Conflict -Through the eyes of a Socio-biologist

Posted on October 10, 2008



Can biologists take over where social scientists fail?

One biological species some times find itself encroached by another species, taking its nourishment out of it and in the process destroying it internally. The latter species called a parasite and the former known as the host. The interaction that follows between the two is an interesting story which can give many insights to social scenarios as well. It is a story on evolution.

Could this be used to formulate a new perspective on the current conflict?

When the parasite attacks the host could die, initially. Later the host develops a defense mechanism (example by secreting poison) to repel the attack. This is how biological species evolve to survive in an ever changing world. In the first few rounds it succeeds. Parasite now gets killed. But evolution is so strong that the parasite is also given a further life to adapt. Parasite builds its own defense mechanisms and builds resistance to poisons or any other form of attack. Original species, the host, get frustrated. It tries another poison (it evolves to secret another) but soon find that parasite again had started building resistance. With time it realizes that what ever produced it is only a matter of time that the parasite adapts to it.

The people who are associated with pest control know this cycle and they are familiar with resistance development process by pests over years when chemicals are used to control the pests. After sometime pests thrive in the chemical and pest controllers now have to find another new chemical to attack. It goes on.

After sometime the host understands that there is no point fighting it out. There is a famous saying that “you should embrace the hand that you cannot cut”. That is now followed by the host. Now it is time to call for cohabitation.

This time instead of producing poison the original species produce sugar (food) for the parasite. Parasite will positively respond to this and without touching the food sources of the original species limit their feed to this new food given on a platter. One good gesture from one side is now responded by the other side. Not only that, parasite soon will take protecting of the host from external threats as one of its responsibility. It will fight with any other intruder that comes to harm the host.

Hatred is now turned to a love.

Nature has evolved number of such systems of cohabitations after initial conflicts and struggles.

Can we see certain parallels here with our conflict? Where social scientists have failed, could biologists be able to takeover?

What we need to understand here is that when a system has evolved over the years it would be difficult to apply some of the techniques that would have applied before.

The reason is that components of the system no longer behave as independent entities but as an interdependent whole mass. Any initiation would now be responded by the whole mass and not by the independent entities that were in existence before. Once the system has taken over individual units are almost helpless.

So we need to identify the current stage of the evolution of the conflict before we could treat it. Has it evolve to become a system of cohabitation? Is the parasitic cycle over or still continuing? Will that be over soon?

Every one would agree that we have gone through the initial stages of fighting back and developing resistance. Both sides have built up weaponry and armies to kill the other side and through that have built up mechanisms to continue their existence unthreatened. In fact a stage has emerged where each side wants the other side to mirror them.

If one looks at the recent developments one would identify certain behaviors that explains the same. It is strange to note how LTTE did a last moment intervention to get Mahinda, seemingly tough fighter of LTTE to the seat of power, undermining Ranil, who had softer approach that earned him a label of “Kola Kotiya” from the South. Many in the south either do not believe LTTE was instrumental in bringing Mahinda to power or completely lost in understanding as to what had happened, to this date; they ignore it; avoid probing it.

For LTTE to survive it needs a mirror image of it in the South. For Mahinda to continue he needs a terrorist LTTE in the North; he has been able to muster large support base thanks to this war. To that extent, both need each other. Parasite depends so much on the original species for its survival and original also depends on the parasite to that extent after some time.

Both sides want minimum intervention from the West. Both sides complain that west does not do enough to control the aristocracies of the other side. Both are critical of role of NGOs. Both reiterate the solution lies in war and nothing else, while paying lip service to peace. Both are quoting the aristocracies of the other side to rally round masses in their sides, while giving scant respect to the human rights of the masses they don’t represent.

There is a cohabitation; cohabitation of a different kind. Whole set of institutions, businesses and individuals have entered the system, consolidating the system. Among them are arm dealers, war industry suppliers, media that thrive because of frequent news, certain political groups that had got cheap slogans and strangely even a “peace” related businesses which will go out of business if this equilibrium is disturbed.

Whole new economy is born. An entirely different political system is being established with specific roles identified for different power centers. A society that has a new emerging hierarchy is in the offing.

Once the system is established it would be difficult for even those who build this to unwind this creation. The system will take over at one particular moment and from there onwards individuals don’t matter. Those who are not prepared to toe the line of the system will be eliminated; even the founders if such elimination is required for the survival of the system.

But the system is having seeds within that could destroy it. The reason is that to maintain the system, it requires continuous feeding that undermines the host and the parasite, both. To keep the momentum going both sides have to give their men, lives and limbs. They have to spend on artillery and other resources. They have to get few heads of other side rolling all the time. If these sacrifices are not made the system will not be able to keep the momentum. Such a reduction in arousal will lead both sides to collapse (Karuna leaving in the midst of the ceasefire and many army desserts during the same CFA).

If one side is eliminated totally other side will have a problem. Hence both sides, while keeping the fire alive (fighting to continue), have to ensure the continuity of the other side.

What a strange relationship this is going to be? How will this proceed to the future?

Turning point would come only with a crisis in the system, which eventually have to come with the resources of the both sides getting destroyed in the process to a point where it will no longer sensible to continue with the same system.

In such a turn of events a different cohabitation (secretions changing from poison to sugar) would emerge. It will also be associated with changes in leaderships in both camps (not necessarily the personalities, but sometimes even changes in personalities too).

If one side is able to destroy the other it would only be a temporary victory. The struggle will continue in another form to the future. Establishing equilibriums are more sustainable than total eliminations as we observed in the biological evolution story.

No matter what we consciously do, system will take its own course. No one will be able to steer it until system itself demands such an intervention. Equilibriums also come as an eventual outcome of the system than a result of conscious meddling. World has a preset course and set of rules that determine the course. We as individuals can only retard or accelerate the course (in limited sense), but cannot defy it totally.

Evolution, whether it is biological or sociological, will take its own pace. It takes time and hence you have to bear with it. Those who try to accelerate it unduly will get eliminated or go unnoticed (Ranil had to face this fate; one needs to wait and see who is the next that will face the same fate).

Once you know the mechanics of the process you would be in a better position to deal with it. The purpose of this document was to make you look at it through a different perspective. More you see it in varied directions you would be able to master it. Hope this helped.

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