I think that the 2,710,000,000 posts on Google indicating ‘we are what we think’ suggests to me that conflict may well be about how and what we perceive it to be. Yet, if we decided not to think about conflict, would this not thinking about it result in the conflict being nonexistent. I doubt it, which further suggests to me that if socio-cultural conflict exists, it doesn’t matter what you think, it will probably impact on you anyway, no matter how happily or unhappily you may think about it.
Gretchen Rubin, author of the The Happiness Project believes that there is a conflict between what people do, what they feel and what they say, and I tend to agree. The master servant contract of the employment relationship has the power, to obligate an employee to perform best practice duties, even if employment policies and practices go against the religious or moral standards of the employee. In accordance to Karl Marx, the remedy for any employee is conflict and moral inequities would just serve to impound it.
Today, positive psychologists suggest, that no matter what the employment relationship, the optimistic and pessimistic explanatory styles of employees significantly factor in how happy or unhappy people are about social inequities. The latest United Nations Happiness Index results, for example, support this factor in its rating of Denmark as the happiest nation in the world; despite growing socio-economic inequities that has witnessed a massive increase in workplace union memberships to date.
Professor Seligman also tells us, in his book Learned Optimism, that explanatory style can be learned behaviour. Does this mean that happy children can be taught to be unhappier, just as equally as unhappy children can be taught to be happier? My concern is who ultimately determines who teaches and who learns from the one who teaches? Google You Tube is fast becoming the number one learning resource of high school students. What is the explanatory style of this internet service and how is it influencing the thinking of young people today? I think, while the internet does offer educational resources, it also offers many cultural and sub-cultural video’s about conflict and how conflict is disputed as win/lose or resolved as win/win e.g: win/lose species abuse, win/win meditative healing music. In my mind the internet promotes behaviours where the intention within the drama, e.g: comedy, current affairs, is one of stimulating emotional interest through provocations of conflict. The question I raise is whether or not internet conflict teaches the impressionable about how to express themselves by default, and I’m not aware of any studies to date that confirm or disclaim this. However, what I am aware of is what Professor Frieder R. Lang, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg was quoted as saying in the nationalpost.com. He said
“optimists are those who basically close their eyes, shut their eyes and don’t really want to know about the truth”
and I think this more relates to optimistic pessimists than pure optimists because the optimistic pessimists truth is pessimism and their show of optimism is the denial of an inner sense of truth. Professor Lang’s reference to optimists related to his research into the lives of ageing German people and how they understood their biological changes. What Professor Lang discovered was that explanatory optimists appeared to have a lessor handle on their illnesses compared to explanatory pessimists whose behaviour seemed
“ to have a positive effect on lower disability risks and lower mortality risks “.
Professor Lang’s research outcomes demonstrates that the lessor risk approach of pessimists fostered better personal health prospects than the denial behaviours of his surveyed optimists. Oh! I say, there’s a good conflict in the making, because you try telling an optimist that his/her explanatory style might be the reason why they are not living healthier lives and see how many of them will believe you, never mind follow your recommendation that they should behave more like a pessimist in order to live longer.
Optimistic U.S. Stock Broker, Chris Gardner, who refers to himself a genetic spiritualist, had this to say about change and happiness:-
“ you can’t change something until you own it, and it is you and your responsibility for your happiness”.
Am I solely responsible for my happiness despite social conflicts, which implies that I may be living outside of the cultural group or society in which conflict exists? Or am I responsible, not only for my happiness, but how it impacts upon the lives of others. If I am persuading others to live beyond their means, is it my responsibility that they do not know better? My guess is, it depends on the depth of an individuals social conscience. Also, if pessimism supports a healthier biological life, do you think that pessimism could also support a fundamental optimists dream of what constitutes a stable life? If it is true that ‘you can’t change something until you own it’, can an optimist change a pessimist if they don’t own or understand the pessimism of the other? I think if we can’t change other people, who can we change? Gardner changed himself and he did this by learning how to be a capitalist Stockbroker then turning what he had learned into a capitalist business. Marx would probably re-assure us that Gardner was a perpetrator of social conflict and that his model of conflict was the Pursuit of Happiness.
Self confessed pessimist, Professor Martin Seligman’s model of happiness is PERMA, which stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. Yet, as Professor Lang eloquently points out, pessimistic thinking is the reason why people are living longer and healthier lives, not optimistic thinking. Does this mean that to free one’s self from conflict, an optimist must engage in a little pessimism?
I think Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya interprets society as a dynamic entity constantly undergoing change as a result of growing economic competition over scarce resources and I see his interpretation as an extension of conflict theory.
Conflict theory views social life as a competitive distribution of resources, power and inequality. It helps to explain social change and derives most of its ideas from Karl Marx who believed society was a dynamic entity constantly undergoing changes driven by class conflicts. Class conflict suggests that class structures based on monetary power is dysfunctional and harmful in society, especially when it benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.
Conflict theory views social life as competition where individuals compete for limited resources. It promotes competing for scarce resources as characteristic of all human relationships and points to inequalities as evidence of how some people and organizations use their influence over resources to maintain their positions of power in society.
Society is constantly in a state of flux over resources, and that conflict is what drives social change. By studying how activists like Nelson Mandela challenged the racially unequal distribution of political power and economic resources, conflict theorists may record social change as abrupt, even revolutionary, rather than incremental. In the conflict perspective, change comes about through conflict between competing interests, not through consensus or adaptation, which may be the case if you’re a fundamentalist.
© Chris Tyne, 2014.