dogs are also part of the family and I will be snoozing through this one.