The "Overlap Trend" Controls the "Conflict Trend"

Most of us want peace. We believe we act to promote peace. However, history reveals that, without exception, every social system evolves toward war. One of two scenarios explains why we keep reaping the conflict no one wants.

1) "Individual’s impotence"– common people do not have control of their social system. No matter what actions they take, other more powerful actions, possibly those of leadership, determine the path toward conflict.

2) "Individual’s potency"– common people do have control of their social system. Their actions move their community toward conflict.

We want to believe we are impotent to control our movement toward violence. It relieves us of responsibility for the injustice in the world. However, what follows is a proof that we are potent: "decisions distributed among common individuals, collectively do control the direction of a society toward or away from peace."

Begin the proof by assuming
           (a) most individuals want peace and believe that their acts
                  (if mimicked by others) would lead to a peaceful world,
           (b) there are no deranged leaders who take these peaceful
                 people to war,
Then: for the actions of these benevolent people to create conflict,
                 there would have to be a hidden linkage, which converts
                 their good acts to conditions of confrontation.

Thus, to complete the proof I must show that such a mechanism exists.

To search for this mechanism, consider two individuals who need the same resource. To the extent that the resource can not service both, they have overlapping needs.

Between these two individuals increasing overlap increases social stress; decreasing overlap decreases stress. The contracting or expanding of the overlap determines whether the social stress contracts to peace or expands to war.

The "change in overlap equals change in conflict" mechanism also suggests that any system, which already contains too much stress (manifested as violence) can reach peace only by decreasing overlap.

It follows that for benevolent actors to inadvertently maintain conflict all they have to do is not decrease overlap. If our world contains scarcity, social conflict or environmental destruction, our objective, at least predicted by this mechanism, should be to reduce overlap.

The mechanism can also help us identify alternative behaviors that can create different future conditions.

For example, to use the mechanism to identify which actions reduce overlap, consider a sunbather who has a need for sunlight (a resource.) In filling his need, he casts a shadow. When that shadow falls on a second bather the two bathers have overlapping needs.

If the beach contains only two people of equal size, the amount of shadow and possible overlap depends on the alignment of the sun and the two bathers. Assume the beach is so narrow that the second sunbather must stand exactly behind and thus in complete shadow of the first. In this case the overlap is one. For the resource consumed there is only one unhappy person.

Next consider the case where 100 people are aligned with each other and the sun. While the resource consumed by the first person is the same, the number of shadowed individuals increases to 99. The overlap, or unmet need, is 99 times bigger. There are 99 unhappy people. The potential for creating conflict is 99 times higher.

On our earth, the consumer of any resource is like the first sunbather. He creates a resource shadow. The magnitude of the overlap associated with this shadow, sums anyone who perceives himself with an "unmet need" for the consumed resource.

If the needy are millions or billions, the original consumer plays only an insignificant roll in the size of the overlap. Should he discontinue his consumption, it would change the remaining overlap almost insignificantly. In the sun bathing example, if the first sunbather left the beach, there would still be 98 people in conflict with the new person in front of the line.

Next consider the behavior of redistribution as a means of reducing conflict. Redistribution of the sunlight among the 99 remaining individuals does not decrease overlap. If the remaining 99 individuals redistributed the sun light so that each got 1/99 of the light, the shadowed area would still sum to 98 people's worth of shadow.

From these two cases we can see that overlap is largely determined not by the consumption of a few resource consumers, but by the number of people with unmet needs for that resource. Changes in overlap and thus changes in conflict relate most directly to changes in population size.

If the determinant of population size is the choice of children per family, we can assemble the hidden mechanism connecting the creation of peace and procreative behavior. The mechanism’s links are:
==>> increasing peace results from decreasing confrontation
==>> decreasing confrontation results from decreasing overlap
==>> decreasing overlap results from decreasing population
==>> decreasing population results from billions of decisions to
             forgo a second child.

If this mechanism correctly reflects the physical world, universal one-child-per-family decisions may produce global peace. Any greater number makes parent's warmongers.


From Time Blind Book 1 Global problems in terms of human thought processes Chapter 4 Section 2


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