by Mickey Z., Planet Green: It’s not often that I write specifically about war. Modern conflicts over natural resources, and those which our changing climate might bring about sometimes come across my desk, but the topic of the origins of war itself (not a specific conflict, but war as a concept) isn’t something I’ve long thought about. But today I came across a really interesting new article in Scientific American that offers some great insight.
After going through a brief recap of popular explanations from neo-Darwinian and Malthusian analysis, author John Horgan comes to some thoughts on the subject from Margaret Mead and those who’ve elaborated on her ideas.
Warfare is “an invention,” Mead concluded, like cooking, marriage, writing, burial or the dead or trial by jury. Once a society becomes exposed to the “idea” of war, it “will sometimes go to war” under certain circumstances. Some people, Mead stated, such as the Pueblo Indians, fight reluctantly to defend themselves against aggressors; others, such as the Plains Indians, sally forth with enthusiasm, because they have elevated martial skills to the highest of manly virtues; fighting bravely is the best way for a young man to achieve prestige and “win his sweetheart’s smile of approval.”
The article goes on to speculate as to the origins of conflict
Horgan paraphrases and summarizes the Mead position, calling war a self-perpetuating meme. Since war is a mental construct then, an invention, we have to invent a new one to replace it
Mead said, “Once an invention is known and accepted, men do not easily relinquish it…people must recognize the defects of the old invention, and someone must make a new one…to invent new forms of behavior which will make war obsolete, it is a first requirement to believe that such an invention is possible.”
It seems to me, that in the green sphere at least, we collectively have a notion that a new invention, a new world is possible, one where disregard of the consequences of our actions on other people, animals and places is not acceptable. We may disagree on how far to take that notion, that compassion towards life, but there is the notion that we need to create something new
But the crucial thing, and this really is the next meta-issue in green (forget about climate change, biodiversity loss, peak-whatever), is inventing and spreading new forms of behavior, illustrating a new form of community and building that community. Showing not telling those people not convinced that not destroying one another and the planet around us that we’ve got a better idea here, a better behavioral invention.