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Series II - Chapter 8 - ‘Conflict--Freedom--Relationship’
“THE CONFLICT BETWEEN thesis and antithesis is inevitable and necessary; it brings about synthesis, from which again there is a thesis with its corresponding antithesis, and so on. There is no end to conflict, and it is only through conflict that there can ever be any growth, any advance.”
Does conflict bring about a comprehension of our problems? Does it lead to growth, advancement? It may bring about secondary improvements, but is not conflict in its very nature a factor of disintegration? Why do you insist that conflict is essential? “We all know there is conflict at every level of our existence, so why deny or be blind to it?”
One is not blind to the constant strife within and without; but if I may ask, why do you insist that it is essential? “Conflict cannot be denied, it is part of the human structure, and we use it as a means to an end, the end being the right environment for the individual. We work towards that goal and use every means to bring it about. Ambition, conflict, is the way of man, and it can be used either against him or for him. Through conflict we move to greater things.”
What do you mean by conflict? Conflict between what? “Between what has been and what will be.”
The ‘what will be’ is the further response of what has been and is. By conflict we mean the struggle between two opposing ideas. But is opposition in any form conducive to understanding? When is there understanding of any problem? “There is class conflict, national conflict, and ideological conflict. Conflict is opposition, resistance due to ignorance of certain fundamental historical facts. Through opposition there is growth, there is progress, and this whole process is life.”
We know there is conflict at all the different levels of life, and it would be foolish to deny it. But is this conflict essential? We have so far assumed that it is, or have justified it with cunning reason. In nature, the significance of conflict may be quite different; among the animals, conflict as we know it may not exist at all. But to us, conflict has become a factor of enormous importance. Why has it become so significant in our lives? Competition, ambition, the effort to be or not to be, the will to achieve, and soon – all this is part of conflict. Why do we accept conflict as being essential to existence? This does not imply, on the other hand, that we should accept indolence. But why do we tolerate conflict within and without? Is conflict essential to understanding, to there solution of a problem? Should we not investigate rather than assert or deny? Should we not attempt to find the truth of the matter rather than hold to our conclusions and opinions?
“How can there be progress from one form of society to another without conflict? The ‘haves’ will never voluntarily give up their wealth, they must be forced, and this conflict will bring about a new social order, a new way of life. This cannot be done pacifically. We may not want to be violent, but we have to face facts.”
You assume that you know what the new society should be, and that the other fellow does not; you alone have this extraordinary knowledge, and you are willing to liquidate those who stand in your way. By this method, which you think is essential, you only bring about opposition and hate. What you know is merely an- other form of prejudice, a different kind of conditioning. Your historical studies, or those of your leaders, are interpreted according to a particular background which determines your response; and this response you call the new approach, the new ideology. All response of thought is conditioned, and to bring about a revolution based on thought or idea is to perpetuate a modified form of what was. You are essentially reformers, and not real revolutionaries. Reformation and revolution based on idea are retrogressive factors in society.
You said, did you not, that the contact between thesis and antithesis is essential, and that this conflict of opposites produces a synthesis? “Conflict between the present society and its opposite, through the pressure of historical events and so on, will eventually bring about a new social order.”
Is the opposite different or dissimilar from what is? How does the opposite come into being? Is it not a modified projection of what is? Has not the antithesis the elements of its own thesis? The one is not wholly different or dissimilar from the other, and the synthesis is still a modified thesis. Though periodically coated a different colour, though modified, reformed, reshaped according to circumstances and pressures, the thesis is always the thesis. The conflict between the opposites is utterly wasteful and stupid. Intellectually or verbally you can prove or disprove anything, but that cannot alter certain obvious facts. The present society is based on individual acquisitiveness; and its opposite, with the resulting synthesis, is what you call the new society. In your new society, individual acquisitiveness is opposed by State acquisitiveness, the State being the rulers; the State is now all-important, and not the individual. From this antithesis you say there will eventually be a synthesis in which all individuals are important. This future is imaginary, an ideal; it is the projection of thought, and thought is always the response of memory, of conditioning. It is really a vicious circle with no way out. This conflict, this struggling within the cage of thought, is what you call progress.
“Do you say, then, that we must stay as we are, with all the exploitation and corruption of the present society?”
Not at all. But your revolution is no revolution, it is only a change of power from one group to another, the substitution of one class for another. Your revolution is merely a different structure built of the same material and within the same underlying pattern. There is a radical revolution which is not a conflict, which is not based on thought with its ego-made projections, ideals, dogmas, Utopias; but as long as we think in terms of changing this into that, of becoming more or becoming less, of achieving an end, there cannot be this fundamental revolution.
“Such a revolution is an impossibility. Are you seriously proposing it?”
It is the only revolution, the only fundamental transformation. “How do you propose to bring it about?”
By seeing the false as the false; by seeing the truth in the false. Obviously, there must be a fundamental revolution in man’s relationship to man; we all know that things cannot go on as they are without increasing sorrow and disaster. But all reformers, like the so-called revolutionaries, have an end in view, a goal to be achieved, and both use man as a means to their own ends. The use of man for a purpose is the real issue, and not the attainment of a particular end. You cannot separate the end from the means, for they are a single, inseparable process. The means is the end; there can be no classless society through the means of class conflict. The results of using wrong means for a so-called right end are fairly obvious. There can be no peace through war, or through being prepared for war. All opposites are self-projected; the ideal is a reaction from what is, and the conflict to achieve the ideal is a vain and illusory struggle within the cage of thought. Through this conflict there is no release, no freedom for man. Without freedom, there can be no happiness; and freedom is not an ideal. Freedom is the only means to freedom.
As long as man is psychologically or physically used, whether in the name of God or of the State, there will be a society based on violence. Using man for a purpose is a trick employed by the politician and the priest, and it denies relationship. “What do you mean by that?”
When we use each other for our mutual gratification, can there be any relationship between us? When you use another for your comfort, as you use a piece of furniture, are you related to that person? Are you related to the furniture? You may call it yours, and that is all; but you have no relationship with it. Similarly, when you use another for your psychological or physical advantage, you generally call that person yours, you possess him or her; and is possession relationship? The State uses the individual and calls him its citizen; but it has no relationship with the individual, it merely uses him as a tool. A tool is a dead thing, and there can be no relationship with that which is dead. When we use man for a purpose, however noble, we want him as an instrument, a dead thing. We cannot use a living thing, so our demand is for dead things; our society is based on the use of dead things. The use of another makes that person the dead instrument of our gratification. Relationship can exist only between the living, and usage is a process of isolation. It is this isolating process that breeds conflict, antagonism between man and man.
“Why do you lay so much emphasis on relationship?”
Existence is relationship; to be is to be related. Relationship is society. The structure of our present society, being based on mutual use, bring about violence, destruction and misery; and if the so-called revolutionary State does not fundamentally alter this usage, it can only produce, perhaps at a different level, still further conflict, confusion and antagonism. As long as we psychologically need and use each other, there can be no relationship. Relationship is communion; and how can there be communion if there is exploitation? Exploitation implies fear, and fear inevitably leads to all kinds of illusions and misery. Conflict exists only in exploitation and not in relationship. Conflict, opposition, enmity exists between us when there is the use of another as a means of pleasure, of achievement. This conflict obviously cannot be resolved by using it as a means to a self-projected goal; and all ideals, all Utopias are self-projected. To see this is essential, for then we shall experience the truth that conflict in any form destroys relationship, understanding. There is understanding only when the mind is quiet; and the mind is not quiet when it is held in any ideology, dogma or belief, or when it is bound to the pattern of its own experience, memories. The mind is not quiet when it is acquiring or becoming. All acquisition is conflict; all becoming is a process of isolation.
The mind is not quiet when it is disciplined, controlled and checked; such a mind is a dead mind, it is isolating itself through various forms of resistance, and so it inevitably creates misery for itself and for others. The mind is quiet only when it is not caught in thought, which is the net of its own activity. When the mind is still, not made still, a true factor, love, comes into being.