Discover more from Better Conflict Bulletin
India and China have agreed to fight with sticks - BCB #30
Also: Americans don't disagree about teaching history as much as they think they do, and Georgia considers ranked-choice voting
Welcome to a special holiday edition of the Bulletin! To celebrate the season, this week’s issue features three optimistic stories about conflict.
In a rare departure from the US domestic scene, we had to share this video of Indian and Chinese soldiers brawling at their ill-defined and disputed 2100 km-long border. This recently-surfaced video of two nuclear powers fighting with sticks struck us as an excellent example of better conflict! In an attempt to prevent destructive escalation, a 1996 agreement limited the use of guns and explosives near the border, and it seems to have held.
This fight is a far cry from a world without violence — people have been killed in these skirmishes — but conflict is fundamental in a social world where groups can disagree (here, over borders). Perhaps conflict can never be fully eliminated, and probably we don’t want to completely eliminate it, but we can always find ways to mitigate and control it, and, hopefully, help it lead to healthy changes.
The most recent unarmed skirmish (not the one in the video, which is probably from 2021) led to diplomatic talks and both parties swiftly disengaged. If two superpowers can find ways to stick to agreements to prevent an escalation of conflict, what kind of innovative solutions are possible when we reimagine the way partisan conflict takes place within our own borders?
Red and Blue are both completely off about how much they have in common, especially in their perception of each other’s opinion of how American history should be taught in school. The two sides are a lot closer together than they think.
92% of Blue respondents agree that students should learn about “how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution advanced freedom and equality” – but Red guesses that only 45% would say this. 93% of Reds say that “MLK and Rosa Parks should be taught as examples of Americans who fought for equality” – but Blue guesses only 38% would say this.
The list of misperceptions on culture war issues goes on. 72% of Red agree that a shared American history must include minority groups, rather than the 30% estimated by Blue; 80% of Blue think the Constitution should be “preserved and respected” where Red estimates 40%. Independents guess closer to the truth, but are still off by tens of percentage points in most cases. Basically everyone thinks the sides are much further apart than they actually are.
This perception gap around how history should be taught is especially destructive, because a shared understanding of history is essential to building a shared understanding of the present that will lead towards a mutually-beneficial future. Strangely, we’re a lot closer to that than we think we are.
Georgia had run-off elections in both 2020 and 2022, as required by law when no candidate gets 50% of the vote, and they’re tired of it. In ranked-choice voting, voters rank each candidate on the ballot in order of their preference. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the first-choice votes, the candidate who got the least first-choice votes is eliminated and whoever voted for them has their second-choice counted. This is why this method is also called instant runoff voting.
Runoff elections are expensive and difficult to execute quickly, so Georgia is considering either eliminating the 50% requirement or moving to a ranked-choice system. As we’ve discussed before, this might also be a depolarizing move. It avoids forcing voters to choose between the lesser-of-two-evils, and may give independent candidates a better chance.
Quote of the Week
Americans want to teach history with the complexity it deserves rather than the simplicity that a political agenda would require.