What Causes Conflict?

December 19th, 2016, Ankara, Turkey: Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov is speaking at an art gallery at the opening of the Russian photo exhibit. Suddenly, 22-year-old off-duty Turkish police officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, pulls out a gun, shoots Karlov dead, and wounds several bystanders. Soon after, Altintas is gunned down by the police.

Before he was killed, gun in hand, Altintas was heard shouting in Arabic, the words, “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”


What is the cause of conflict?

Looking on both the international level and the interpersonal, there are numerous conflicts that strain relationships and form major social divisions amongst society, whether it’s introverts versus extroverts, or Republicans versus Democrats.

Pinpointing the origin of conflict, especially when going from an international level to a personal level, can be difficult; people are the judges of what classifies as conflict, and opinions vary.

This variation is something that as a nation, we encourage and cherish. We prize diversity in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation, personal beliefs, and personalities.

Inside this diversity however, lie conflicts that strain interpersonal relationships. Over time, social divisions become clearly defined, mutual understanding for different views begins to fade, and communication takes on a muddy, messy composure.

Mixed Signals

“There’s a communication breakdown,” says Heather Williams, the current 11th Grade Counselor at Big Sky High School. “There’ll be a conflict, and then the rumor-mill will start to take over and so the story starts to morph and change and move and then everybody starts reacting to their version of what they think the facts are.”

One student’s interpretation of an event will differ from another student’s. There’s no right or wrong interpretation as they’re based on student opinion, but sometimes the facts are blurred or misunderstood, and that’s when conflicts are introduced.

We see these conflicts every day. In social settings, on the TV, the internet.

We see people duke out political issues all the time. We see immigrants denied access into our country. We see black citizens clashing heads with the justice system as they attempt to win the battle of racial controversy and inequality. We see members of the LGBTQ community struggling to find the acceptance they desire from the whole of the public.

We see the tension. We see the division, and we know the pecking order of society.

We recognize the difference between social groups and we think we can tell who belongs where because of the old saying, “birds of a feather flock together.”

Often times, people with similar backgrounds and/or cohesive beliefs and views find each other and form clique-like social relations.

“We have a lot of the different classes. We have more of the ‘preppy kids’, and then we have the ‘dirts’, and the ‘drama kids’,” says junior Kailyn Quinn, in reference to Big Sky High School.

Opposing Views

Beyond just the social aspect though, there are large divisions amidst the Big Sky community that are more politically based.

“Political views are so hard to understand the other side of, and I think that’s where some of our problems originate from,” says Quinn.

This ties back to the lack of clear communication Williams speaks about.

If we can’t communicate effectively, how are we to resolve the issues between opposing views?

“Everybody has beef,” says junior Dave Mattson, reflecting on the current conflicts surrounding the presidential election. “The whole election made the environment toxic.”

On November 8th, 2016, after a long, ugly campaign, it was determined that Donald Trump would be the 45th President of the United States of America; winning 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232.

However, Clinton did end with higher popular support, garnering 48.1% of voters while Trump ended with 46.2%.

The election results were met with the outrage of many citizens; not just in the U.S, but globally as well.

Protests persisted around the world. The most infamous event perhaps, was the collection of women’s marches, which occurred on January 21st, the day After Trump’s inauguration, in locations all across the globe including Munich, Germany, Washington D.C, in Helena, our state capital, and even in places such as Antarctica.

Many people find it impossible that Trump will be an adequate president. They may also not understand people’s support for him.

Conversely, some people view Trump as the best candidate to take control of the presidency, not understanding how others don’t see what they do.

Quinn adds that it’s challenging if not nearly impossible to find a resolution or an understanding for others if we can’t see around political views following the election.

“People who are Trump fans or people who were Hillary or Bernie fans — they don’t really see what the other sides see in their preferred candidate. And so I think that once you can’t get past that, we get to the point where we can’t see a middle ground anymore,” states Quinn.

These differentiating political opinions mixed with a lack of understanding for opposing views, cause a disturbance and a divide of the country’s political organization.

In fact, 86% of U.S. citizens believe that as a nation, we are more politically divided than we have been in the past, according to the Pew Research Center

Deep Roots

These divisions are rooted in conflict.

Nationally, besides the conflict of the election, multiple issues have developed recently; such as the immigration and refugee conflict, or the controversy surrounding the feminist movement (See “Feminism”, Page 2). But these aren’t completely new; they are based on cultural circumstances that have circled the society since its beginnings.

Mattson believes there are many conflicts that have been brought to light, and some could be handled better; on both the side of the party addressing the issue, and the side of the ones blamed for its cause.

For example, Mattson speaks about the “Black Lives Matter” campaign issue.

“It started with good intentions. It started from a good place, but now, where is it at?”  He says, voicing his opinion on the topic.

According to Mattson, the campaign, which comes from good-natured intentions, is beginning to take more radical approaches in addressing their cause; a tendency that doesn’t always bode well for the group’s image.

“The vocal minority are kind of preaching these big, bloated ideals that are giving the cause a bad name, which is not good,” says Mattson.

The “Black Lives Matter” or “BLM” movement campaigns against violence and systemic racism toward black people, and it has been a topic of controversy for some time.

Many people feel very strongly about it, including professional athlete Colin Kaepernick.

This past football season, the 49ers’ quarterback revealed where he stood in the matter when he refused to rise for the national anthem before a game, emphasizing his belief that there is racial injustice inflicted upon the black community.

This caused an uproar in the nation.

Many people believe that what Kaepernick did was an inappropriate or disrespectful course of action. Meanwhile, others think that it was an effective way to get people to address the issue, praising Kaepernick and joining him in boycotting the salute.

“I think no matter what, no one is necessarily in the right because he exercised his right to peaceful protest, and although there was probably another way he could have done it that might have been more respectable, in the end, he used his peaceful protest appropriately,” Mattson elaborates. “And people could argue back and forth about that forever because there is no right answer to the situation.”

Natural Instinct

Mattson says that this arguing will just continue. But why do people feel the need to argue?

Arguing can be used as defense mechanism in response to a threat of some kind. Meaning that people will argue when they feel the need to defend something.

For example; in the workplace, if someone were to come to us and tell us that they believed we lied about why we were late that day, naturally, most of us would disagree and defend ourselves. An argument would then ensue, creating conflict; a conflict caused by our defense.

What is the cause of this defensive nature?

Why do people become defensive and create conflict?

“These conflicts — it stems from this fear,” Williams says. “Whether you’re fearful of people who are different or fearful of your rights being taken away, or whether you’re fearful that your representatives haven’t been listening to you.”

According to Williams, people have these fears and they have to deal with them or defend themselves in fierce ways.

“When that plays out, we close ourselves off from each other. Then you get this division that we have right now,” she explains. “I see that play out in a lot of the issues that are affecting our politics: LGBTQ issues, immigration issues, environmental issues, economic issues, medical/insurance issues, women’s rights issues,” she continues. “Each one of those can stem back to what side you’re on. Are you on a side that’s fearful of your rights being taken away, or are you on a side that fears that you haven’t been listened to?”

Fear is causing these initial conflicts, and these conflicts create social division, which puts an enormous strain on interpersonal relationships.

“It comes back to interpersonal issues and even back to my role as counselor,” Williams reflects. “It’s really hard to give out love and accept love when you’re scared.”

All over the country, there is fear residing in people and fear enticing conflict. And these fears can’t be subsided by leaving them be or by remaining quiet.

These conflicts are no secrets. People hear about them, read about them, see them, and talk about them. And that is all thanks to the media.

Selective Media

Social media, the internet, the press, newspapers, news broadcasting networks and stations; they draw the attention of viewers to these issues.

The media is how people get informed of the latest information, which makes the task of spreading conflict effortless.

“These aren’t new conflicts that are occurring but we’re drawing more attention to them,” Says Quinn. “The more we draw attention to them, the bigger the conflicts become and the bigger our social divisions become.”

Not only does the media bring attention to these conflicts, but it can tend to do so in a biased way.

Reader culture is important to much of the media. Whatever the viewer wants, the viewer gets.

“The media is almost a game or a competition, and some news sources specifically aim at certain groups of people,” says Quinn. “It’s a huge part of social division.”

Staying neutral and removing all bias from their reporting is a common suggestion given to the media in hopes that it might dissipate conflict.

“It would be naive to think that the media could be unbiased,” says Quinn. “And there will always be biased readers, so it wouldn’t matter.”

Biased or unbiased, the media will always report news, which spreads conflict.

Conflict is present at all levels; internally, interpersonally, intercommunity, nationally, and globally.

The conflicts that are being faced today are created from fear caused defensiveness and are propelled by social division and strained interpersonal relationships.

Is there a resolve to these issues?

Giving his opinion on the matter, Dave Mattson just thinks that everyone should believe in the importance of life.

“I’m a firm believer in compromise,” he adds, keeping his answer open ended.

Kailyn Quinn on the other hand, delivers a more concrete response.

“I don’t think there’s any way to resolve these issues,” she says. “No matter how hard we try, there’s always going to be something next.”

Heather Williams wraps up her thoughts by asking if it would be possible to rebuild healthy relations by gaining control over our fears and opinions.

“If we enter into a dynamic with our fear in check and an open mind and heart in order to understand the other, can we build from there?” Williams simply shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Source: https://bigskysunjournal.com/773/features/what-causes-conflict/