The "Pressure Cooker" theory of Conflict: Causes, and what we COULD be doing about it!

My work took me to Kenya in '07, just months before their now notorious highly competitive national elections.

I witnessed their national "Pressure Cooker" building up steam, and increased outbreaks of ethnic/area rivalry outbreaks at that time. I wasn't actually in country when the lid finally blew - purely by lucky chance - but was back again, during the aftermath, and to witness the devastation.

A lot of people think that things are all resolved now, once a "coalition" government was finally negotiated and installed.

But most of the world is also unawares that there are still tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes and farms, still living in DP camps, under virtually "POW" conditions: Yes, they ARE free to leave - even encouraged to do so (as these camps are costing a lot of precious resources to maintain) - but they sincerely believe they can't, out of sheer fear of what would happen to them if they returned to their former communities. And especially so, if they press claims to have their expropriated properties restored to them.

To our great common misfortune, we've become largely a "Re-active" world society: Especially in the USA, I hear all the time the old "red neck" philosophy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". We tend to apply this cliche'-ed attitude towards almost everything now; preferring to defer on obvious problems/needs - and thereby pay much, much more for them in the long run - until they become a crisis we can no longer pontificate or procrastinate on.

This is totally counter-intuitive: For even an "ain't broke don't fix it" type personality, if they had something cooking in a pressure cooker & saw that the pressure had reached a critical stage, wouldn't be likely to prefer having it explode, sending their meal all over the ceiling; instead of taking some action(s), to simply reduce the pressure & save the "din-din".

We now seem destined to not be able to apply the same, basic practicality to world situations as we can - & most often do - to everyday living. I heartily concur with Rousseau, when he commented a couple hundred years ago: "I have never seen anything 'common' about 'sense'"; so DON'T believe that relying on that old cliche' is the answer. But I do believe that, when people have some clear options presented and explained to them, they WILL - more likely than not - take the most practical course.

The outrageous actions, following the Kenyan elections, was largely passed off as "partisan political zealotry"; when the obviously rigged election results was actually just the catalyst for reversing/avenging many past grievances. The horrendous loss of life - and limbs - in the aftermath of the most recent Haitian earthquake were blamed mainly on government "corruption and incompetency": But this was about the umpteenth "disaster" that country has known over the past decade. And while the media portrayed some incidents of looting, "mob" action & intra-group violence, the fact is it was mainly just people's basic survival instincts at work; combined with a disdain for a commercial society that generally ignored them.

We all KNEW this country was both disaster-prone and ill-equipped to deal with its problems, let alone another crisis; but the world did NOTHING in the way of "pro-active" preparations, let alone preventive measures.

We obviously can't stop earthquakes & tsunami's; hurricanes & tornado's; floods, forest fires & mudslides, or any other event in the form of "natural" disasters. But for just a FRACTION of the resources it takes to fully respond to such events, we could be doing much, much more to prepare for - and thereby ameliorate the degree of suffering AND conflict they generate. So if there's a single corrective point of action - especially that those sincerely concerned with alleviating "conflict" - we can rally around, it may well be the process of change: I.e., in becoming a truly "Pro-Active", vs. "Re-Active" society! Let's all try to do better at being "Pressure Cooker" watchers and adapters.

Those many of us - now some 200/K+ strong - who have devoted various portions of our life to making life better for all - both at home and abroad - are now organizing/taking steps to alter this situation, & build in some better options.

If interested, and want to know more about what's been expressed in this blog, please feel free to post some response notes &/or e-mail me.

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Comment by Catherine Akurut on March 2, 2010 at 7:31pm
My home land is Uganda and we suffered tremendous effects because of this political conflict that turned into ethnic. Ethnic conflicts cannot be resolved by coalitions, that issue was never tackled, that's why some people are still displaced because or fear may be. Honestly, i think the worst is yet to come.

The looting in Haiti, well I agree, 'survival instincts' but these could be avoided, looting is 'stone age' all that's need is organized stakeholders, management and personnel.

Check out my blog on conflict theories in Haiti

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