C O N F L I C T
The good don't finish first. The good often finish last. A noble anything is as Steven Pinker tells us (The Blank Slate) is "an unlikely product of natural selection." It is an unfair world and who over 50 doesn't know that? Nature is cruel and justice is an invention which is supposed to look and sound good but rarely is. What sounds good about "selection by death", which is after-all what natural selection really is. The weakest die and the fittest survive long enough to reproduce; then they too die.
Conflict is widespread. If there is only one fish we both can't eat equally and maybe I don't want to share with you. How do we settle who prevails?
Steven Pinker wrote: "Conflicts of interest are ubiquitous among living things, since two animals cannot both eat the same fish or monopolize the same mate. To the extent that social motives are adaptations that maximize copies of the genes that produced them, they should be designed to prevail in such conflicts, and one way to prevail is to neutralize the competition. As William James put it, just a bit too flamboyantly, `We, the lineal representatives of the successful enactors of one scene of slaughter after another, must, whatever more pacific virtues we may also possess, still carry about with us, ready at any moment to burst into flame, the smoldering and sinister traits of character by means of which they lived through so many massacres, harming others, but themselves unharmed.'" (Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate - 2002)
As Thomas Hobbes described the human condition: "And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies, and in the way to their End...endeavor to destroy, or subdue one another.." He suggested that the basic human condition is "a condition of Warre of every one against every one."
The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran made the following statement during the Iran-Iraq war in a speech in honor of Muhammad:
"War is a blessing to the world and for all nations. It is God who incites men to fight and to kill. The Koran says, `Fight till all corruption and all rebellion have ceased.' The wars that the Prophet led against the infidels were a blessing for all humanity... A religion without war is an incomplete religion...A prophet is all-powerful. Through war he purifies the earth. The Mullahs with corrupt hears who say that this is contrary to the teachings of the Koran are unworthy of Islam. Thanks to God, our young people are now, to the limits of their means, putting God's commandments into action. They know that to kill the unbelievers is one of man's greatest missions."
There is plenty of evidence, given what the more recent anthropological, zoological and biological research would affirm that especially our species and the primate order are inherently war-like. What nation can trust any other nation with their national security unless there is cultural commonality or at least reciprocal treaties, the conditions stipulated therein to avoid aggression carefully monitored. Treaties are many times breached when one side or the other gains a decided advantage.
WAR: To Kill Legally
"How dare Americans allow their government to cause such misery [in the world]." (Ramsey Clark, former United States Attorney General and human rights activist - He also defends the right of Palestinians and other Arabs to kill Jews. He is not a supporter nor friend of Israel.)
War is natural consequence of human interaction. To question it now seems gargantuan and futile. Before there were wars there were raids and before there were tribal raids there were murders.
"Why of course the people don't want war.Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger." (Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg Trials)
In the 20th century 87.5 million people died in wars. 60% [54 million] of them were civilians.
International law says that the number of civilians who die in war must be proportional to an anticipated advantage - which of course is a very vague way of saying any number is acceptable. And it is estimated that over 75% of all the world's fatalities from war in the 90s were civilians.
"In 2001, 40 million people were displaced from their homes because of armed conflict or human rights violations...Five million Europeans were uprooted frm 1919 to 1939. World War II displaced 40 million non-Germans in Europe, and 13 million Germans were expelled from countries in Eastern Europe. Approximately 2.5 million of the 4.4 million people in bosnia and Herzegovina were driven from their homes during that region's war in the early 1990s. More than 2 million Rwandans left their country in 1994. In 2001, 200,000 people were driven from Afghanistan to Pakistan." (Chris Hedges)
In the American Civil War there were 100,000 soldiers who were under the age of 16.
War is a bitch but dare I say it? It is as human as it is pre-human to kill.
Aggression is as Natural as Sex
and even a fruit fly has a mean streak.
Aggression is not something we can easily separate out from the way we behave because aggression is as natural as sex. Animals who are not aggressive enough do not survive to reproduce. Natural selection does not favor those animals who are unwilling to kill though too much aggression can also be a disadvantage for obvious reasons.
Human aggression became more organized as society became more organized. People generally equate war with armed forces mounting battles against each other, but that mode of combat actually only came about with the invention of agriculture and establishment of agricultural communities about 10-12,000 years ago. Before agriculture humans lived in smaller nomadic groups and survived by foraging and hunting. There was less reason for defending territory, but once these agricultural settlements got started so did a more modern kind of combat with huge battles by tribes, communities or town against town and later nation against nation.
Our prehistoric ancestors had no need for the kind of warfare brought about by competition for resources. Prehistoric wars were more about raids and stealing women in order to make more babies to promulgate genes, although I'm certain they were not consciously thinking about spreading their genes around when they did steal women and rape them.
It is difficult to draw that solid boundary as a demarcation between prehistoric and agricultural communities. There is no such thing as civilized wars even though war is an activity of civilization.
Human nature is a straight line; it is not punctuated. Changes are gradual just as evolution by natural selection is gradual.
However, the warfare between armies is more of a recent development from about ten to twelve thousand years ago. Raiding goes back to pre-hominids. Our close relatives, Chimpanzees, carried out raiding parties on their neighbors.
Humans and our primate order relatives are capable of extremely aggressive behavior. Often those targeted are those who are also relatively defenseless. We go to war with those we believe we can beat. The war against Iraq was often a slaughter.
Much has been written about why George Bush wanted his war with Saddam. There were many reasons discussed or hinted at, but the most compelling was because he could and the justifications were, among other things, weapons of mass destruction and to bring them democracy. The icing on the cake was going to be access to their vast oil resources.
War Lives Inside
In the real world you can't simply throw a switch and turn off the war. It is a war where innocent people are being hurt. I oppose violence just as I know many Israelis have long yearned for peace with their neighbors, but this inherent violent human nature is pervasive and innate and most of my species does not oppose violence.
"Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table." *--W.H. Auden, Herman Melville
Israel knows about concessions, having made so many of them. It reached an accord with Jordan, Turkey and with Egypt. It has not been an easy peace with Egypt and the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank hate Jews more than they want peace. Even with Egypt and Jordan, it has not been an easy peace and both sides need to constantly work on improving relationships. The accords have nearly callapsed. No one knows if they will survive the current changes.
"On Monday, September 29, 2004, Islamic militants in Iraq executed an American construction worker named Eugene Armstrong. Four men, masked and clothed in black, tensely clutched their automatic weapoons while the bound and blindfolded Armstrong knelt in front of them. "God's soldiers from Tawhid and Jihad were able to abduct three infidels of God's enemies in Baghdad," the leader intoned, "by the name of God, these three hostages will get nothing from us except their throats slit and necks chopped, so they will serve as an example." The long knife sliced through Armstrong's flesh. He screamed. Blood gushed from his neck. His body shuddered and became limp. The executioner placed the dripping, severed head on the back of Armstrong's lifeless body. Do you think that this is a shocking image? When the video was broadcast on national television, it was interrupted before any blood was spilled. Perhaps this discretion was a good thing; the image was, after all, very disturbing. But perhaps it would have been better to show it. Armstrong's execution was an act of war, and war is terrible. Like many terrible things, it is something we do not want to think about too much if we can help it."
"Many people conceive of war in terms of manly, granite-chinned heros duking it out with the forces of evil. The reality is very different from this comic-book picture. It is something from which we collectively avert our gaze. The news and entertainment media obligingly maintain our illusions, protecting our sensibilities from too potent a dose of reality. This is why, during the dark days of Cambodian genocide, the Associated Press rejected photographs of a smiling soldier eating the liver of a Khmer Rouge fighter whom he had just gutted and a soldier lowering a human head by the hair into a pot of boiling water. And it is why U.S. newspapers avoided British photopher Kenneth Jarecke's photograp[h of the charred head of an Iraqi soldier who was among those burned alive on Mutla Ridge during the closing chapter of the First Gulf War. When the British journalist Martin Bell reported on the war in Bosnia, he quickly realized that he was expected to sacrifice reality to "good taste." The version of the war presented to television audiences was, he remarked, "about as close to reality as a Hollywood action movie," later remarking that "in our desire not to offend and upset people, we were not only sanitizing war but even prettifying it...But war is real and war is terrible. War is a bad taste business." (J. Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), A. Thomson, Smokescreen: The Media, the Censors, the Gulf War (Tunbridge Wells; Laburmham, 1992), M. Bell, In Harm's Way, Reflections of a War-Zone Thug (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1995), David Livingston Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal, Human Nature and the Origins of War, (St Martin's Press, NY, 2007)
"We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves." *--Albert Camus, Notebooks, Vol 3 - Sept 7, 1939
War is an obscene self-indulgence resulting in death, destruction and ecological havoc.
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Today is Wednesday April 23, 2014
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