5.6 Some Emotional Astigmatisms Thwarting Attempts to Reduce War


Since war is a possible consequence of the existence of independent groups, and since, as Andreski (1954, 1964) points out, in 4000 years of recorded history, only one year in fifteen has been free of war, i.e., without a major battle somewhere or other, its role in the cooperative competition of groups needs to be objectively studied. Let us be quite clear that in a Beyondist framework, war has no necessary role, since the aims of cooperative competition could be ensured without it. But let us freely recognize that it is unfortunately a common degeneration of competition which Clausewitz (1943) perhaps too nonchalantly accepted as "the continuation of policy by other means."

It can surely be said that nine out of ten human beings, i.e., excluding some psychopaths, idiots and theatrical types, profoundly desire to put an end to the waste and horror of war. For that reason, and because war is a social disease as complex as cancer is as a physical disease, parades and pious protests[10] against governments caught in wars are a waste of time compared to contributing to social research. How can people expect their governments to show the superhuman qualities necessary to save them from wars, begotten in the end from the selfish unrealism of the people themselves? For most of those same people cannot exercise the self-control, say, to give up the deadly habit of smoking, or to stop murdering more people per annum by drunken driving than are killed in the world's wars?

For good reasons, a rational man can admire the response of the pacifist and the ad hoc conscientious objector. Inherent in their position, however, there is the conclusion that "If war has even a chance of occurring as a result of inter-group cooperative competition, then group competition (and therefore distinctive groups) must go." Incidentally, this has enough counterparts in other realms of belief to be recognized as a mode of thought which has been a systematic weakness in human reasoning, e.g., in certain Buddhist sects which believe that since all life is accompanied by pain and frustration the ultimate aim is the negation of life. (Compare our folk saying: "It's your wants that hurt you.") To eliminate war by eliminating competitive life presents itself, to anyone with faith in evolution, as the supreme example of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Besides, it will not work. Nothing happens simultaneously in all groups, and the group which forces its government to lay down arms, regardless of the issue, at once receives a new government from the invading group, which is not pacifistic. To create a power vacuum in the hope of controlling power is automatically self-defeating. The solution lies in the opposite direction, in an as yet undesigned machinery to produce a controlling equilibrium of positive forces.

Even in well-designed machinery for a federation of nations machinery which permits war-avoiding adjustive expansions and contractions as discussed below, and which sets up emotional idealism more appealing than war criminals and madmen will arise. A police force will then be necessary, and, as two intransigently pacifist intellectuals Russell and Einstein belatedly came to admit to their followers a "police force war" is appropriate. Thus some well-known conscientious objectors ceased to be so in World War II, when the particuar views of the enemy became apparent to them. (The slogan appeared: "War is Hell. Hitler is Worse. Stop Hitler Now!") Einstein in 1931 urged all young men to refuse all military duties. But in 1941, he was writing to President Roosevelt urging construction of the atom bomb. And even Bertrand Russell suggested a deterrent war against Russia, in 1948, believing that if the nuclear weapons race should ever shift in favor of the Communists, the world would have a less benevolent dictator than the democratic United States. He unrepentantly adds in his Autobiography (1968, Vol. 2, page 8), "Nor do my critics appear to have considered the evils that have developed as a result of the continued Cold War itself, and that might have been avoided ... had my advice ... been taken in 1948." (The same argument for preventive war by the U.S.A. was made by the leading physicist and mathematician von Neumann.)

To a student of moral values it is worthy of serious thought that the leading universalistic religions, though they have sought to reduce war, have never categorically denied its morality in all situations[11]. It is not helpful to this issue to say that "Christianity (turning the other cheek) has never been tried," for even if theologians agreed that this is the interpretation of Christianity in the given situation it could not, for the above reason, work out. It is true that there is universal emotional repugnance, which has disproportionate political value, against seeing passive resisters (for any cause, good, bad or indifferent) calmly massacred for their obstructionism. But, even within this century, the massacres of the Armenians, of the Jews, and of the Kulaks of Russia has nevertheless proceeded. It only requires a Ghengis Khan, a Stalin or a Hitler with the courage of his convictions (however much we may dislike his convictions) to "call the bluff" of "passive resistance," on no matter what scale. "Civil disobedience" was blown up into a saintly cult by Ghandi, and masqueraded as a vague new religion (especially among the literati) only because the tradition of the English Christian gentleman made massive executions impossible. When the English withdrew, slaughter on a grand scale, as an inevitable consequence of the inherent insincerity of the mutual impositions and aggressions hidden in "passive resistance," followed almost immediately.

Central in the vortex of emotion which denies to our nauseated senses some objectivity of perception of war is, of course, its horrifying cruelty and loss of life. Without denying these last by one iota, let us recognize that one may negotiate the edge of a precipice better by not letting the horror overwhelm one's judgment. Since we are all to die, in fashions that we do not care to anticipate, the question could be raised whether a life is not more fulfilled and significant by dying for one's cultural principles than for nothing. A perhaps shorter life lived for the spiritual values of one's group is better than a longer one lived merely as a digestive tube. Men die from over-eating, drunkenness, dangerous sports and much else about which no "conscientious objection" protests are made. For example, in the last generation deaths from lung cancer, largely associated with a trivial luxury of smoking, exceeded in this country all deaths from World Wars I and II by a wide margin. By automobile accidents in the U.S.A. alone, 48,000 were killed on the roads in one typical year (1969) and the manner of their death was no less horrible and cruel than that of the 43,000 war casualties in nine years in Vietnam. (Analyses report that 28,000 of these deaths were through drunken driving and 60% of all accidents occurred on"recreational joy riding.")

When people think some activity is worthwhile, they are apparently willing to risk death or agony for it. The agony of surgical operations before anesthetics did not convince people (Mr. Pepys of the famous diary, for example) that operations should not be performed.

Among the horror writings that have not added to perspective are the lurid predictions (not unlike those made to Londoners before World War II) that the new weapons and now one refers to nuclear explosives would wipe out 95% of the world population and essentially end the human race. Kahn's (1960) passionately attacked dispassionate analysis of these dire predictions is more realistic than most, and, in accordance with what is known throughout history about the balance that grows between offense and defense, he reaches very different conclusions about the "end of civilization." Even if, as an imaginary exercise, we suppose this 95% dying in war instead of in peace, it is horror-mongering to call this the end of the human race. Estimates have been made that ten to fifty thousand men, from the usual assortment of occupations, possessed of one good surviving university library, could reconstruct our present culture. (Perhaps we may suppose the remote island of Tasmania, well away from "rocket alley," to survive; or at least, the city of Hobart, sheltered under Mount Wellington, and this alone would supply more than our minimum.) Indeed, if we are being realistic, there is even to be mentioned on the credit side that a re-peopling of areas from a fresh start would permit a planned increase of cutural and genetic quality from the beginning, much as the re-peopling toward the end of the last ice age marked the rather dramatic change from the Neanderthal to the Cromagnon and modern races of man.

In seeking to place some of these disturbing emotional situations in perspective let us debunk the pro-war illusions equally. There are certain philosophers and writers (not to mention poets and song-writers) Nietzsche, Fichte, Gumplowicz, Treitschke (1916) and Andreski among them who have argued that war is a boon, bringing an indispensable bracing experience to the human spirit. General Patton (1947) as one might expect, asserts "War is the supreme test of man, in which he rises to heights never approached in any other activity." But one might well listen more sympathetically to Eisenhower (Ottawa, January 10, 1946): "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can .... Yet there is one thing to say on the credit side victory required a mighty manifestation of the most ennobling of the virtues of man faith, courage, fortitude, sacrifice." So broad and perceptive a psychologist as William James (1962) considered this true, but was then moved to search for "a moral equivalent to war." Much literary reaction to war in the past at least up to Tolstoy, Sassoon and Owen was as falsely jingoistic and theatrical as some modern writing has been misguidedly cynical and disparaging of military heroism. It remains a grim but indisputable fact that facing the dirt, the waste, the sordidness, the weariness, cruelty and death of war, for loyalties beyond the comfortable interests of life has tempered and tested the morale of men and women to limits to which they would normally never find themselves challenged.

One is reminded of the mountaineer Hornbein (1965), on climbing Mount Everest: "Everest is a harsh and hostile immensity. Whoever challenges it declares war. He must mount his assault with the skill and ruthlessness of a military operation." Perhaps the distinction between survival as against nature and against other groups in conflict is in the last resort not a basic one.

Nevertheless, when some balance of comparative emotional sanity has been reached regarding this sanity-testing topic the fact remains that there are better ways less costly, cruel, sordid and brutish ways of settling inter-group clashes without aborting the primary purposes of evolution. If there is any single cause of war it is low emotional frustration tolerance, and one trembles to reconize that if there is any characteristic of youth over the whole world today distinguishing it from the past, it is low frustration tolerance, begotten of ease and a parental unwillingingness to teach restraint. Every psychological index as of 1970 points this way, and trouble may be expected when this group gets into the saddle.

In terms of the effects of war upon culture, e.g., in increasing willingness to search for new knowledge, in chastening arrogance, and in breaking the grip of obsolete habits, there are good as well as bad effects. It is in regard to effects on human genetic resources that war at least in the last century or two has to be regarded with deep suspicion. There is much circumstantial evidence that war kills off the best. It is amazing that social scientists have so neglected to follow up some pointers on this issue (Ardrey, 1966; Darwin, 1859; Bogart, 1919; Cattell, 1933a; McDougall, 1925), so that today we know nothing with certainty about any genetic effect of war. We know with fair certainty that in physical fitness and mental stability drafted men are superior to the general population. The rejections in the draft for low intelligence, neuroticism and psychotic tendencies are a substantial fraction of all rejections. On the other hand, by occupational status selection higher managerial and professional levels are less exposed to attrition. However, among the young, who are the bulk of the induced, these have not yet found their status and stand to be lost as the poets Owen, Brooke and Seeger, and the budding scientists Lodge and Moseley (the discoverer of atomic numbers) were lost as much as any other types. Among those actually selected for the military forces, the differential casualty rates show little selection on gross indices, but there can be little doubt that war is an area where, contrary to civil life, the reward of enterprise and altruism is death, and that of apathy and selfishness is life, (the evidence of Meeland, Egbert, et al (1954) on the psychology of those who take higher risks in war is relevant here). It is little wonder that the cultures of countries very frequently involved in war (as Athens and Sparta in classical times and Spain before the Renaissance) are apt to end in mediocrity and stagnation.















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