Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess
As the United States heads into one of the most perilous elections in its history, we would like to add our voices to those warning of the many dangers associated with our still rapidly escalating us-vs-them politics. We want to help people on all sides of the political divide understand the there are much more desirable alternatives to this destructive confrontation – alternatives that can build on the best of our democratic ideals while also taking the steps needed to address democracy's many inequities and shortcomings.
The Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base project has long sought to bring together the collective insights of the full range of conflict and peacebuilding-related fields. Our focus has been on illuminating the many dynamics that make large-scale societal conflicts so intractable as well as sharing steps that can be taken to limit this intractability.
In this regard, we continue to promote the Constructive Conflict Initiative as our contribution to what we think needs to be a much larger effort to address our growing polarization, conflict escalation, and diminished problem-solving ability. Right now these issues are profoundly diminishing our ability to address all our big challenges: COVID, the associated economic crisis, racial conflict and wider social and economic inequities, climate change, immigration, etc. We also need to respond to the deliberate exacerbation and exploitation of these conflicts for political advantage or risk large-scale civil unrest and a continuing slide toward authoritarianism and kleptocracy.
In an effort to support the Initiative, we are also expanding and trying to better organize Beyond Intractability's collection of free online learning materials and, especially, the Constructive Conflict Initiative Blog with a series of articles highlighting provocative new ideas and long-standing insights that can be profitably applied to our immediate predicament. These materials are being offered as part of what we hope will be an ever-larger exchange of views on a series of very difficult and critically important topics. We would greatly appreciate any thoughts you might want to publicly (or privately) add to this discussion.
More specifically, our goal with the Constructive Conflict Initiative is to help the larger society understand:
- The role that conflict problems are playing in undermining society's problem-solving capabilities,
- The ways in which more constructive approaches to conflict can be adapted to work at the full scale and complexity of modern society,
- How people of good-faith can more effectively work together to more wisely and equitably address our many problems, and
- How we can prevent bad-faith actors from inflaming and exploiting inevitable tensions conflict for selfish gain.
Hopefully, by early next year we will be looking back on the many failures revealed by this period in US history and we will have embarked on a collaborative effort to heal our society and make sure that this sort of thing never happens again. Before then, however, there is much that those with conflict expertise can do much to help us prevent widespread violence before and after the election, and protect and strengthen our democratic institutions.