There’s a beautiful church on the edge of downtown Minneapolis called Westminister Presbyterian. The nave is more of a square than a rectangle and the ornate stained glass windows are all around. It was built over a century ago and wraps you in old world craftsmanship.
I don’t attend service here but I do take advantage of their Town Hall forums which take place through the fall. It must have been five years ago when David Brooks made an appearance that filled all the chairs and pews. Minneapolis is often forgotten on book tours and such- some stay away from the nasty weather. But Chris Blattman, an economist from the University of Chicago, said today that he feels most at home in our state. He was raised in Ottawa and there is something familiar about the north country.
Blattman is on a book tour for his new release Why We Fight. Before he provided an overview of his thesis, he elucidated that for the most part people don’t fight. A detent is preferred so all sides may reap the rewards of a peace dividend. War is nothing but an expense. But under roughly five circumstances, an often erroneous calculation ignites a war.
The first part of the talk focused on global conflicts especially Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Large-scale events are often easy to refer to because people have read about recent events, know the leaders, and a bit of the history.
Blattman also spoke about his work in reducing local violence in neighborhoods. He has extensive experience in Columbia both with gangs who commit violence and those who hold the peace. This last one is a maintenance type of work. You keep up on balancing out the little power struggles, cool down the hot heads and monitor for possible failures in the system. If you think about it maintenance is a part of most social commitments.
After speaking for about twenty-five minutes, questions on index cards were passed to the front. The very last one was practical. What does he suggest the audience can do to fight violence? (A real issue in present-day Minneapolis). He said to work at the margin. Step in and do small things. Do maintenance.