The purpose of the city: create conditions for conflict
This thought just struck me – what if the purpose of the cities/towns/villages is to bring people closer together? And the closer we get to each other, the more conflict there is. Is the purpose of the city then to generate conflict? What is the purpose of generating conflict?
Conflict generates dissonance, a distinct or subtle sense that things are not right. A city, just like a person, can sit quite a while with the feeling that things are not quite right before we decide to take action. Smoking in restaurants, idle-free parking, deciding to support active transportation are all collective decisions that have come about as a result of conflict in a community.
There is a pull in us to be closer together, but we also push each other away, to not live too close to each other. We resist being close, because we resist being in conflict. As a city planner and community volunteer I regularly hear people – on the public record and off – say they do not want people close to them, especially more people close to them. I wonder if we resist the pull to be closer to people because it brings conflict with it, and we tend to either avoid conflict wherever possible, or even stir it up, neither of which takes acknowledges of the wisdom within conflict. What are we missing as a result?
I am left with a series of questions:
What if I/we let conflict teach me/us?
What would happen to cities if I/we welcomed and invited conflict for the purposes of generating new understanding?
What if I/we viewed conflicts as opportunities?
What if I/we found ways to work through and beyond conflicts?
In the end, I notice that when I work through conflict, I arrive a new understanding. I change. Is that what I/we am/are afraid of when avoiding conflict?