Friday, January 6, 2017

Guest Post: Conflict Resolution, or Post-Apocalypse Politics for Survival

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

As a prepper, you have the stuff needed to survive. But however romantic the idea of “doing it yourself”, at some point someone has to crawl out of the fallout shelter and begin the long and tedious task of rebuilding civilization. Part of that unpleasant task of surviving is dealing with other people.

Dirty, nasty, selfish, arrogant, lazy, horrible people. People who can’t even contribute to the survival needs of their group. But no matter how tempting it is, you're not going to cast your kids out every time the going gets rough.

That joke aside, the conflict resolution strategies you have in a Parent/Child relationship are fundamentally the same as when you have an Adult/Adult relationship: one party has power (usually the power to withhold something) and the other has a grievance (the most common grievance, even among adults, is “it’s not fair!”).

Rational People Can Behave Rationally
When the conflict is relatively benign, two people can usually resolve the issue between themselves, generally through a negotiation strategy where the negotiating skill of the participants dictates what they will give up to get what they want out of an outcome. Ideally this is the best way to resolve conflict.

But when one party holds a disproportionate amount of power in the equation, one-on-one negotiating may not be a desired outcome: the powerful party would gain little to nothing, and/or the weak party wouldn’t gain enough. In this situation, the conflict is either going to go unresolved or more people are going to get involved.

When society is operating normally. this resolution can take the form of mediation, arbitration, or even a lawsuit. There are functioning systems in a society that focus almost solely on conflict resolution. After “the big one” (or whatever your end of the world scenario of choice), these sorts of services will be less than robust.

As a prepper, in a survival situation you will have plenty of “power” in the form of skills and resources. Other people will want your resources and services and have very little to offer you in return.

So What Do You Do? 
There are several options, from social to anti-social, passive to active, violent to pacifist. Each has it's place, but it is important not to limit yourself only to the ones that make you feel good about yourself.

Remove One Party From the Equation
This is called “murder” if done by force (this could possibly be called  “Cain and Abel Conflict Resolution Method“), but quite often in a functioning society the corollary is “Charge him with something and get him convicted so that we can confiscate X.” Removing one party to a conflict essentially removes the conflict.

I know, I know: your parents likely told you “Violence doesn’t solve anything”, but killing someone who wants your stuff is a viable conflict resolution strategy for survival.

Become Professional Mediators
Another method is to build a group or tribe that will provide the conflict resolution services that a world without law would otherwise lack. Every group has some sort of leadership and some sort of followership. As many “rugged individualists” may balk at this, the group will need to provide services to members in order to maintain members. The strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack; sometimes having the strength of a group on your side is enough to deter conflict before it starts.

Avoidance is a great strategy because it saves on the cost of valuable bullets, time, and energy that could have been spent doing something more constructive than dealing with dirty, nasty, lying, backstabbing people. Avoidance is a great strategy when you have enough power and resources to do it. But if you don’t, you had best hope that you’ve surrounded yourself with a good group.

What should your group look like? Ideally your group shares your values, your ethics, and your goals. People don’t have to line up 100% on everything to form highly effective and resilient groups, but the more culturally aligned you are in terms of group norms, the easier conflict resolution as part of group membership will be. However, sometimes we just have to accept that our party needs a healer, and that a medic, nurse, or doc will get a pass on behavior because of the skills they bring. Your value to the group is a source of conflict resolution power; if you don’t have anything but unskilled labor to offer, odds are you’ll have less in group influence.

I don’t want to get carried away down the rabbit hole of organizational behavior. I just want to get people thinking about how to negotiate their way into better survival outcomes, because after the balloon goes up, we won’t be the only survivors. I guarantee that not only are some of them going to be unpleasant, but that you will also find it necessary to interact with them at some point.

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