The battle for dominion has been a major theme of Western civilization for at least the last five thousand years. Men have fought against nature, against animals, against women, against each other, against the other. Race, gender, religion, and heritage, may be our rationalization, but it really doesn’t matter so long as we denote an enemy and embroider their silhouettes with effective fear mongering.
Just as the King’s Legions enforced dominance, so does most modern hierarchies. Add a darker? personal touch and we have a High School bully, or a gang, and in a capitalist world where wealth can mean massive power, (which can even be passed on like the Royals their Lord-hood), it is not uncommon for the few to insist on building their power and their. . . piggy banks on a national and international scale. I demand the respect of the other by commanding him to value my wishes over his own. I do so by giving him one alternative, to battle me — for property or voting rights in “law” courts or maybe to the death.
Despite some advances, we continue to go to extremes. We seem prepared to destroy the world we live in to keep making money — by oil extraction, by playing with devastating weapons, by selling products we know to be poisonous, by ignoring ecological malfeasance. We have extended the idea of raiding and looting, destroying various parts of the world to acquire the spoils with which to dominate, while placing native populations at serious and ongoing risk for generations. And some do it self-righteously.
Not surprisingly, children’s games incorporate this opposition. We learn to play against friends as well as with them. We compete in sports, in who gets the girl, for grades, for recognition, and to try to shield ourselves from weakness, embarrassment, accusation, guilt and ridicule.
In our classroom discussions we must find ways to support a discourse that listens as well as asserts. It is not always easy to do. Each person’s own certain views can get in the way. Parents too often think they are right. But the opening of a dialogue is more vital than the closing of one. I think of it as a dinner table conversation. Dangerous weapons need to be left at the door.