A way with worlds: 30 - Cycles of Conflict
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 2
When writing of conflicts,
it's too easy to break things into good guys and bad guys. I can
point to any number of historical events - or, sadly, as of this
writing, current events, where it's very difficult to do so.
What is odd in writing
conflicts is that, when we stand back, the good guys and bad guys
may not be obvious, yet it seems rather obvious to those in a
conflict who the good guys and bad guys are. As authors, however,
we fall into the good guys/bad guys dichotomy too easily.
Back in college (years ago),
I read a book called Maps of the Mind by Charles Hampden-Turner,
an attempt to examine various theories of psychology and
philosophy and how they may back each other up. Part of it dealt
with conflicts, and influenced both my views of writing and of
life. I'm going to attempt to summarize the basic idea here.
THE BALANCED MIND:
The human mind is a self-balancing, self-correcting
system; we learn, adapt, grow, and change. We learn not to stick
our hands in the fire, we learn that a person is not as we
thought they were and remember it.
Our value system, our way of
interpreting information and determining reactions, is also part
of this self-correction. We may encounter an ethically
questionable situation, but we can usually interpret, adapt, and
learn. The system survives as no one part of it unbalances the
others, and so all parts of our value system exist harmoniously,
more or less. Think of it almost like a wheel, turning smoothly.
Now, what happens if part of
that wheel becomes unbalanced . . .
Sometimes (all too often) our self-correcting value
system gets disrupted, and some part of it, some idea becomes
dominant in the value system. Suddenly, the smoothly-functioning
self-balancing system becomes co-opted to support that one idea.
It could be a racial
stereotype. It could be greed. It could be fear or ego. It could
be a benevolent idea. But, suddenly, one idea dominates the
others and becomes obsession. The rest of the value system starts
supporting it, and suddenly the balance is lost.
Then, the system spins out
of control. It is no longer balanced. Love becomes obsession,
fear becomes utter paranoia, minor differences become exacerbated
into genocidal rage.
One idea has become
prominent over the entire system of thought.
OUT OF CONTROL:
The system is slowly falling apart, like an
unbalanced wheel fluctuating on its axle. It may correct itself.
Or, it may get worse.
Other values get co-opted to
support the obsession, and soon there are more gaps in the
ethics. So more values are co-opted. The entire system of thought
is vainly trying to fix itself, not by balancing ideas and
thoughts and ethics, but running around trying to explain
everything, each explanation requiring more grandiose
An enemy becomes a threat of
epic proportions. A great war is launched. Innocent people are
slaughtered. Slautghter is justified by superiority (or God, or
Darwin, or history, or genetic superiority). Accusations are
made. Accusers are made enemies. One's own people become targets
of slaughter. Slaughter is justified by security . . .
You get the idea.
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.