2.b.8 – War is a prerogative of human culture?

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January 26, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

War is a prerogative of human culture?

A very old phenomenon in human cultural history is war. War requires great organization, cohesion and group identity and the studies on people that in the past two centuries were still living by hunting and gathering, show that in all of them there was the cycle use of war to settle territorial disputes (even four times in one year).
This war activity is different among the apes, where fights between groups are exceptional, unlike those between individual dominant males; war seems therefore to be a typical human need. In nature the animal populations remain stable, despite the large number of children, because of predators, diseases, accidents, drought, cold and hunger; being killed by his own kind is a rather rare event, however, becomes more common in artificial conditions of overpopulation as may happen in the zoo.
In humans, the development of the war conduct is due in all probability to the lesser impact of the so called stabilization factors, the resulting increase in population and the subsequent decrease in the availability of food that inevitably leads to an increase of territorial conflicts.
In the animal world two basic types of struggle can be observed:
– struggle between predators and prey, whose purpose is to kill or be killed; this is the most violent form of struggle for survival;
– fight between rivals; the most classic case is that of males who fight for the possession of females, which aim is not the death but the submission of one’s opponent (which could also be a member of his flock and perhaps a close relative).
In the first form, a predator, if he wants to eat, can’t avoid killing the prey and for the prey, on the other hand, no defense is too risky, considering the danger; in the second form of struggle, instead, killing one’s opponent is not only not necessary, but if he is a member of the same group it would be even harmful; it is also clear that, even for the loser, it is convenient to retreat before getting really hurt or risk being killed.
The teaching that once again we must draw from nature is the following: in the fight between rivals the clash, even violent, is a test of strength, not an attack to the other’s life, who usually comes out a little hurt, but alive. Moreover it is to be noted that in nature often there are precise rituals, according to which it is avoided, when possible, physical confrontation.
In human communities of all types, including tribal, we find these two forms of struggle: the prey is killed without mercy as all predators do, and their spoils are divided among the hunters and their families, while within the community there are also clashes, even very violent, but governed by specific rituals, in which it is avoided to kill the enemy.
If we now consider a war, it is evident that the two sides do not fight as rivals in love or opponents in sports, but as if belonged to different species; in war you fight to kill or you will be inevitably killed. The cannibal people even ate their defeated opponents, dividing the remains as it is used with the animal preys; in less extreme cases, the defeated were still stripped of clothes, weapons and anything that could have a value; the same predatory attitude is found then during the looting of villages or cities enemy.
So many are the attitudes that indicate that the relationship with the enemy is man-animal type (meaning for animal both a prey and a predator) and not man-man.
Continuing to demonstrate how war is a typically human phenomenon, where it is possible to see all the cultural and evolutionary strategies, a problem arises: how is it possible that the man, selected by millions of years of natural evolution for a sociable living in the community, has fought and continues to fight many bloody fratricidal wars? The answer must be sought in the nature of human culture and in the different ways in which it is expressed. To drag a nation at war it is needed to develop a system that inhibits his natural social instincts; the simplest system, that has always been practiced, is to identify enemies with animals of a different species, or with dangerous animals anyway. For this purpose are utilized all possible cultural variations: the enemies are not like us, in fact they speak a different language, have a different color, wear a different dress, practice a different religion, and so on; and hence, it becomes of fundamental importance the exaltation of what can be used for the identification with group: for this reason each tribe soon develops a particular accent, its colors of war (or a currency), its religious symbols, its special hairstyle, its characteristic tattoos etc.., people who have not these signs of recognition are considered as animals to be killed.
War exploits all the basic strategies of man: the organization and harmony of the community are essential elements for any war activity, the specialization of some members of the community as warriors is also necessary, as it is the manipulation aimed at achieving increasingly powerful weapons.
The cumulative culture has always given his contribution to the war: over time, the communities have grown in size and soon formed alliances between different communities; within the specialized community of warriors have formed increasingly specific subgroups (archers, knights, artillery etc.); in the case of arms, the contribution of cumulative culture is even more evident, as in short relatively time they passed from  the sword to the atomic bomb.
The discovery of remains of Neanderthal men with the tip of spear stuck in the skeleton suggests how the war has accompanied and influenced the cultural evolution of man.


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2 Comments to “2.b.8 – War is a prerogative of human culture?”

  1. xe mercedes benz mb…

    2.b.8 – War is a prerogative of human culture? | Ofelon…

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