I hate conflict, so much so that I would do almost anything to avoid it, a strategy which has the downside of potentially making things worse in the long run. But conflict, when it flares up, makes me feel ill. I churn around it, stewing in my own sense of hurt and injustice. It is sour and toxic, turning me inwards. It also tends to leave me incoherent, so that holding my own in a high octane discussion is that much harder.
That is not to say that you CAN avoid conflict. It is easier if you are in a work role, which is one-step removed from where it really matters, but conflict will come, sooner or later, unless you cut yourself off from people entirely and that brings a different set of problems…
I wish I was better at it, because sometime confrontation seems the right thing to do. The next time I hear some smug middle class person look at news of other people’s poverty and tell me that ‘Charity begins at home’, I don’t want to simper and inwardly seethe. Rather I want to look them full in the face and say “NO. You are mistaking charity for bloody nepotism.” When I hear someone tell me that objecting to racism and sexism is ‘political correctness gone mad’ I want to ask them why they only hold that belief in relation to things that have affect others…
Or perhaps I am getting a bit Falling Down in my old age? Certainly conflict matters less these days, but it still matters, probably too much.
A neighbour has stopped talking to us. I am not sure why- some perceived slight on our part. Smoke from a fire. A hedge cut too severely, or not enough. Attempts to reach out, to speak in the street, have been rebuffed. Perhaps the knowledge of a different place on the political spectrum. It bothers me, more than it should.
Michaela told me something recently though which seems relevant. She has completed a business mentoring course for creative businesses, and one of the things she was told that it is necessary for as many people to NOT like what you make as those who love it.
Think about that.
The logic is this- in order for your art to be distinctive and connect with people in ways that matter, it needs to repel. It needs to give offence. Even if the offence is as simple as ‘Ugh. I would never allow that in MY house.” Obviously at the same time, it needs to be an inspiration to others. Blandness and middle-of-the-road marketability does not make for a good artistic strategy it seems.
Perhaps it is not a good personality strategy for those trying to live a life that means something either.
I am reminded of an old poem inspired by that story of Jesus smashing up a temple. Because anger is not the opposite of love.
And conflict is not the opposite of compassion.
He stood in the door of the temple
And saw red
The beautiful ones
Stressed up like sharks
Creases sharp enough to cut
Hunkered down over their spreadsheet scriptures
Their holy bottom line
These beautiful creatures
Who can never have enough
Who are blind, but for the glint of golden things
Their altars slickened with the substitutionary sacrifice
Of the poor
Tear a rib from me Father
Make them anew
Turn over their chemical tables
Snap the twisted strings of their DNA
My blood boils