What should we learn
from a reconciliation conference?

The Stanford ethics program and groups in Palo Alto hosted a reconciliation conference Nov. 02. The topic was how do we bring an end to hostilities among groups.

As you read this 35 million people are fleeing hostility and will need reconciliation with their antagonists. (Elbert and Schauer (nature/Vol. 419/Oct. 31,02 pp. 883). So any reconciliation project sounds laudable. We should create ways to make people, who have done terrible things to each other, stop, forgive, and get on with life.

However, this conference might serve another purpose. If getting into conflict with one's neighbors is the natural destination of human behavior, we might spend less time upgrading reconciliation,and more time identifying alternative behaviors (and ways to make people take them) that would take opposing groups continuously toward peace instead of continuously toward conflict.

For some reason these activities have been placed on the back burner, or been relegated to the insolvable. This conference might be a place to discuss why reconciliation is such a common part of the human condition? What behaviors make groups come into conflict. And what behaviors would keep new groups from going there.

Maybe we reconciliation buffs should rededicate ourselves to finding behaviors that if taken by six billion individuals, would not create the scarcity and conflict that requires reconciliation. I can hear the skeptics."Get real! No one is going to change the human behaviors that make scarcity. And as long as there is scarcity we are going to have conflict."

And they are correct... If we don't find the behaviors to change and if we don't find a way to have the global constituency take them, then we better have more of these conferences ... our need for reconciliation will continue to grow. ----


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to: Alpert@skil.org      (homepage) www.skil.org      Other position papers

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