Re: [sixties-l] War and male bonding

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: Mon Jun 26 2000 - 03:54:06 CUT

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    > Jerry West wrote:
    > > I am glad that you pointed out that war is a given part of the human
    > > condition.
    > And Carrol Cox replied:

    > Oh come now. There is absolutely no evidence of this. Humans (if you
    > are snobbish in your definition of humanity) have been around for about
    > 100,000 years, if you are less snobbish for around a half a million, give
    > or take a few hundred thousand. It is a matter of considerable debate
    > among anthropoligists just how violent the first 100,000 years were --
    > but it is pretty certain that war (in anything remotely like what we know
    > as war) has been around for not much more than 5000 years. And to
    > see what *most* "war" would have looked like up to the last 2000
    > years (or less) see Nestor's account of the war of his youth (a glorified
    > cattle raid) in the *Odyssey.*

    In the earlier periods of human existence that Carrol refers, of which
    we know very little, the population of humans on the planet was so small
    that groups or tribes were unlikely to come in contact with one another,
    and what would be considered the warriors among them would have had more
    to do with fighting beasts than with other men.

    But what we have seen in recorded history, at least that which can be
    verified, is that warmaking has been a part of the culture of most
    diverse societies and while men, even as today, are pressed into duty
    against their will by an army not of their own choosing or as in many
    poor, third-world countries, by dire economic necessity, they take to
    the military life like a duck to water.

    Most of us tend to forget, and some are in a constant state of denial,
    that we are first of all a species of animal, albeit (at least in our
    estimation, but arguable) the highest form. And that while we differ
    from most other species because we are formed socially and do not act or
    react from instinct, there are quite likely aspects of our behavior that
    are more instinctual than learned and this willingness to fight in wars
    in which one has no personal interest and the bonding that impels it may
    be in that category.

    Coming to this conclusion is not an easy one for me. In analyzing modern
    society, I was ready to categorize war as a necessity of capitalism,
    which, in fact, does require an army ready to unquestioningly enforce
    its dictates (which is what our military is and has been). But the
    "socialist/communist" world has behaved no differently (I use quotes
    because they were arguably neither). When the Russian army intervened in
    Budapest in 1956 or in Prague in 1968, was the consciousness of the the
    Red Army superior to that of the US military in Vietnam? Hardly. When
    the Chinese Army invaded Vietnam in 1978, after that country's long war
    with the US, what was in the minds of the Chinese soldiers, and was
    Mao's regime any better than that in Washington? Men killing other men
    with whom they have no argument comes too easily to blame it on one
    system or another.

    > Moreover -- for several hundred years now the men and women (e.g.,
    > Albright) who make wars are *not* the people who fight them. Don't
    > try to tell me that cultured gentlemen and ladies sitting in comforting
    > board rooms and deciding on the slaughter of millions are operating
    > out of any kind of "natural tendency to violence." War, like tiddlywinks
    > or double dating, is a social relation, not a "thing" with an essence.

    This is not the point that Sandra Flowers initiated and which launched
    this thread. It had nothing to do with who plans the wars and why they
    do so, but that they can count on getting the soldiery to do the
    fighting and dying. And moreover, those making the plans know it full well.

    Jeff Blankfort

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