Deep roots

I dug a maple stump out of my front lawn. Not a particularly huge stump. We had planted the tree when we moved to this house in 1993, so it was only 18 years old. But it acquired an incurable fungus infection. This spring, no leaves came out. The tree had to come down.

I dug a maple stump out of my front lawn. Not a particularly huge stump. We had planted the tree when we moved to this house in 1993, so it was only 18 years old. But it acquired an incurable fungus infection. This spring, no leaves came out. The tree had to come down.

I started work with naive enthusiasm. I’ll cut through the surface layer of roots, I thought. Then the stump will come out easily.

Not likely! By the time I got down to the bottom-most roots, I stood in a pit as deep as my hip joints.

So I have added a new maxim to my collection of wisdom sayings – “Underneath every large root lies a bigger root.”

I offer that insight to anyone dealing with conflict resolution.

Because it seems to me, from my experience, that one can spend months analyzing factors that contribute to conflict, negotiating agreements, working towards reconciliation… Only to find that the problem hasn’t been resolved at all.

It has merely shifted to a deeper root.

The people involved seem to share the same values. They can talk rationally. They understand the principles of conflict resolution.

Yet it’s almost as if they’re talking past each other.

Perhaps they are.

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt (of the University of Virginia) has studied the moral values by which we make decisions. He claims that there are five dominant values, found in all societies and civilizations:

1. Care for others, avoiding harm.

2. Fairness, justice, treating others equally.

3. Loyalty to one’s group, family, nation.

4. Respect for tradition and legitimate authority.

5. Purity, avoiding disgusting things, foods, and actions.

But we each rank those values differently in importance. According to Haidt, people who identify themselves as liberals tend to give priority to the first two values; people who consider themselves conservatives are more likely to lean on the last three.

More specifically, conservatives ranked fairness lowest; liberals ranked purity lowest.

As a result, wrote professors Jane Dryden of Mount Allison University and Mark White of the College of Staten Island, “The two sides have difficulty understanding each other. It’s not just that they disagree on issues, they have significantly different ways of conceiving morality itself.”

Both sides assume that their ranking of values makes the only possible common sense. In fact, state Dryden and White, “They are deeply at odds with each other.”

They offer three potential scenarios. Some will argue that practical decisions should promote the greatest good of the greatest number. For others, more focused on duty and universal principles, it will seem self-evident that respect for individual rights must take priority. A third group, whom Dryden and White call “care ethicists,” will see social contexts and relationships as paramount.

For this third group, the “impersonal calculations” of the other two “can seem excessively cold and unfeeling.”

“While our own moral principles are obvious to us,” Dryden and White conclude, “they’re not obvious to everyone.”

The deeper the root, the harder it is to dig down to.

 

Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author of 17 books and several thousand magazine and newspaper articles. He welcomes comments; rewrite@shaw.ca.

Just Posted

West Kelowna to hire eight more firefighters

The city looks to solve what they are calling a critical shortage of firefighters

Kelowna RCMP look to reunite stamp collection with owner

The stamp collection was handed to RCMP in Oct.

Kelowna RCMP search for speed-slowing cut out

The cut out of Const. Warren Ning has been allegedly taken from A.S. Matheson Elementary School

Battling winter blues, depression and SAD after the holidays

Kick the blues on ‘Blue Monday’ that is supposedly the most depressing day of the year

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Man charged in 7-Eleven fire in Shuswap granted bail

Accused facing arson charges released with 23 conditions including a 7 p.m. curfew

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Most Read