Watching the images of the past few weeks of rioting and violence in our streets has been disturbing, heart-wrenching and for me – frustrating. Clearly, people want something important from those in positions of power, but is fighting the best way to get it? I watch as benign demonstrations escalate into demands and shouting and then to physical conflict. As this scenario repeats itself in one locale after another, I can’t help but compare this behavior to similar scenarios in the Animal World, and how Nature has the remedy for peaceful coexistence.
I have been a student of Nature for over 50 years and learned much from her regarding working together and what it takes to maintain harmony within a cohesive, productive group. In the case of one animal that wants something from another, higher-ranked member of their group, there are two general options, and success will depend on the option chosen.
- Insist and demand on having or taking what they want
- Build an alliance of friendship and trust with the superior, so that the request is more likely to be granted by them.
From this peaceful position of acceptance, they then seek to build alliances with their superiors, being respectful and earning their trust.
Those animals that choose Strategy #1 – to insist and forcefully demand without the legitimacy of rank to support such demands, are predictably met with either disregard, disagreement or consequence for insubordination. Fights often ensue. Strategy #1 is rarely successful in getting the subordinate animal what it wants, yet if he does succeed in one instance, it is at great cost to his trustworthiness and future success.
Those wiser animals that understand the delicate nature of social interaction within an established hierarchy and choose Strategy #2, will approach their goals quite differently. They understand and accept that they live at that moment on a lower rung of the hierarchy ladder. From this peaceful position of acceptance, they then seek to build alliances with their superiors, being respectful and earning their trust. As a trusted, friendly ally, they are set up for success because their superior does not see them as a threat. In fact, the more their superior likes them, the more willing they are to agree to the benefits sought by the subordinate, whether it be food, toys, space or something else of value.
following Nature’s timeless formula for peaceful negotiation and accomplishment helped Dr. King successfully convince President Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964
One of the greatest examples in our recent human history of using Nature’s strategy of Acceptance and Alliance was that of Dr. Martin Luther King, who led a movement of nonviolent struggle in the 1960’s to push for equal treatment of black citizens in the U.S. Instead of leading violent protests and demanding change, he built strategic alliances with his superiors — President Lyndon Johnson and other high-ranking officials of the time. Even in the face of inevitable public opposition and violence from detractors, Dr. King held fast to his strategy of nonviolence, trust and alliance, keeping his movement on course and assuring all that his purpose was not to defeat or humiliate, but to win friendship and understanding.
It can be no coincidence that following Nature’s timeless formula for peaceful negotiation and accomplishment helped Dr. King successfully convince President Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most pivotal events in US social history. It was not accomplished through demands, threats or violence. It was achieved through Nature’s time-honored wisdom of alliance, friendship and trust.
Can we achieve what we want — as individuals or as a society– without fighting? Mother Nature says “Yes!” Listen to your mother.