19 February 2016
Portfolio 3 Larger Essay Final Product (“Will War and Terrorism Shape Our Future” Q1)
Is war a core part of humanity and what defines human beings? Aggression in some form probably is (or at least was) a vital part of the human race and experience as it would have been hard for early men and women to survive on hunting without a sense of aggression. While aggression may have been toned down from those days of killing to live, aggression is still obviously a part of humanity as anyone who has been cut off from an exit by a reckless driver can feel that bit of humanity rising up inside them. Aggression is part of being human, but is war? War unites peoples into allies and enemies and involves the changing of power to and from people barely involved in the fighting. It seems insane that a fundamental part of humanity would be to unite with others to potentially die so that they can kill people likely similar to them to establish power for something other than themselves. Margaret Mead (an award winning writer of anthropology) and others have written about why they don’t believe that war is part of the human genetic or mental makeup but is just a current representation of various wants of humanity that could later be focused towards less destructive and more productive forms of expression (Invention 659). Mead thinks that war is not inevitable and many others have thought the same.
Manuel Eisner (Cambridge Criminologist) has done research to suggest that human behavior such as murder or war are based on benefit/cost analysis. His theories have led him to the idea that humans will not continue with war if the standard of living keeps improving to the point where it is unviable (Jones 515). I think that war is not an inevitability of the future of humanity and can be corrected if people stand up for their own individuality and care about more than just respect and power.
Those two aspects may seem random to focus on in the process of grand mass murder, but I believe that the lack of those two basic factors is what leads to humanity to war with itself. Why is individuality so important in avoiding wars? Because group elements of humanity are what allow wars to be organized. Humans need to form groups because of strength in numbers, but grouping can destroying personality and expressed thought. It has been shown in research by people such as by Norman Steinhart (who writes for the respected journal, Peace Review) that humans naturally start to find similarities between members when groups are formed and those similarities make people start to like each other more . This is a positive aspect of groups, but there are negative consequences coming from that. The trust and companionship that comes from groups dissuades individual opinion from surfacing when the head of the group makes poor judgments, such as wanting to go to war (Group 9). A group may seem incapable of going to war until one realizes that even America could be considered a large group of uniting ideals. Uniting ideals can take the place of individuality and, when those ideals head to directions of disaster, the members of the group may do nothing but support the group’s decisions.
Groups also have the issue of polarization. When humans become part of a group, they start to embrace its ideals, but start to reject the ideals of others. Groups create an “Us or Them” atmosphere among members. Flaws and issues of members of other groups get magnified and hated (Group 11). When this applies to countries or geographical regions, war can occur.
Altruism also falls into similar failings of a positive behavior leading to war according to Samuel Bowles (Of the most cited scientific journal in the world, Nature). Those who are naturally altruistic are those who can be organized together and can organize thanks to their pleasant nature. Altruists can also feel the need to protect those in their group by taking control of resources, an act that may lead to war (Altruism 326) If people became less needing of groups and focused more on preserving (though still being able to adapt) their personal thoughts and beliefs, there would be more outcry against war until it wasn’t politically viable, and individuals would learn to still love those close to them despite those people possibly having differing opinions.
The want of respect and power also leading to masses of men going out to die near anonymously also seems like an insane idea, but it is not. Look around at the American focus on and worship of millionaires and billionaires. These men and women have too much money to actually spend and many could probably be happy with a great deal less. Why do they pursue this money? For people to respect them. Why do men try to become CEOs or politicians even though the work is irritating and the hours horrifying? Respect from others and the feeling of power. Research and thought has led strong thinkers like Stefan Vetter (a top psychiatrist in Switzerland and in the Swiss Armed Forces) to believe that war can be attributed greatly to want of grandness since people are part of something big in times of war. They are part of something that could change parts of the world and are part of a unit that could cause major damage to their enemies (Understanding 9). Forces of war can be grand, and what is the appeal of grandness? Respect and power. People respect things that are grand and people become part of something grand and powerful when they join a fighting force.
Vetter also believes that the want of feelings of justice and primal joy also tie into why people are willing to go to war. Killing a man can make people feel powerful. Killing a man under the guise of justice can keep up the feelings of power while driving away the negative thoughts (Understanding 9). War may be mostly a power trip which is why we need to encourage people to look beyond power to the rest of what life has to offer.
There are other reasons for war, some possibly just. It can be said that mad dictatorships would likely have to be taken down by war (whether external or civil). Massive discrimination in a country that leaves many in that country disadvantaged and in poverty could lead to a war having little to do with the issues of group thinking and could be considered just. Some writers, such as Czeslaw Milosz, think that war is a natural state of humantity in times of desperation as human ideals can change so much to the point where there is nothing natural. In this view, shame will die away when the preservation of life is at stake (such as in times of poverty or hunger) and murder (and by extension, war) becomes something that humans will do easily (Ignorance 663). If this view is correct, maybe war will keep happening until everyone around the world is well off (a time that seems very distant). However, I think that some future conflicts could possibly be averted if we change our thoughts and feelings about group-think and respect if I and other researchers on this subject are correct.
I am fairly optimistic about the decline of war in the future. There have been other optimists about the future of war, such as Thomas Jefferson, who thought that war would stop once monarchies no longer existed before falling to despair later when perceiving that this idea was disproven. He then later thought that it was a part of human nature and was something that couldn’t be changed (Stuart 25). I too think that it is related to human nature, but just is a representation of the negative traits of humanity that could decline as the human race continues to grow. Most optimists, like Mead as mentioned before, did not list solutions as it would be pretentious for them to declare definite plans to ending arguably the worst part of humanity. Since I am obviously less educated and less intelligent than many who think that war will not be a permanent part of humanity, suggesting definite solutions to war seems insane. However, I am not suggesting solutions to the problem, but a way of helping treat what could be the cause. War could still happen, due to the complexity of human nature, if everyone become more individualistic in belief and became more focused on feelings of love instead of power. However, lack of individuality has been shown to be a major reason for why people can be organized to fight wars and want of power can be the sole reason for why wars are fought.
Moving away from group think and power thirst can help greatly for keeping peace. Those that believe in this idea need to encourage those focused on following their group to be more individualistic or else they may be able to be controlled. Discourage searching for status or wealth or other forms of power thirst, but encourage those you meet to focus on enjoying other positive human emotions. These acts may seem small, but they can change attitude and attitude is what determines the status of peace. It could help the world be a little more peaceful.
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