Second Opinion: Can’t we all just get along?

Photo by Seth Casteel

Conflict is inherent in human affairs.

Or is it?

We human beings do seem to butt heads a lot over things, generally speaking, and the notion of conflict is one common and convenient way we use to explain ourselves to ourselves, to give reasons for what we do.

That is, when we come to put matters into the form of a story, whether it’s the story of our own lives or the story of the goings on around us, we often rely on the idea of conflict, of forces in opposition, of striving antagonists.

In this sense, conflict is a trope, the storyteller’s equivalent of a figure of speech, an easy way to give shape to a story. And conflict shapes almost all our stories. I bet the plotline of every Academy Award-winning movie from last weekend would be found to pivot on some basic form or other of conflict.

It is pretty well unavoidable. That’s how used to conflict we are and how much we expect it to shape our stories–the chances taken, the risks averted, the challenges faced and hurdles overcome, the tension, the struggle–the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, as the old sports show put it.

Pro and con, yea and nay–this kind of dualism is old and deep. The ancient Persian fire-worshipping followers of Zoroaster believed the universe was joined in an eternal struggle of light and darkness. The early Ionian Greek physicists and students of Heracleitus similarly thought the contrary powers of love and hate, attraction and repulsion, ruled the cosmos.

The Essenes with their Dead Sea scrolls wrote about the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness, and the Manichees believed the whole creation was a field for good and evil to contend eternally.

Returning to earth and to the more ordinary, everyday things most of us contend with, we can see how this sort of easy dualism shapes a lot of our ideas about issues and events. Opposite poles seem to dominate our politics today, for instance. We are polarized in our opinions and tend toward the polar extremes where flamers rule, with little interest in the moderate zones and the middle latitudes.

Binarism is even the basis of the digital technology rapidly changing our lives. Zeroes and ones are our new light and darkness, our love and hate, spirit and flesh, good and evil, body and soul, male and female.

We plainly love halves and wholes.

So maybe it should come as no surprise that many stories in ThePerryNews also seem to divide themselves in this basic way. On this side are the builders of industrial-scale wind turbines, for instance, and over there are the opponents of turbines, arguing the enormous things should be farther from town.

Here are the builders of hog confinements, eager to feed the world with Iowa bacon, and there are the confinement foes, pointing to Iowa’s impaired waterways and spoiled property values.

These folks here want to build countryside wedding chapels and party barns, and those folks there grow row crops on four sides of the chapels and think them better off built in town.

This developer wants to build another low-income apartment house in Perry, and these citizens prefer more single-family housing for an upwardly mobile population.

None are heroes, and none are villains. Those characters only crop up in comic-book versions.

In the real world, good-willed people often have different ideas about what makes for a good life for human beings. In a free country, in a self-governing liberal democracy such as ours, we come together and compare our notions of a good life, letting them compete in an open marketplace of ideas, confident that truth and a consensus will emerge from this free and open discussion.

And I guess most often it does. That’s the theory, at least.

It is the modest ambition of ThePerryNews to foster just this kind of public discussion and from time to time to participate in it ourselves with information and opinions. So let’s compare our ideas of a good life and our visions of the direction our common, communal, community lives should take.

We might differ now and then on ways and means. At bottom, though, I think we are all pulling in the same direction. Please let us know what you think.


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