Before you answer, think about this… is it really nature or nurture? Genetics or Environment? Is being warlike something that is born into oneself, with no possibility of avoidance, or is it truly the product of one’s upbringing and society?
The United States Armed Forces budget for 2020 is 748 BILLION USD. For comparison, the next largest military budget in the world, The People’s Liberation Army (China), is 177.6 billion USD. This means that the USA spends a full 570.4 billion or OVER HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS MORE than the next largest (in terms of expenditures) army on Earth. Collectively, the USA outspends the next 10 largest armies on Earth, every year. If people are warlike, then the evidence shows they clearly spend a lot of money and resources on it. Especially Americans (of course, we all knew this).
In 545 BC, a famous general and strategist was born in China. You may have heard of him, through his writings, I speak of the great Sun Tzu. Yet war was being waged long before his auspicious birth. There are early records of war from around 2700 BC, and as far as I can tell, the earliest records of war come from the kingdom of Kish, around 3500 BC, and people were probably fighting in ancient Mesopotamia as far back as 10,000 BC, perhaps even earlier.
Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: https://www.ancient.eu/war/
War apparently grew out of the ‘tribe’ mentality, ‘us’ versus ‘them’. There were many invaders, and many conquerors throughout ancient times. You of course know of the Romans, but have you heard of some of the other nations / people they fought with? Have you heard of Gaul? Of Carthage? Thrace? The Huns? The Samnites? Or the Cimbri? There were many other tribes or nations that declared war upon each other throughout the ages… The Vikings, Lombards, the Persian Empire, the Mongols, and the Britons, just to name a few.
The Spanish explorers wreaked havoc with the new world, killing and destroying the Aztec tribe. Yet, and this is certainly not excusing primitive Spanish behavior at that time, I must point out that there was warfare on that continent (Mesoamerica), carried out most notably by the Mayans and aforementioned Aztecs, before the Spanish arrived.
The European settlers (and this is well documented) waged horrible wars against the Native American people they encountered in what is now the United States, slaughtering countless numbers of even women and children. I was a big fan of the series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and I admit that I cried when I watched the episode of the Washita Massacre, ‘Washita’. If you don’t know the details of this historical massacre, I urge you to Google it and learn.
Yet, and once again I do not wish this to be an excuse for their behavior, which was primitive and unjustifiable, there was war on the North American continent before the Europeans arrived, most notably by tribes such as the Apache, who apparently raided other tribes. Again, this is no excuse, the massacre of Native Americans was wrong. Plain and simple.
What I am trying to say is that many races all around the Earth were warlike, it seems, going back as far as recorded history. Africa, it seems, may have been largely peaceful, at least until the great Zulu king Shaka turned the entire southern continent violent and bloody. Yet Africa seems the exception to the rule. Almost every kingdom in recorded history fought against some other kingdom at some point in time. It may be hard, therefore, to argue that human beings are not warlike.
And to tell the truth, I don’t even want to. What I want to ask is a different question.
Have you noticed how the conversation has been steered away from the question I am about to ask? Think about this… have you noticed how every single movie (and many TV shows) inevitably erupts into some kind of armed conflict?… The Avengers (and all comic book films), Star Wars, Terminator films, Jason Bourne, Quentin Tarantino films, almost any film that is not a biopic or romantic comedy (and maybe even some of them). Think about ‘The Watchmen’. Look at all films over the last two decades… what do you see? War? Violence? Using violence to solve problems? Perhaps glorifying violence? Do any of those films really try to show that violence is wrong?
Do films or video games try to teach us that humans can become more peaceful?
Do you think our society has evolved away from one that worships war and is no longer tolerating it? Or do you think it is devolving into such a barbaric state as to make one envy ancient times? Tell me in the comments below please.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
– President Dwight Eisenhower
If peace has ever been achieved, then it must be possible. If a single group of humans can turn away from war and violence, and start using other methods (such as science or spirituality) to solve their problems, then it must be possible for all to do so.
Are humans warlike by their very nature?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know the answer to this question. To my knowledge, scientists have not identified a ‘war’ gene, yet it is also possible that evolution, in order to keep the species alive through millennia of changing environments, bred a kind of warlike ‘tribalicity’ into humans.
I prefer to live with the words of James T. Kirk:
All right. It’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we won’t kill today.James T. Kirk, A Taste of Armageddon
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