The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, February 6, 2012

Warfare Need Not Be Inevitable!

Could we end our seemingly endless cycle of warfare? Are we hardwired for warfare and mutually assured destruction? Is it the fractious flaw in our nature and our heritage of "nature red of tooth and claw?" Not according to John Horgan, a science journalist; director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology. I heard him speak recently on the Diane Rehm show and you can hear him too (provided Diane's show keeps the archived link active):

Horgan's position is that warfare is not inevitable. It is not an essential component to our DNA. He claims that the oft cited Jane Goodall discovery that chimps engage in warfare may have been skewed (according to Horgan this comes directly from Goodall) by her introduction of fruit to one tribe and not another. He adds that bonobos, another close relative on the evolutionary tree, does not engage in warfare at all. When they have disagreements, they solve them in another way ... through sex. These are relatives as close to us as chimps, yet we ignore them in favor of our seemingly angrier kin on the family tree.

What struck me most deeply was that everyone who called in to the show denied that this was a possibility. They refused to believe that humanity could live peacefully, ditching war in favor of better forms of conflict resolution. This made me wonder why. After all, the world's great faiths call for peace on earth. I can think of several non-violent movements of the twentieth century that were great successes. And yet, people stick to their guns (pun intended) and refuse to believe we could excise warfare from our lives.

Come to think of it, if you turn to the Bible, virtually everyone who called for the peaceable kingdom of God died violently at the hands of those who refused to believe in such a vision. Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were gunned down by those who opposed their vision of justice for all achieved by peaceful means. What does this say about us? Who is so invested in warfare that they perpetuate what could be our bloodiest and most vile myth about ourselves? Why are people so willing to believe all sorts of twaddle (see end of world predictions throughout time) and yet staunchly refuse to believe in or work toward peace?

There are reasons to believe war is not natural to us. Look how we have to work long and hard to describe every enemy as subhuman before we will fight them. See how warriors come back from battle shattered by the violence mentally and emotionally. See how peaceful gestures would break out between the lines in the American Civil War and World War I between battles. There may be more to this than we are willing to admit. We might be able to create a peaceable kingdom in the world today. But first, we would have to believe.

We would have to convince ourselves it is possible to solve our problems without bullets and bombs. We need to talk up peace. Practice peace on a small scale and work our way up so that the next time someone calls for a preemptive war, nobody shows up. We could do this. I believe that. I refuse to become so cynical and jaded as to deny this possibility. How about you?

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