When Two Tribes Go To War

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I follow several blogs and reckon you could put most of them into one of two categories – those that want to celebrate the world and those that want to reform it. My parents died before the internet really took off, but my father would have been a celebrator and my mother a reformer. I find myself torn between those positions, as I did when they were alive, piggy-in-the-middle trying in vain to mediate between them.

Their big disagreement was about human nature. Dad reckoned it was fixed and you couldn’t change it. Mum thought there was no such thing, that we were all just products of conditioning by society. He thought she was an impractical idealist. She thought he was a blinkered cynic. They would argue long into the night, carrying on a war of attrition and driving one another into more and more entrenched positions. Dawn often broke before they would agree to an exhausted truce and rally their spent forces for another battle the following night.

As you might imagine, I don’t enjoy conflict. I prefer to sit on the fence in most arguments, acutely aware of the merits on both sides. This can infuriate those who seek yes-no answers to black-and-white questions, but I have come to see my indecision as a positive quality. I don’t occupy fixed positions and I don’t just go along with majority viewpoints. Listening to your parents argue night after night is a royal pain in the neck but it can help you develop a truly independent state of mind.

In a way, of course, they were both right. Only by stepping out of the ‘mind-forged manacles’, to use William Blake’s phrase, can we discover who we really are and what we might become. And what I am – at least, what I hope and believe I am – is someone who loves the world so much, he wants to make it better.

So is my blog a celebration or a call to arms? The answer, of course, is both. It is only through appreciating the best in life that you can begin to identify the worst. The difficult bit is finding a language that can encompass both good and evil. You can make a start by admitting that you couldn’t recognise the one without the other …

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7 thoughts on “When Two Tribes Go To War

  1. I read this and think of my own parents, stubborn behind their own side of the fence. I think that type of thinking really sums up their generation. Science and progress was obsessed with finding that one answer, that one miracle cure, to every problem.

    To us, having seen valid arguments from both sides of every coin, we naturally grew up seeing the closed-mindedness of the single solutions/causes/blames mentality.

    I think to act as a bridge between calling to arms and celebration is how we’ll truly change the world.
    Great read my friend,
    be good to yourself.

    ~ MG

    1. Cheers, Mike, for your empathetic response to my post. I remember seeing a televised discussion between Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and someone else which was a glorious example of rational thinking in action and right at the end they all rather wistfully agreed that what we needed were creative artists to discover a new voice, a new language to celebrate living on earth – a sacred vision that embraces contraries. William Blake, among others, ploughed that furrow. That would be my dream, to find a new way of thinking that marries a love of life with a way of defeating the death cults – not well expressed, I’m afraid, but worth trying to articulate nonetheless. Will be following your posts from now on. Keep searching, my friend. – DK

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