Wars at every scale

I sometimes say, jokingly but seriously, that my life motto is (along the lines of) “Better to be “naïve” and take a few blows once in a while” – that is, that I prefer to generally trust people than to be suspicious, even if that means that I sometimes have to “pay” for it.

Along the same lines, I think it’s wiser to care about other people and not just myself, and that a society based on the idea that everybody should just mind their own business might work in theory, but in practice would result in a very sad world. It’d be a “lawyer state”, based on a futile hope that people’s wills won’t conflict too often, and when they do, lawyers are called in to settle.

If you follow my weblog, you know that I have moved to a new apartment recently. Last week, my upstairs neighbor came to ask us if we could take our daughter to the adjacent room when she scream at night. Their bedroom is right above ours, and apparently they awake from Elvira’s screams. Now, Elvira doesn’t scream a lot at night – but also, you can’t just take a nine months old out of her bed at night: it will only make her more likely to wake up (and scream) at night – and it is far more difficult to make her go back to sleep if you do take her out of bed.

I tried to explain this to my neighbor, and I got the feeling that she understood. I said that she’s having a phase right now when she’s more easily waken up (I have heard that they have their first existential crisis at this age) and she seemed content with that. But last night, they stomped in the floor when our daughter cried, several times, so eventually we took her out of bed (and it took more than two hours for her to go to sleep again).

So, this morning I went to talk to them, trying to explain that taking her out of bed and into the next room is a very short-sighted solution. It will only cause more nightly screaming in the long run. But my neighbor said he (it was the man I talked to this time) didn’t really care about any long-term solutions: he was only interested in his night’s sleep. I tried to not make a fight out of it, but to explain what it is about and hope that he’d trust us that we don’t want to disturb them, and that the long-term solution will, in effect, result in less disturbance, although during this phase (and coming phases), our daughter might scream more than usual at night.

But I failed to explain and he only got more hostile the longer we talked, and eventually he threatened to take actions if we didn’t do as he said. My naïvité had me believe that he’d understand our side of the issue.

It doesn’t really matter whether he is right or I am right. What matters is his reluctance to care about nobody but himself and his wife. I honestly don’t know of any better solution but to wait out this phase of Elvira’s; but if we could talk, perhaps we could find a compromise? But he stood firm and promised to take it further when we didn’t play along his lines.

What bugs me is that in society today, matters like this are conflicts per definition. It could be said (and this is my naïvité speaking) that me and my neighbor have a common problem that we need to solve, together. But in our culture, people mind their own problems and conflicts are … well, conflicts.

No wonder there are wars between nations and religions, when there are wars at the micro-scale.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on November 4, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.

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