Conflict and Desperation: The Fire That Brings New Life

By Magdalena Castillo

“You need to be committed to values, not money.”

CASP is an incredible organization that has somehow encouraged programs to work together instead of promising money as an incentive to do so. Throughout the conversation, I continued to hear the speakers emphasize that in order to have a project be successful, values need to be kept at the center of the conversation. When money is at the center, things only last as much as the money does–it’s bound to be short-term. 

A beautiful sentiment, but I was skeptical nevertheless. I mean, in what world could you possibly get people already so divided to care about core values? It sure wasn’t my world. I thought back to the 2016 general elections when our country seemed so focused on party over values (an old pattern) and even though we all want the same thing (in the grand scheme of things), we refuse to work together to reach a common goal, and money does have a lot to do with that. 

So, I asked this question to the mayor. He said everything has to get worse before it gets better. I interpreted that as “change is a result of desperation.” This was not the only time I heard this. 

In the presentation with Jeff Langholz, a brilliant way to distribute and save water was introduced to us, and the question of how we would get the general population to move towards this instead of the traditional processes came up. His answer was that once the water issue gets really bad, people will start to care, because they have to care. I once again simplified this as “change is a result of desperation.”

We can even apply this to the Holocaust. Things got so bad to the point that one of the most well-known mass genocides in history occurred, but eventually Germany turned itself around and is currently one of the world’s strongest economic powers and is extremely influential in international relations. But it had to get really, really bad, before it got to this point. 

Through all the chaos, tragedy, and failures, there seems to be a pattern of hope in all these circumstances. Even though it can seem impossible to put values at the face of problems so large and interconnected in today’s world, it’s not. And although it can be scary and hopeless to think that we are in crisis mode right now, especially in terms of the environment (as Dr. Richard Mathew said), I choose to look at it as an opportunity for us to work together and unite as a global community to make the world a better place for all of us–which is all everyone really wants. 

This week I learned that conflict, although having underlying negative connotations to it, can be a positive thing and can mean opportunity. Desperation, although having similar negative connotations linked to it, can also mean opportunity. When I stop for just a second to look at these not as the fire that destroys and kills, but as the fire that helps grow new life, I feel more optimistic about peacebuilding. We are closer than we think to solving the world’s problems, and I’m left hungry to know what I can do to be part of this. 

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