We Can Work it Out – the Beatles

There will always be conflict in world, whether over resources, political views, religion, or our physical differences, but there is also always a solution. The question is, if there is always a solution that avoids conflict, then why do people continue to fight wars? To persecute one another? To kill over our problems rather than reason them out like civilized human beings? The legendary Fab Four discuss the many reasons why people are unwilling to peacefully cooperate with each other in their timeless classic, “We Can Work it Out”. Released in 1965, “We Can Work it Out” initially appears to be about a couple’s struggles in their relationship but has since grown to be a song that portrays a message of love and tolerance, teaching that there is always hope for a peaceful solution to conflict.

The Fab Four, the dashing young lads themselves: the Beatles. From left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison (in the back), Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.

Or as Mick Jagger referred to them, the four-headed monster.

“Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?
While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone
We can work it out
We can work it out”

As stated before, the song starts out sounding more like a song about the struggles a couple is undergoing in their relationship. The central theme, however, is applicable to almost any conflict. The girl represents the party that is too arrogant or simply unwilling to consider ideas or opinions other than their own. If both groups are unwilling to understand, then conflict is bound to occur.

“Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright
Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night
We can work it out
We can work it out”

People are afraid of hearing what others have to say because they are afraid of being wrong. Because the concept of being wrong is so feared, people refuse to accept that their ideas may not be the best, even at the expense of others as well as themselves. When a person, group, or even a nation denies that they have made a mistake, they come into conflict with others. Moreover, when one is denied their voice because another to prove they are right, the one whose voice has been suppressed will likely rise up and rebel. In both interpersonal relationships and history alike, people fight over what they believe is right. Entire wars are fought because two opposing sides each believe they are right and their opponent, who can only be wrong for not agreeing with them, must be eliminated. What they don’t realize is that their conflicts can be “worked out”.

“Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend”

What people don’t realize is that conflicts can be resolved peacefully. It is by no means easy, but if it avoids conflict then it is worth it. Essentially, people fight to prove that they are right. First and foremost, we can all agree that no one is ever right one hundred percent of the time. Every person makes mistakes at some point, this is one of the facts of life. The difficult part is accepting that we are all imperfect. Additionally, there is no set line between write and wrong. This concept is not just black and white, but a number of grays that all vary from person to person. “Right” is a concept that is relative to each person and each person has their own unique view of what is right and wrong, and people must accept that. If opposing parties could simply set aside their arrogance and pride long enough to allow the voices of others to be heard, then two factors that cause conflict are eliminated: the refusal to accept that one may not always be right and the rebellion of the suppressed voice. After both sides share their opinions, they can finally “work out” a solution. Because “right” is such an organic concept, it is highly unlikely that one idea or the other will ultimately be agreed upon.  Generally, a middle ground or balance is what works the best, whether it is in physics, policy, society, or nearly any other subject that one could come across in life. Therefore, advocating for an extreme in the first place is not a good idea. In order to make peace, one must be flexible and open-minded – willing to hear the voices of others. The defiant and ignorant are the perpetrators of conflict. Any issue can be solved through compromise and diplomacy. The question is whether people are wiling to make an effort for it.

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If Lao Tzu quotes and the logic of some blogger are not compelling enough evidence, here is the advice of experts on conflict resolution and what is professionally perceived as the best way to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Some argue that there are some conflicts that can not be resolved peacefully, wounds that are too deep to heal. I have been told that two cultures that have hated each other for over a thousand years will never be able to make peace because they have hated each other for too long. On the contrary, it doesn’t matter how long a grudge has been held between two groups because it only takes one generation to bring peace. Yes, the wrongs that have been done in the past cannot be unmade but future wrongs can be prevented if people simple listened to each other and could accept that no one person is completely right and no one person is completely wrong either. Once this truth is accepted, that is when peace can finally be made. I know it is unlikely that every person will set aside their pride for the sake of peace but that does not mean that it is not possible. When people are killed for the sake of some cause then you have already lost. You have lost a life. When a conflict is resolved peacefully, however, then both sides are winners. It may never happen and if it does it will take ages, but the day that every person takes the time to understand each other, the world will know peace.

Now, I would like to take the time to just appreciate how amazing this song is. So amazing that it has been covered by many credible artists besides the great Beatles.

Stevie Wonder’s version is probably the most famous cover of the song. Perhaps because his passion for the message this song portrays is tangible when he plays.

Here is the seemingly unlikely cover by Deep Purple. The song is reworked to be more instrumental than the original (the first three minutes is completely instrumental) and also feels heavier (that kind of goes without saying, being that its Deep Purple).

But of course, there will never be anyone who can do the Beatles quite like the Beatles.

Thanks so much for reading and supporting my blog. As usual, these opinions and interpretations are my own and if you have something you would like to share feel free to mention it in the comment section (I’m not going to suppress your ideas). Once again, thanks so much, long live the Beatles, and rest in peace John and George.

And remember:

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