Homo Sapiens — War Or Peace

Salud, Salut, Gesund—As Long As You’re Healthy
by Mort Malkin

Homo Sapiens — War and Peace

In the last issue of Connections Magazine, SSG discussed leadership and organization in human society and questioned the need for the elaborate bureaucratic structure that has evolved in the nation-states of today. Swarm theory was examined in other species — insects, birds, and mammals — which seem to need no leadership but instead rely on collaborative intelligence to act in ways that insure the survival of the group.

The principles of anarchism espoused by Kropotkin, Tolstoy, Emma Goldman, and many others bring the concept of collective leadership of individuals to Homo sapiens. Anarchism posits that being human can enable us all to act responsibly and peaceably and that we don’t require government departments and agencies to guide our cooperative behavior.

Others, the majority in fact, say that the genetic heritage of our species as hunter-gatherers has firmly established violence in our nature. They say it is the reason war has always been part of our history, and always will be.

History is generally written in terms of battles, wars, and military heroes. But a careful examination of historical sources and even the archeological record show that, in addition to all the violence, there have been many peaceful periods, long standing peace treaties, and peace heroes all around the world.

Starting about 60,000 years ago when natural selection determined much of our genetic code, our hunter-gatherer ancestors killed large and small game animals to provide food, but it was only the hunter half of the population. The gatherers, predominantly women, picked the leaves and fruit, dug roots, and ground wild grains — nothing violent. Indeed, the feminine traits of empathy and nurturing are largely responsible for the survival of a species with no natural means of self defense, neither speed afoot nor claws & fangs. Even with the advantage of weapons, hunters had to cooperate to bring down large game animals. Any conflict within a hunting party that was settled with fists or spears resulted in an unsuccessful hunt. Further evidence against the dominance of violence in Paleolithic mankind comes from the artistic cave paintings of Altimira, Lascaux and other sites. The bison, ibex, deer and horses were depicted as majestic beasts, almost reverentially. Very few of the images show animals pierced by spears.

After the establishment of agriculture, herding and settlements — the Neolithic period — there is much evidence of peaceful trade and little of warfare. In the early historical period of Mesopotamia — the Early Dynastic — the first cities found that more was to be gained by commerce than by war. The king’s function was less as commander-in-chief than as a spokesman to ask the favor of the gods for his people. Nippur, considered by all a holy city, was the meeting place of the League of Cities, where weapons were banned. Some of the clay tablets representing negotiated agreements were stamped with the royal seals of the several signatories.

History, from the late 3rd millennium on, is replete with wars, conquests, empires, and illustrious military figures from Sargon of Akkad through the Assyrian kings to Alexander the Great, the Roman emperors, Genghis Khan and into post Renaissance times right up to the present. Yet, peace also reigned in many places many times throughout history.

Let us start in 776 BCE with the first Olympic games. A sacred armistice was observed throughout Greece, no checkpoints required. A one month truce, soon extended to three months, was observed for hundreds of years. The general tradition of peaceful travel and cultural exchange had earlier been established by the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete in the mid to late 2nd millennium BCE. The Minoans of Crete, the New Kingdom of Egypt, and Mycenaean Greece influenced each other in mostly peaceful ways to mutual benefit.

After the Arab conquest swept across the Near East and North Africa in the 7th century CE, the Moors and Arabs established a Muslim district in Southern Spain. By the 10th century, Cordoba had grown to be a world-recognized center of culture, education, and religious freedom. Peace and prosperity reigned for more than a century.

Other periods and other countries also experienced notable times of peace. Here is an abbreviated list: the Late Period in Egypt under Ahmose II, the Buddhist Han Dynasty of China, the Antoine Dynasty of the five Good Emperors of Rome, the Mayan Classical period, the six Indian Nations under the Great Law of Peace, the Quakers in England and here in the Colonies, Denmark following the Peace of 1720, Switzerland since the cantons agreed on nationhood in 1848, the Tulip Era in Turkey, Sweden from the early 19th century till today, Costa Rica which in 1949 found no need for an army and so abolished it… As well, there has been a parade of peace heroes (listed chronologically) from Isaiah to Buddha, Moti, Alcidamus, Asaka, Jesus, Maimonides, George Fox, William Penn, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and scores more. As Milton noted, “Peace hath her victories, no less renown than war.” Homo sapiens has at least as many genes that can lead to peace rather than to war.
Mort Malkin is the executive Gadfly of The Peace Academy @ Liberty. This essay appeared in the November 2007 issue of Connections Magazine.

One Response to “Homo Sapiens — War Or Peace”

  1. cheap web hosting Says:

    cheap web hosting…

    Happy to contribute Brian….

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.