Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Do We Really Want Peace?

If we did, we'd have had it long ago. Nevertheless, we continue to insist that peace is what we really want.

(Note: the term "we" is used here as "we, the species," not "we the Americans" or "we the fill-in-the blank group.")

Humankind is not a peace-loving species. We haven't evolved beyond the tribal mentality of the earliest hominids whose tribes competed with each other over territory and access to food sources, not to mention the competition within each tribe for status and breeding rights.

Today we call our tribes "nations" and competition for status, in our more "civilized" nations, is organized by campaign and debate among politicians, with the outcome of who gets to be Chief decided by ballot. We look to the Chief to settle the many and constant disputes that arise among us. At our deepest level, it is our tribal chief we rely upon to keep the peace among us within our own nation's boundaries, although we may label this chief "the three branches of government" or the "Politboro."

Let a nation (tribe) be attacked by another nation (tribe), and we expect the chief to defend and protect us. Conversely, if the other nation has something that we need, or think we need, and they won't let us have access to it, we expect our chief to find a way to get it for us, by force if necessary.

We also have a distressing tendency to allow a certain type of sociopathic chief to tell us what to do (e.g., Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Adolph Hitler.) Perhaps this way we have an excuse to exercise our most violent tendencies in the name of "patriotism" and/or "racial cleansing."

The point is that we are still thinking and acting in terms of "us" versus "them." Our tribe (nation), our language, our skin color, and (usually most importantly) our god(s) versus theirs.

Maybe humankind is "hard-wired" for conflict. It's what we do. We can't even get along with each other in the same city (or block, or family), much less globally.We even insist on conflict in our entertainment. Sports is the obvious example, but look also at our fiction. Every novel, cartoon, or television series must have conflict in it or we consider it boring.

When have we (globally, as a species) ever had peace? Peace will never be attained unless and until we can think and act beyond our earliest tribal mentality.

John Lennon's famous and profound statement:

War Is Over!
(if you want it)

points out the fundamental problem. We don't want peace.