On the origin of .... war

From: Philip Jonkers (P.A.E.Jonkers@phys.rug.nl)
Date: Mon Sep 10 2001 - 15:44:14 BST

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    Subject: On the origin of .... war
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    > > I'd defend this:
    > > People cluster together as they're social animals who are better
    > > off living in a team. In the game of survival group forming is
    > > essential to increase odds of survival. Neighboring groups are
    > > simply considered as competitors and actually more-ore-less
    > > are feared as they fight over the same resources. I stick to
    > > the idea that aggression is always preceded by fear.

    > > > A gap here for memes to exploit? Genes drive kin selection, Memes
    > > > drive (some aspects/kinds of) nationalism?

    > > Nice angle...
    > >
    > > I'd say this:
    > > When it comes to nations. Culture has to be accounted for, as
    > > every nation has it's own peculiar set of customs, traditions,
    > > idealogies, and other memes. Memes seem to either divide (war)
    > > and unite (social clustering) thus increasing the gap between
    > > nations further. This is testified by the numerous
    > > conflicts fought over religion and polical idealogies,
    > > for instance. When you've adopted a meme inherent to some
    > > group/nation you're cool, you're one of them; if you don't
    > > you're considered a potential threat. Religion is based on
    > > this type of intolerance. When identified with the (honor o/t)
    > > nation, soccer can be war, only a small, quasi and
    > > insignificant one.

    > Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, by Barbara
    > Ehrenreich, Metropolitan Books, 1997.
    > That's the book you're looking for, Phil. If you want an explanation,
    > you'll find it there.
    > I'll just say a couple things about it. Ehrenreich points out
    > that the evidence for warfare goes back 12,000 years.
    > That's it. Prior to that, we just don't find any evidence,
    > no cave drawings of soldiers, no spear points embedded in
    > bones of humans, no tools clearly intended for battle...
    > nothing. She quite sensibly abandons the biological approach
    > for a psychological explanation. There must have been a
    > trauma prior to 12,000 years ago that set off our need to
    > band together and kill. She identifies the trauma as predation
    > by wild animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, wolves, etc.
    > For all of our history up until 12 to 15 thousand years ago,
    > humans were quite commonly catfood. We are the only species
    > ever to have made the transition from prey to predator.
    > But the trauma remains with us to this day. So we keep
    > helplessly acting out our transformation from a cowering
    > victim into a mighty predator. We imagine we're under attack
    > from some dastardly enemy. Then we pull together as a team
    > and fight it off, demonstrating that now we're the top dog.
    > She notes that love and collective joy are just as important
    > to war as fear and hate. It doesn't tear communities apart
    > but brings them together. (Of course, these days
    > you're more likely to see our universal trauma re-enacted in a
    > stadium than a battlefield.)
    > Ehrenreich also deals with the origins of religion and ritual
    > sacrifice in this book. Really fascinating. And very well
    > received when it came out.

    Hi Ted,

    Thanks for recommending the book about Ehrenreich and the feedback.
    I'll try and read it if I can find the time.

    It was Darwin who pointed out already the inherent imperfection
    of the fossil record. Therefore, the fact that we fail to
    uncover artificial evidence of warfare in fossil remains of
    early humans does not necessarily imply that hominids did not
    engage in warfare prior to the earliest findings of instruments
    of warfare. I hope, therefore, that Ehrenreich makes a solid
    case in defending the position that humans did not wage war
    prior to 10,000 BC.

    Nonetheless, let's assume then that humans started waging war
    from 10,000 BC onwards. Since it can be assumed that humans
    did not evolve significantly in that 12,000 year period,
    warfare must have a cultural, i.e. memetic, origin rather than
    a biological one. Along Ehrenreich's line of argument the
    trauma she speaks of, must be a cultural one.

    The clustering together of humans (clans, early villages) pays
    off only if such clusters offer better chances of survival
    and if its members are able to maintain sufficient coherence.
    Once humans learned to stick together in clusters, e.g. through
    effecting control rules mediating coherence. And if, as such,
    the odds of survival increased, an evolutionary pressure to
    generate clusters was initiated.

    Upon acquiring better odds of survival through living in
    clusters, it follows logically that human population began
    to increase. Through a collective organised effort humans
    gained access to more and better quality resources and
    were better able to fence off and even dominate and domesticate
    predators (e.g. dogs). Indeed, it is here where the
    prey-predator role of humans inverted. From this point onwards,
    it was humans who dominated predators, generally being
    unorganised and incoherent. As a bonus, we had access to their
    meat and fur. In fact, it may have been a reason to start living
    in clusters in the first place as their was not much vegative
    resources during the glacial era to start with. Humans were then
    compelled to collectively prey on (large) predators for their
    supply of food.

    With clusters building its own stock of resources, it
    became the target of desire by envious rivaling clans. And
    through the comitted effort of a greedy cluster as a unit
    it may have been possible and thus worth while to attempt to
    take hold of another nearby cluster's resources. I guess this
    is what one might call war: the organised collective effort
    by one clan to try to take hold of a resource that belongs to
    another clan by an unauthorised and hence violent means.
    Objects of desire may include, territory, food, fur, women,
    artifacts, intruments, weapons, inventions.

    Therefore, as with addiction, culture again is the culprit.
    However, war could not have been without the inherently
    fearful (aggressive) nature of humans to begin with.


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