金曜日, 1月 14, 2011

Humanity, Struggle, and the Fallacy of Peace?

When I started this blog seven months ago, I was already quietly starting to question whether "World Peace" is impossible, or even an unreasonable, ideal.

Back in my high school days I read this comic called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac:
This specific issue dealt with the concept of heaven, and in the authors imagination, heaven was a place without conflict, and free from want, which meant everyone sat around, completely still, and utterly content. At the time I did not think critically about society, but was getting deeply interested in religion and the content it espouses. If you were free from sadness, I thought, would joy even exist in its absence? Would you be moved from pure bliss to sing God's praises as so many paintings and stories of angels suggest, or would you, freed from all desire, just... sit there? I decided I do not wish to be free of desire. I want motivation to move, to act, to improve my situation and surroundings. After life ends, I may be faced with choosing between this world or contented perfection, but I doubt it, and I will put that aside for the rest of this conversation. But still, I think of this comic often, because now as I ponder the living world, I have to conclude that, my blog title still holding: If life were easy, it would be sooo boring!

I will not entertain the concept that you cannot improve your situation without putting someone else at a disadvantage. Most such modern philosophy quickly devolves into hyperbole-rich, hypothetical, meaningless pontification. What I do look to for the big-"T"-Truth, is the natural world, especially animals.

From the biological viewpoint, if humans had no new challenges, we would cease to evolve right? My logic for this comes from crocodiles. Basically the most successful dinosaur ever. It's a giant lizard, that swims, walks, and kills, and does it all with a smile. They have always lived in the same place, had plenty of food available to them, and reproduced unchallenged. So even after hundreds of millenniums passed, they stayed the same. I know that as a human, I will not do or see much  human evolution in my lifetime (indeed, sometimes it seems like I can see the opposite!), but the thought of humans staying the same in physical and mental limitations and ability for another million years is a depressing one.
It's not too late. To whip it. Whip it good.

I thought about this, on a very personal scale, for years. Challenge, goals, mile posts, and even set-backs can all be good things for learning and growing. Then about three years ago, I moved to just outside the Peace Park in Hiroshima City, formerly Ground Zero for the first atomic bombing on an actual target, and began my current job, including lots of reading and translating regarding that subject.

I want to make something crystal clear before continuing: I am absolutely, and unabashedly against the very existence of nuclear weapons, their proliferation, and the absurd thought that by having them, you are any safer. Living here, learning about every aspect of atomic weapons, from scientific creation and application, to resulting devastation and lasting turmoil; and above all meeting and working with actual atomic bomb survivors, has taught me beyond a shadow of a doubt that no space in humanity exists for ANY weapon with such lasting and wide spread repercussions.

One thing I never hear anyone say as a reason for why we should abolish nuclear weapons: human conflicts don't last long enough to justify their use. Every last soul in country A and country B could hate each others' guts, and feel it justified in their hatred, but 56 years later, where are the first two foreign countries this American visits, the first international friends I make, and the best time of my life experienced? Germany and Japan. The "Krauts" and "Nips" that Popeye cartoons stereotyped in prime, racist fashion during the war. Even in the '80s I remember watching these cartoons repeated on television, although I didn't understand fully what I was watching. Despite Hiroshima proving to be more resilient in its recovery than any scientists estimated, it is still not fair to your own offspring to inflict such lasting damage on a people, since decades later when you are dead and gone, the children who survived your atrocities are now having to cope with being around your children, who also had absolutely zero say in the matter, and just want to get along in peace.

But WMDs aside, is it natural to wage war? "Huh! Good god!" Is it really good for "absolutely nothin!"? Obviously not; human evolution, technological development, and history, have come from fighting a series of wars. The first tools, fire, and shelter, can be thought of as developments from war with our environment for to survive. Castles, jets, satellites, and and many advances in medicine came out of necessity from being at war with other countries. Even in the business world, we call competition that leads to lower prices, "Price Wars".

But back to nature. Plenty of examples of war exist in nature. Chimpanzees, and dolphins are thought to be some of the closest to humans in terms of intelligence. Perhaps that is why dolphins will play with and even save humans they find in the ocean, the same way we coddle and care for other species which we find cute. Yet that same pod of dolphins may willfully go scouting and attack other clans of dolphins. Recently, videos of Japanese bees and wasps waging war against each other have become viral videos on YouTube and you can see there and on National Geographic videos about ants, that even very low-intelligence, hive-minded insects wage war.

I am not condoning war, but my current working philosophy is that war is at least natural. Possibly at the core of the heavy losses and devastation to life, nature, and humanity that have accompanied wars over the last century, is our own foolish pride and attempts, through complicated treaties, embargoes, and alliances, to avoid small wars between specific groups. Instead we strain both sides and threaten their sovereignty for merely acting in the best interests of their people. We always refer to small waring regions as "unstable", but what if they are unstable before fighting breaks out, and war is their way of stabilizing?

A microcosm of our current predicament can be seen if we look at the history of North American Plains Indians. For centuries many had a tradition of counting coup. Despite constant tribal wars, casualties were low, because prestige, or making your enemy look like a fool, was prized higher than killing. The introduction of deadlier weapons from European settlers escalated the scale of tribal wars, and because of a gun's obvious advantage the Plains Indians began using them and conflict resolution went from making the enemy look bad, to outright kill-or-be-killed.

Some may argue that the progression of technology is to blame. Now that guns and nuclear weapons exist, there is "no going back". Again, I disagree. I don't see any need to go backwards technologically, but most of society has to change their unrealistic expectation that there is never a need for violence. Physical violence may be brutal and animal, but to deny ourselves that part of our evolution is denying we too are animals. If you look at the proportionate strength of wild animals to modern man, we are a pretty pathetic lot. This was probably not the case before, but physically, each new generation seems less able to perform manual labor, and mentally less able to express their problems, resolve them, and move on.

Ultimately, I believe the only way to fix society's problem with war and conflict in general, requires a mental shift, and that starts with how we ourselves think and what lessons we pass on to the next generation. Religious holy war-waging lunatics have the advantage, since their dogma also includes a doctrine to have as many children as possible, but if they are forced to interact with sounder, more well-rounded children in their schools and playgrounds, maybe the notion that "it's okay to fight through something" will return to society, along with something much closer to actual peace than what we have today.

Not a whole lot to speak of in my personal life, so I will rant next about Japan's English education and American political shortcomings next. It will hopefully be a little more stimulating than how that just sounded though :P

In the meantime, leave a comment and let me know what you think. Am I totally off my rocker, or does this make sense?
Love, Peace, and War!

3 件のコメント:

  1. I think you've got a lot of good points.

    Seems to me like nothing really bonds people together better than a good old fashioned natural catastrophe. I wish it didn't take something drastic like that, but sometimes it does; to make people step outside of their day-to-day selfish selves and become something more to work together.

  2. Right. But isn't that kind of struggle necessary? I don't want anybody to be a victim any more than myself, but adversity brings out our potential and "necessity is the mother of invention", no? Having everything means you have no needs, and then nothing new gets invented. (Which is worse?)

  3. http://zeitgeistmovingforward.com/