Let’s begin by defining human behavior. But the simultaneous, cautionary tale is that any generalization about human behavior is just in question from inception as there are so many variables that interface. We may, however, make an inspiring assumption that can be found in Buddhist Psychology and virtually all wisdom traditions. Despite all that, we have seen and continue to witness, that human beings are basically good. It may get severely cloaked and too frequently does, but down there at the core, people are good. It’s a healthy assumption to make and there is plenty of evidence of it.
I once had a Jewish Uzbek barber here in the East Village of New York City. Sitting in his barber’s chair, I listened to his stories about his living next door to Muslims on one side, Russian Orthodox Christians on the other, and how the families not only socialized but did business and inter-married. There wasn’t a thought that these distinctions should be the reason for separation in their village.
He told me this was the way life was throughout many regions, which were once part of the Soviet Union. The problems of separation did not happen on the local levels but as the identity of the people scaled to the level of State, Provincial or Federal governments, problems increased.
My experience in traveling across Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East bears out the experience my barber shared with me.
Wary as I am to generalize, I see that left to our own devices, without the interference from government, people enjoy life and celebrate together regardless of differences and in some cases because of the differences. It’s something enjoyable and from which to learn.
I do see that we as humans, as a species, have the true and full capacity to live peaceful lives in cooperation with other humans. It has been done for many millennia and there’s no reason for it to stop now. In fact, neuroscience wholly supports this as discussed in numerous of my previous articles. The bonding we do in order to pro-create, the socializing we do which releases oxytocin, “the “love and bonding hormone”, is designed to support our social nature. Yet we do see antecedents for violence, even theft in the behaviors of other species.
There are examples of fighting, conflict, and war among different species, as we know our own well and indeed, there are examples of both. By no means is fighting, conflict, and warring uniquely human. It’s not news that fighting over potential mates and turf, areas for nesting, for instance, occurs among homo sapiens and across species.
Fighting is long known to occur over prospective mates (not altogether unlike the human species) where it has been observed time and again the fighting of two males of a species, bird, or mammal, over a female. Conversely, there are examples among birds at least, that fight over males. In Nature, we find a plethora of nest-and-turf defending, mate-hunting behaviors that we could definitively define as aggressive and war-like. The tendency is ubiquitous, as are the tendencies to love, protect, nurture and play.
When the interests of money and power step in, there is serious “trouble in River City”. We would surely like to come to an understanding of the very basic nature of the human species with respect to violence, aggression, war, and peace. Even if we see ourselves as “basically good”, still, odd as it may sound, we seem to value both.
I have thought at times that, as much as I don’t want to think it, we only honor and seek to live in peace once we experience the horrors of violence and war. Perhaps we are very slow learners or very forgetful. Perhaps the story is a good deal more complex, and we truly don’t have full answers even if we can come up with practical solutions.
We pride ourselves on having capacities, which observe these phenomena in Nature and feel that we can consciously evolve beyond them peacefully. These aggressive behaviors clearly have their presence in us and some utility, but I think we all realize in our souls that there’s a more harmonious lifestyle that we can consciously choose and even habituate.
Through communication, reasoning with compassion, and empathy, is there a way to discuss differences and settle them among parties without killing each other or even threatening? Is peace to be defined as an external phenomenon, internal, or both?
The Bhagavad-Gita describes one of the most gruesome wars, of literally family members against each other, in which god Krishna urges Arjuna to go into battle yet with inner peace and Dharmic resolve. Lao-Tse describes war as the choice only when nothing else works. And then, one enters with “regret and a heavy heart”.
Samurais were to defend their turf with dignity and to kill only as a last resort if nothing else has worked. Traditionally, war was considered a lower expression of the human spirit but perceived at times, as regrettably necessary, this so primarily in the East. History is riddled with exceptions, though this motif, I believe it fair to say, is archetypal.
The same reluctance or humility I don’t see paralleled in the West. The archetype seems more to be “Divide & Conquer. We are the victors!” The Crusades typify this spirit of conquest, in the name of God no less. I suggest that it is largely the media to hold accountable for these massive distortions of what could otherwise be a healthy, robust, Nature-loving, vital and impassioned adventure called life.
It just does not sell many newspapers or engage enough people to watch the nightly news for whom the disturbing adage dictates: “What bleeds leads”.
The CIA has played a major role in Hollywood and the media for decades, shaping the story, glorifying and normalizing violence, aggression, and war in the minds of Americans. The video game industry continued this theme and now we have school shootings as a regular feature in American society.
If inner peace is the stepping-stone to a culture of peace, then without peace in the heart, how can there be peace in society?
Growing up during the Vietnam War, I used to say to myself and anyone who would listen:
“Here’s a solution for peace. Everyone! Go home to your families, or whoever you consider family, and make peace. Apologize, listen, and forgive. If everyone in the whole world did that, everywhere there would be peace!”
It seemed so logical to me as a teenager. You know what? It still does.
As a society, we are so far down the rabbit hole of self-interest that it generates a foreign policy in service to the military-industrial complex, a conversation about inner peace sounds like it’s from another planet. To discuss inner peace and Putin, Biden and the military-industrial complex in the same sentence sounds like I’m living in “la-la land”. Through their distrust of each other (which is so profitable it turns out) they have and continue to steer our world into further chaos, creeping ever closer to a potential nuclear holocaust.
What sane person cannot recognize the profound mental illness this displays? Yet our media whitewashes all of this, normalizes it, picks a side, seeks to heroize the side it selects, and demonizes the Other. If we do not recognize the true pathology of the political-military dance that dominates, how are we going to come out from under it?
Despite the human potential to go beyond war as just discussed, there has been a major war raging in Yemen, waged by one of the wealthiest countries, the Saudi regime, against neighboring Yemen, one of the poorest. This war is aided and abetted by the military super-power of the world, the U.S. on the side that needs the help least.
We do not hear much about the war in Yemen on the nightly news probably because the people are dark-skinned and poor. The war is virtually ignored.
The Saudis supply oil to the U.S., so they are “friends” of each White House and Congress, Republican and Democrat alike. All do their bidding and normalize their beheading of their own citizens, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the horrific treatment of women, and on. The pathology is perpetuated for oil, power, and money.
Our government tells us that we must do our ‘fair share”. Does that mean to do our part to feed the war machine that is killing young children? Pay the salaries of elected officials that we elect but do not represent us but those who put the most money into their campaign coffers? We, the People, pay for munitions to Saudi Arabia used to kill poor Yemini children.
Disturbing as it is that sovereign nations violate their agreements; nothing justifies the attack of a sovereign nation as Putin has with Ukraine. Our hearts bleed with all the suffering and fatalities occurring day by day in this and all wars.
By knowing something about the historical context, one can at least understand more of why this is happening. Mainstream media, right alongside, or as part of the military-industrial complex, is in the war business too and they continue to exacerbate it, not telling the whole truth about what’s going on or providing historical context so viewers, readers can understand.
Oil, gas, munitions and the money trail comes into focus. U.S. corporations are positioned to make billions or more on this war, as they do in all wars, including the war against a virus that stole the headlines for the last couple of years. War is ubiquitous, but not inevitable. Anything worth it takes work, and in this case, it is a lot of inner work among the ‘leaders.
What if the U.S. itself is, in its usually shielded way, posing a nuclear threat to Russia through its policy language and proposed military nuclear budget? Words can be powerful and calming or powerful and violent. Any reference to nuclear arsenals is enough to send chills down any sane person’s spine.
Humans have become so entangled in the game of chess using live weapons and jeopardizing each other’s lives, using people as chess pieces in the name of peace and Democracy that reflection on this is required to move into a true pursuit of peace.
From a higher point of view and the very humane, heartfelt wish to have a planet at peace, one is best to recognize a form of psychosis dominating the minds of those perpetuating this sick game that is destroying so many people’s lives.
When one looks from this higher point of view how far away from Nature, we as a species have strayed, how far away from the deep appreciation of beauty and what James Joyce elegantly called the experience of it, “aesthetic arrest”, we can become ill, or at the least, depressingly sad.
The disregard and disrespect of the gift of life are virtually too much for the more sensitized human to handle.
One sees that there are powers in our midst who treat life so lightly and are riveted by compartmentalized versions of reality in their minds, either unable or unwilling to step back to see the mess that they have wrought on our species and on the Earth.
When one goes down the rabbit hole of national, foreign policy, and military strategy which are under-girded by the fundamental belief that if “we don’t get them, they’ll get us”, we end up with a world run by lunatics, which is indeed what we have.
When one fights something, it strengthens the perceived adversary. This happens on the battlefield; this happens in biology. Those pesky cockroaches survive everything! Shall we just keep spraying?
For us to choose to create a peaceful planet, peace in every family and community across the world, we do want to examine what incites and triggers violence. What is there in us and around us that elicits that reaction? Profiteering is its own major issue to be addressed.
The cause of violence has been a subject long studied throughout history by philosophers, sages, and over the past century, psychologists and evolutionary biologists. War has become so profitable, with the loss of morality, profit-obsession rules the day. Fear is played upon, the famous “what if”, which phrase has cost the American taxpayer at this point, literally trillions of dollars.
Klaus Schwab, et al know how to take advantage of the suffering of people, make their offer ‘sweet’ and many of the unschooled will go for the bait because it appears to offer them a cushy life without having to work and much leisure time to enjoy. But do they realize that they will be sacrificing freedom, liberty, and their humanity? Do they ask, “who will own everything?”
Still and all, peace is possible, and it will emerge as soon as people sit down at the table, drink some calming tea, break bread, sing and harmonize together, watch a comedian, create some good cheer, and give each other a dignified way to exit the wars that everyone knows should have never taken place at all. In a very humane fashion, allowing kindness and understanding to reign, allowing all parties to apologize for transgressions, agree to a give and take so all parties leave the table with something for their people and agreements can be made in a win-win scenario.
There are many more challenges and belief systems to be challenged and deconstructed, but with these very simple, humane actions, at least the cessation of overt battle can occur and the whisperings of a new level of trust can begin to be built. Peace can be possible.