A complicated, difficult dynamic can be reduced to simple terms. This process is sometimes referred to as reductionism, which has come far from its original scientific/philosophical meaning of breaking a complex issue into its simplest component parts to understand its workings.
In our modern political version of reductionism a long, complex history can be summarized in an easily understandable, if simplistic, concept: liberty, or betrayal, or treason. Traitors have long been executed in front of cheering crowds, their heads set on pikes as a warning to anyone who might be thinking of challenging power. The individual guilt or innocence of the decapitated party is far less important than the effect on the rest when a traitor meets a grisly end.
For most purposes in the larger world, the party with the loudest megaphone will define what is going on. For example, Americans angry about a recent national disgrace involving a controversial Supreme Court appointment can be called an angry mob. An angry mob can be dismissed, they are clearly irrational assholes. The underlying events that made millions so angry? Wah, wah, wah.
My old friend who felt disrespected by my late arrival has his story about the end of our long friendship, confirmed in its harshest detail. Widaen told me he disrespects me!
Widaen, for his part, had another story, my old friend simply doesn’t seem able to stop provoking me. He seems intent on making me angry. He surely sees that he’s aggravating me, or placing me in a brutally unfair position, and when I protest, he doubles down. Gives a meaningless apology, to end the conflict, and then continues on the same way as if we’ve never discussed things.
There are facts, actual events, underlying this dispute, but those facts are in dispute. If they are in dispute, they’re not really facts, are they?
This is the self-justifying idiocy of the world. If you find any mental construct to support your position (if there is a dispute, can there actually be “facts”?), you’re golden, just keep doubling your bet. In the case of my once good friend, he was able to justify his own actions, become the victim of my brutality and get the sympathy of those who know us both.
I think a lot of conflict between people who are close (and tribes and nations, for that matter) can be traced to lack of insight, a lack of actually listening to what the other party needs.
My friend’s refusal to empathize with the feelings I expressed became impossible for me to tolerate. Ultimately it’s impossible to respect someone who lives in denial about how his actions affect others. His years of constant fights with his wife? Nothing to do with my disrespect for him!
The good news, as far as I can make it out, is that insight can be developed. There are things baked into us that are hard to change, but change is the nature of the universe, us included. If you develop just a bit of insight, we can continue to talk. You need to have just a little insight, to have a good friend like me.
“You arrogant, pretentious fuck,” I can hear the words foaming on my once good friend’s lips. My point is no less true.