It isn’t necessary to put words in bold or neon to make someone understand that conflict is perhaps one of the defining features of the human condition. The fact that we, as human beings can enter into conflict with other people, resolve them and move on without biting each other proves that we are as capable of aggression as we are of compassion. I know that this idea of tolerance as in the acceptance of difference or diversity is being challenged by the day. Events around the world make us rethink if we qualify to be seen as people after all? How can the same person, who claims to be sane be the source of such vitriolic hatred in times of conflict? It is in these junctures, that in my personal life, I try to be as self-reflective as possible. Not all conflicts can be resolved over a cup of coffee. Conflicts in real life tend to be fatal, literally. Therefore, whenever I see people at arms or trying to one-up each other, I try to reason by appealing to both their intelligence and their sense of empathy. I make sincere attempts to reason with myself to see both the sides of a dispute. Though this does not work out mostly, I strongly believe that in the end honesty is appreciated by both the dissenting individuals and groups. In a patriarchal society like ours, most of the conflicts stem from the ever fragile male ego. The inherent toxicity leads certain men to prove that they are no less, which leads to all sorts of mishaps. It has its roots in the upbringing where boys are told not to cry or asked to play with guns and not dolls. It is this inherent relation of identity with power from such an early age that makes them blind to the feelings of the ‘other’. That is why when they come into conflict with others they cannot let go of what they want which gives birth to violence. Be it acid attacks or petty gang wars, they stem from an attitude of not tolerating conflict or difference. I feel that this is the most important lesson that I have ever learnt, which is to respect opposing beliefs (to a certain arbitrary degree). Outside institutionalised education, it is Life which teaches us the most via interactions.
During the later part of my school life, I joined the classes of a rather popular teacher whom I expected to be no less than the usual run of the mill. To my great interest, my teacher did not fit that model. As I started opening up, we would often end up talking about anything and everything other than the venerable ‘subject’. We have had fiery debates and one such long-standing debate or a conflict of interest has had a long-standing impact on my life. He pointed out that our ‘English Medium’ generation is losing out on the immense beauty that regional literature has to offer. The problem lies in our orientation to our mother tongue. Since forever, we have been subtly taught to treat something ironically named as the ‘mother-tongue’ as something secondary. This treatment can only be justified if the other language was called ‘father-tongue’. The syllabus also, it seemed was very politically designed, as it contained mostly obscure texts whereas the English counterpart was much easier. The generation growing up with the illusory blanket of ‘Globalization’ must be encouraged to love their roots. This was my argument in response to my teacher that the syllabi were very politically designed to veer the students away from their mother tongue. He did agree to my proposition, but also replied that if we, do not take responsibility to start a culture which would lead to the re-popularization of the regional culture, then, who will? These words rang deep inside the chambers of my heart and made me re-think on whether I been too complacent! I saw a new window of perspectives open in front of me. Then I understood, all we needed was a little push. We did not have that. The fact that I have to resort to English as a medium of communication for this subject is very apt and deliciously ironical drives the point home even further.
As I said earlier, not all conflicts can be resolved with such ease. Certain conflicts are manufactured and installed in the social psyche to keep the hate factory alive. Such a conflict is that of India and Pakistan that has to some extent shaped our identities. With the wave of nationalism currently prevalent, some people would go so far as to say they are Indians just because they are not Pakistanis. Same was the case with me who started with ‘demonising the other’. I remembered distinctly that it started with cricket. It always starts with cricket. Any random Indian mobile cricket game would instantly pit India against Pakistan. This is how violence and conflict are kept alive through the micro spaces of culture. Whenever there is any national issue or religious tension, people indulge in the common rhetoric of hate. The idea of conflict is built into the human condition but that cannot be a basis to say that humans do not lean towards resolution. Resolution is also a part of human nature. The need for normalcy in a liberal democracy, no matter how much of a free fall it is in, is as important as the existence conflict. Unfortunately, more often than not, the hunger for the violence of conflict supersedes the need for resolution. Let’s try our best to douse the fires of hatred in whatever small way we can while weeping and bleeding somewhere inside for the sake of humanity.