So a few weeks ago, I admitted to ignorance. I had been going on a rant (mostly internally) about how could "conflict resolvers" study what they called "intractable conflicts." I thought the word intractable meant "unsolvable" so it was understandably odd to consider resolvers studying that which they already decided was unsolvable.
Before going public with this rant, I looked up the word only to find that "intractable" mean simply hard to manage. So there it was, I had misunderstood the meaning. The issue was settled. Until two things happend. One, I remember how dictionaries are made. Little elves, or their human equivalent, collect all the ways the word being defined has been used in books, articles, the web and from those uses create the definition. So a word's meaning is not static -- we have to look at how it's used not just what an older dictionary says.
Peter Coleman is one of the academics in the forefront of "intractability." His articles are a good start for students and scholars who want a peek into how tractable is being separated from intractable conflicts. While his articles are a real asset to practitioners and theorists alike, his definition of "tractable" puts me back where I started.
In "Intractable Conflict," Coleman writes "Tractable conflicts by definition involve resolvable problems that can be integrated, divided, or otherwise negotiated" (Handbook of Conflict Resolution)
He distinguishes these "tractable" conflicts from "intractable"-- so if we know tractable conflicts are resolvable are we not to assume again that even he sees intractable as most likely "unsolvable"?
Am I back where I started?
A nice little piece on language by Marcuse in "One Dimensional Man." (the photo to the left, is just a bit of language that caused me a bit of shock when entering Singapore)
The excerpt below considers how we are constructed by our language...He's no E.B. White in terms of writing style. Still worth a tiny slog through-- it's sometime he work freedom requires, n'est ce pas?
"The ritual-authoritarian language spreads over the contemporary world, through democratic and non-democratic, capitalist and non-capitalist countries. According to Roland Barthes, it is the language "propres à tous les régimes d'authorité" and is there today, in the orbit of advanced industrial civilization, a society which is not under an authoritarian regime? As the substance of various regimes no longer appears in alternative modes of life, it comes to rest in alternative techniques of manipulation and control. Language not only reflects these controls but becomes an instrument of control even where it does not transmit orders but information; where it demands, not obedience but choice, not submission but freedom.
This language controls by reducing the linguistic forms and symbols of reflection, abstraction, development, contradiction; by substituting images for concepts. It denies or absorbs the transcendent vocabulary; it does not search for but establishes and imposes truth and falsehood..." (pgs 102-103- 1992 Beacon edition)