Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id LAA05801 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Wed, 19 Sep 2001 11:13:22 +0100 Message-ID: <2D1C159B783DD211808A006008062D3102A6CFF8@inchna.stir.ac.uk> From: Vincent Campbell <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: On the origin of .... war Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 10:52:35 +0100 X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21) Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" X-Filter-Info: UoS MailScan 0.1 [D 1] Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> No we don't Ted, Aboriginals get as much from war as anyone else-
>> territority, decreased competition for resources, opportunities
>> the tribe's gene pool by kidnapping women and children etc. etc.
<Whatever is gained one year is lost the next. There's no gradual
> accumulation of territory and riches. Any tribe that does embark on this
> sort of prolonged conquest isn't a tribe anymore but a "civilization."
> At the tribal level, warfare is much more like competitive sports. Even
> your "team" wins the championship this year, everything starts from
> the following year. Over the long haul, nothing is gained. But it's fun
> far as it goes.>
That's like the saying the big problem with eating is that you keep
on having to do it. War does not necessarily involve the accumulation of
territory and riches, but merely the possibility of such. All empires end
eventually, and at the tribal level there is a perpetual ebb and flow of
power, and resources one way then the other. In other wors like eating,
conflict is not necessarily a motivated act (i.e. that has a absolute
purpose), but instead is part and parcel of natural behaviour.
<Ehrenreich deals with this in Blood Rites. Once warfare got
> must have rapidly spread. If another tribe is attacking you, you must
> back or gradually be destroyed. But to fight back is to begin learning
> war ethic, at which point you're liable to turn around and attack another
> tribe that still hasn't learned.>
If a tribe doesn't fight back it gets wiped out. Tribes that fight
back may survive. A bit too much social darwinism perhaps, but that is a
<It's rational in the sense of self-preservation.>
Exactly, and that's the principle by which natural selection works.
<But taken as a whole, it's perfectly insane.>
In what sense do you mean 'as a whole'? rational in the sense of
self preservation, in terms of natural selection is the whole.
<It makes no sense for us to war with each other when we could be
But what if the other party won't cooperate? The Prisoner's Dilemma
suggests that 'tit for tat' is the best strategy- i.e. if they cooperate,
you cooperate and you both win, but if they don't cooperate you lose either
way, so it's better to then not cooperate either to show you won't be
over-run. Have a read of Robert Axelrod's 'The Evolution of Co-operation'
(I think that's what it's called).
<According to the war ethic, manhood is attained only by killing
> and assuming ownership of his women and children. War, patriarchy, and
> slavery are all bound up in the same pathology. You might call it a
> memeplex. In many ways, it's the ancient prototype of the capitalist
> memeplex that currently divides the world into prey and predator.>
All war is about resources. Perhaps the earliest wars were tribal
conflicts where the resources were actually the women and children of
opposing tribes- and men too, remember the African slave trade was exploited
by but not created by Europeans. Modern wars are still about resources,
except the resouces have changed (e.g. the Central African war fuelled by
the demand for coltan- a mineral used in mobile phones, so if you have one
you're contributing to that conflict....). This is partly why the US
rhetoric of war in the current situation is so misplaced. The enemies of
America are not fighting for territory or resources (on earth at any rate)
but simply for the destruction of what they see as unholy.
<That apes engage in a sort of proto-warfare in no way suggests that
> organized violence is instinctive among humans.>
That's like saying "that chimps and humans share 98% of genes in no
way suggests a common ancestor". Of course it does- what is hunting, if not
organized and co-ordinated violence? The first modern humans lived by
hunting, meaning they were capable of organised acts of violence and
therefore capable of using those skills against other modern humans if they
chose to, or needed to (some suggest possibly against neanderthals, for
example. I doubt we'll ever know for sure).
> < By the time hominids arrived, all those old ape-like instincts were
> long gone. Without serious
> size differentials between genders, hominids had apparently outgrown the
> "big-ape" mindset in favor of the more egalitarian coupling characteristic
> of later humans. The structure of violence that held together ape society
> no longer ruled. Our ancestors were taking a big gamble to emphasize
> over muscle, and this would have left them far more vulnerable than apes.>
Not if that increased brain size and capacity allowed us greater
capacity to adapt to circumstances, and innovate new ways of avoiding
danger, finding food and so on. Gender size differentials are smaller in
humans, but that hardly makes humans automatically egalitarian. Pretty much
all of human history indicates otherwise, with the generally smaller gender
in the more subservient role.
<Cooperation among tribes would have been essential for our
No it wouldn't. Before there were distinct tribes, there were
simply extended family groups, in exactly the same way as many primates live
now. The internal heirarchy of those groups would have probaly have been
the same too, and these small groups would have been more than able to
survive without persistent regular contact with other groups. Looking at
tribal societies what do we see- lots of little tribes in relatively close
proximity but with different languages, customs and beliefs, but all sharing
basic hierarchical structures and so on. It's the same all over the world.
I don't disagree that there is a cultural level to conflict today, but
trying to argue that it doesn't have a precedent in nature doesn't wash.
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