On Conflict

 

Dear Dylan,

You were born as this country began to wind down over a decade of war.  Almost eleven years before you were born we suffered a terrible attack on our country that took us all quite by surprise , and made us all very angry and hungry for vengeance. We spun up our military and unleashed a maelstrom of punishment. thrusting deep into the ancient heart of civilization. I think, from this vantage point, we were right to be angry, and right to seek vengeance. But we also learned a lot about the nature of conflict and how to resolve it. I would like to share some of this with you.

You will encounter conflict in your life. Personal conflict, organizational conflict, commercial conflict; and you may even find yourself in the midst of war. Conflict is a fact of life. There are those who blame government or the military for our larger conflicts. I am not among them. I do not think it is the nature of the military man that accounts for war, but the nature of man. As long as we have different origins, different points of view and different values and goals, we will always have conflict.  With seven billion people and growing, it is inevitable that we will have differing values and goals.

In this modern age we do, however, have more tools with which to address conflict. The main tools are violence, wealth and intelligence.

Violence is the least versatile because it is only used to punish.  And, if we have learned anything about the nature of mankind, we have learned that humans bear grudges, for a long, long time.  The Balkan wars erupt periodically over wounds suffered centuries ago.

Battle of Kosovo, 1389
Battle of Kosovo, 1389

The descendants of  the jews of Talavera, Spain, who were expelled in 1492,  still keep the ancient keys to their homes around their necks and vow to return. Violence begets violence, and sometimes long into the future.

Wealth is more versatile.  You will hear me often refer to wealth as “green energy” because of the capacity and flexibility it provides for actions of various kinds. With wealth you can resolve conflict through either reward or punishment.  This makes it a better choice than violence in my opinion.

But the best tool for resolving conflict is intelligence. You will hear me say that all suffering on earth, even war, is simply the result of bad ideas.  Warfare may actually be the worst idea conjured by man.  We have to learn that lesson again and again throughout history. With intelligence, we can avoid situations that require the expense of wealth or violence.  Intelligence is the most valuable resource in the universe. Cultivate it. Seek knowledge. And think well before acting with violence or wealth.

This concludes your lesson for the day.

Live long and prosper.

Love, Dad

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