Sludge Report #32 – Resolving A Family Feud
IN THIS EDITION: Middle East Situation Report – A Question – A Couple Of Answers – Sludge’s Answers – Application Of The Theory
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Sludge Report #32
Middle East Situation Report
A fortnight ago Israelis and Palestinians appeared on the verge of coming to a lasting peace. Israel had publicly offered to share sovereignty over Jerusalem, though the details of how this would work were far from complete.
Then right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon chose to visit the Muslim holy mosque Al Aksa on the Temple Mount. His visit turned into a riot and several Palestinians were killed.
Ever since the situation has been deteriorating by the day if not the hour. The number of Palestinian casualties in subsequent demonstrations is climbing rapidly towards 100.
Attempts by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to broker a peaceable resolution failed spectacularly and embarrassingly when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat attempted to walk out of peace talks only to be followed from the building by Albright calling on security staff to shut the gates to the compound.
In the last 24 hours the stakes have again been raised by deadline threat from Israeli PM Ehud Barak that the peace process will be dead in 48 hours unless the Palestinian uprising comes to an end.
Meanwhile the UN Security Council has today adopted a resolution condemning the use of extreme force by Israeli security forces in their attempts to quell the uprising.
In short the situation is a mess.
Sludge however has a few ideas on how this mess might be sorted out. These are explored below with the use of a metaphor about sharing – which is of course ultimately what this is all about.
First however it is worth making a few observations as perspective in this mess is very easily lost.
1. The forces of chaos symbolised in Ariel Sharon are at present the only ones winning in this fight. Sharon’s hateful attempts to provoke unrest and to undermine the peace process by visiting Al Aksa have succeeded better than he could have possibly imagined. All that need happen for this victory to be complete is for Ehud Barak to go through with his ultimatum.
2. PLO chief Yasser Arafat clearly does not have control over the youths who are participating in the popular uprising against Israeli forces in the occupied territories and within Israel itself. It is therefore kind of pointless attempting to resolve the situation by trying to back him into a corner, and demanding concessions from him (as Albright found out recently). Secondly, even if Arafat did command more influence over his own countrymen than he appears to, would it be politically viable for him in the circumstances (with close to 100 fresh new martyrs in play) to be seen to back down to Israeli threats?
3. Israeli PM Ehud Barak, like Arafat, is now driven increasingly by internal domestic political considerations. Israelis of all walks of life no doubt are sleeping at night in fear of what is to become of their nation. Barak’s natural political instinct is to stand staunch and firm, again fully understandably.
In these circumstances it is clear that in the absence of a remarkable development in both the political and spiritual spheres - an unexpected development - there will not be a resolution to this crisis.
It is also clear, as is always the case when two combatants are being forced into set positions, that in order for the deadlock to be broken one of the parties will need to do what does not come naturally. Change the script.
But who? And what should they do?
A father has three sons, and a scooter. His three sons are all very fond of the scooter and the father, whose scooter it was originally, also thinks the scooter is pretty cool.
Technically the scooter is the eldest son’s, and was given to him as a birthday present. That said this household is run on a strictly “everything is everybodies” policy when it comes to toys.
Sometimes there are moments, when everybody plays together nicely with the scooter, which bring the father great joy. Unfortunately there also seems to be no end to the children’s abilities to find new ways to use the scooter to taunt one another. And there have been many fights over it.
When the fighting is bad the father wonders how he could have failed to teach his children how to share? He has always emphasised the importance of love, mercy, charity, generosity of spirit and humility whenever he has had cause to instruct them in how to get along with one another.
The father knows that there will be many more things that the boys will need to share as they grow older, especially if he allows them to take over responsibility for more of their inheritance. The father wants them to be supportive of one another, not competitors.
Recently the eldest son proposed that as a way to stop the arguments over the scooter he could assign control of it to a trustee committee of village children - many of whom were his friends, and – politically - including the second son.
The father (whose scooter it was originally), and the youngest son, who has been excluded, unsurprisingly think this a daft idea. The youngest son told his brother as much, but he would not listen as he had become puffed up with the flattery of his friends, many of whom also covet the scooter.
When one of these friends spat on the scooter this so greatly offended the younger brother that he struck out at his elder brother. While defending what he thought to be his father’s honor, he has since received a savage beating.
The father loves all his children. And is deeply distressed. What should he do?
A couple of answers..
The above question was posted to a couple of email lists requesting feedback. Two responses are worth looking at.
“Give the scooter to the youngest son, as the youngest son stood up for the Honor of his father scooter, as well as the 2 older boys made it an object without their fathers Honor, meaning they allowed Non-Family to play with the toy..” – Claudia
And a more extensive answer came from a subscriber to the Pakistanforum Egroup.
“From ethical point of view, the father is responsible for such a situation because it was the father who was suppose to set the rules in the house and teach manners of cooperation to all his sons. There is a hadith of prophet Muhammad "What ever contribution a father gives to his child among that the best donation is the good education and training".
But it was not the case in the said example as it seems that all 3 sons are slave of their desires and greed and no one is willing to give up the lust of the scooter.
If I was the father, I would sell off the scooter and buy 3 toys of same kind and give them to all 3 sons. and would sacrifice my own desire to teach a lesson to my kids. Any way in any such case, the younger ones always feel betrayed and feel left out because of a general inferiority complex of being younger and weaker.
Similarly, the elder kids or the elder kid often take advantage of being "the first born" and being closer and more long term relation with the parents. The best justice should come from the stronger towards the weaker, from elder towards younger. If father is unable to do equal justice. Another example is the "will" when father dies according to Islamic law the assets are equally distributed among all the sons regardless of who is elder and who is younger.
But since father is alive in the case, we can't apply this rule here. However the father must do an equal justice and treat all son as same. So, the father must either buy 4 scooter or sell the existing one and distribute the money among sons, or buy them 4 new toys of same kind. If the 3 sons can't reach to an agreement, than the father must take matter in his own hand and do the justice.
Whatever father or elder sons do, the involvement of any out side other then 3 sons and father in this case will make this simple situation much complicated and due to favoritism the kids who are left alone will go towards rebel and the happy home will be destroyed.
WHENEVER THERE IS A DISPUTE AMONG BROTHERS, ONLY THEY SHOULD SOLVE IT ON THEIR OWN, OR IF THEY WANT TO CONSULT WITH AN OUTSIDER THEN THIS OUTSIDER MUST HAVE AN EQUAL TRUST OF ALL THE PARTIES..OTHER WISE THERE WILL BE NO SOLUTION AND JUSTICE WILL NEVER BE SERVED.” - SYED ALI
All three sons care greatly what their fathers think of them. But they are too old now to be disciplined and for the father to intervene directly. In any event that is not what the father wants. If his sons are to live together in the long term they must be allowed to sort out their own disputes.
That said it is the father’s duty to try to educate his sons and he might find one of the best approaches is to council his sons on what the logical consequences will be of their ongoing conflict.
- For the eldest son
If he chooses to try and monopolise the scooter either in person or with the help of a committee of friends he will have to endure the ongoing hatred of his youngest brother. The younger brother will never give up the fight for what he regards as his birthright, and the eldest brother (and his friends) will have to defend the scooter constantly against the younger brother. On the other hand if he were to share the scooter with his youngest brother this brother would quite possibly become his friend over time. Meanwhile his brother would take pride in sharing the burden of looking after the scooter and showing it off to the friends. The other logical consequence of holding onto the scooter for the eldest son is that it will satisfy his pride. This unfortunately is sinful, a point which can be well made by a father.
- For the middle son:
There is nothing to be gained through forming an alliance with the elder brother and the committee of friends at the expense of his youngest brother. A logical consequence of doing so will be the ongoing emnity of his younger brother. At the same time he will not have any greater rights over the scooter as a result of taking this path. Rather he will, by going along with the idea, be acknowledging his eldest brothers right to be bloody minded about the scooter.
- For the youngest son:
The logical consequence of defending the scooter at present appears to be that he will continue to receive a beating – either at the hands of his elder brother – or at the hands of his friends. At the same time by railing against his brother he is making it harder for his brother to change his mind about arrangements for the scooter. By challenging his brothers pride he is succeeding only in steeling his brothers stubborness. While accepting an apology from his brother may be difficult in light of all that has happened, refusing to do so will mean that he risks losing access to the scooter altogether.
Also important in this are the family dynamic issues discussed by Syed Ali.
“The best justice should come from the stronger towards the weaker, from elder towards younger.”
So on to one possible answer…
Application Of The Theory
The eldest son – Israel (Judaism) – must sincerely seek the forgiveness of the Palestinian people over events in recent weeks. It was one of the eldest sons friends/acquaintances - Ariel Sharon – who committed the offence which started the chain of events that have led us to the present impasse. In addition as justice flows from the stronger to the weaker the solution to this problem is in Israel’s hands.
The youngest son – Palestine (Islam) – must swallow his own pride and accept the apology of Israel, if it is offered, and recommence negotiations for looking after Jerusalem in good faith.
The middle son – the UN Security Council (Christendom) – should keep out of it, not take sides and instead support both brothers.