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Este Blogue é um estudo da Associação Projecto Raia Alentejana e tem como objectivo a discussão da violência em geral e da guerra na Pré-História em particular. A Arqueologia da Península Ibérica tem aqui especial relevo. Esperamos cruzar dados de diferentes campos do conhecimento com destaque para a Antropologia Social. As críticas construtivas são bem vindas neste espaço, que se espera, de conhecimento.

Guerra Primitiva\Pré-Histórica
Violência interpessoal colectiva entre duas ou mais comunidades políticas distintas, com o uso de armas tendo como objectivo causar fatalidades, por um motivo colectivo sem hipótese de compensação.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Taming Humanity's Urge to War

Must lethal conflict be an inevitable part of human culture?


SALT LAKE CITY—As deep as scientists peer into human history and prehistory, they have found evidence of violence. That was the bad news from 17 researchers in anthropology and other fields at “The
Evolution of Human Aggression: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts” conference, held at the University of Utah at the end of February. The good news is that much can be done to reduce lethal conflict in the world today. As participant Frans B. M. de Waal of Emory University put it, humans are not “destined to wage war forever.”
De Waal, who studies primates, noted that observations of lethal group encounters among chimpanzees, our closest genetic relatives, have promulgated the fatalistic belief that “war is in our DNA.” But chimps are also “
peacemakers,” de Waal pointed out; they reconcile after fights by hugging, mouth and hand kissing, mutual grooming and food sharing. Humans engage in such behavior, too, de Waal said, flashing a photograph of John McCain and George W. Bush embracing—albeit with hideously insincere grins—after their bitter primary contest in 2000.
Reconciliation takes place, de Waal contended, “whenever parties stand to lose if their relationship deteriorates.” Chimpanzees from different troops, which compete for territory and hence treat one another with lethal hostility, rarely if ever reconcile, he noted. Among humans, however, “interdependencies between groups or nations are not unusual.” To promote peace, he suggested, nations should foster economic interdependence through alliances such as the European Union. Although the E.U. has “not created love between Germany and France” and other former adversaries, de Waal acknowledged, it has greatly reduced the likelihood of war in Europe.
Harvard University anthropologist
Richard Wrangham agreed with de Waal that primate violence is not compulsive, or “instinctual,” but is “extremely sensitive to context.” One of the most robust predictors of violence between two groups of primates, Wrangham proposed, is an imbalance of power. Chimps from one troop invariably attack individuals from a rival troop when the attackers have an overwhelming number advantage and hence a minimal risk of death or injury.
Although humans are much less risk-averse than chimps, Wrangham asserted, human societies—from hunter-gatherers to modern nations such as the U.S.—also behave much more aggressively toward rival groups when they are confident they can prevail. Reducing imbalances of power between nations, Wrangham said, should reduce the risk of war.
So should controlling population, according to anthropologist Polly Wiessner of the University of Utah. Wiessner is an authority on the Enga, a tribal people who raise crops and pigs in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Warfare first surged among them 200 years ago, Wiessner said, after the introduction of sweet potatoes led to food surpluses and rapid population growth. Mortality rates subsided after Enga elders instituted stricter rules for warfare, such as bans on killing of women and mutilation.
The introduction of modern medicine into Enga society some 25 years ago decreased childhood mortality, triggering another “youth bulge” and surge in tribal conflict. Mortality rates have soared, Wiess­ner explained, because Engans now fight with shotguns and automatic weapons rather than clubs, knives and spears, their traditional weapons. Moreover, young mercenaries called “Rambos” hire themselves out to tribes in exchange for cash, young women and other booty. Together with promoting birth control, giv­ing young men “a meaningful way forward in life” should decrease violence, Wiess­ner proposed.
Climate change has also driven conflict. This lesson emerged from Patricia Lambert’s studies of the Chumash, hunter-gatherers who inhabited the coast of southern California for millennia before the arrival of Europeans. Many Chumash skeletons display signs of violence, including skull fractures and embedded arrow or spear points. Analysis of tree rings and other evidence, said Lambert, an anthropologist at Utah State University, suggest that violence among the Chumash escalated during periods of drought.
Lambert warned that droughts, which are expected to increase as a result of global warming, are already triggering conflicts around the world today. To drive this point home, she flashed a photograph of a well in Somalia; so far 250 Somalians have died battling over control of the well. To forestall such conflicts, Lambert said, governments must ensure equitable distribution of water and other resources.
The most upbeat speaker was Harvard psychologist
Steven Pinker, who argued that—contrary to what many scientists once believed—levels of violence are much lower in our era than they were before the advent of modern states some 10,000 years ago. According to ethnographic surveys and archaeological evidence, Pinker pointed out, 30 percent or more of the members of tribal societies died as a result of group violence; that percentage is some 10 times greater than the proportion of Europeans and North Americans killed by war-related causes during the cataclysmic 20th century.
Pinker identified several possible reasons for this trend. First, our increased life expectancies make us less willing to risk our lives by engaging in violence. Second, the creation of stable governments with effective legal systems and police forces has eliminated what British philosopher Thomas Hobbes called the “war of all against all” among pre-state humans. Third, mass media and travel have boosted understanding of, and empathy toward, those beyond our immediate family and even nation. This may be the best news of all: civilization, which has often been blamed for war, is actually helping us achieve peace.


Comments:
candide at 10:12 AM on 04/21/09
Great, an extreme oversimplification of just a few aspects of human culture passed off as science.
galaxy_man at 01:23 PM on 04/21/09
These people probably also subscribe to "social contract" theory. Every time I read something like this I come away with the feeling that the real motive of modern sociology is simply to preach the values and benefits of being more modern, as if that has anything to do with basic human nature.
maxjohnson at 03:42 PM on 04/21/09
The human tendency to wage war with other humans is based above all on the perception that we are different from other people.
When we find perceived common traits and values with other people, we tend to become friendly with them.
Therefore, if we want to avoid potentially devastating wars in the future, we should try to develop an understanding of every single culture and identify what unites instead of what divides us.
scientific earthling at 08:07 PM on 04/21/09
Man is a tribal animal, early in his evolution the strongest ruled the tribe. Men like other animals sleep, during the process he has dreams and nightmares. Thinking individuals used this to their advantage to create the ideas of gods and demons to usurp power from the strongest, now the craftiest ruled the tribe.
When tribes met, just as with chimp tribes conflict resulted and one leader ruled the merged tribes. With time we got larger tribes, organised religions and bigger and more devastating wars.
The underlying cause is the underlying need in every man to be leader, a result of our evolution.
Biodiversivist at 01:17 AM on 04/22/09
Good book on the subject, "Constant Battles" by LeBlanc. The fossil record is appalling.
When they first found the ice mummy in the Alps there was all kinds of speculation about his copper ax. Was it a religious object? Was he a shaman? Turns out he had the blood of four people on his knife and an arrow in his back.
http://www.biodiversivist.com
galaxy_man at 08:52 AM on 04/22/09
The following is a direct response to this comment.You realize of course that globalization is accomplishing just that through the irradication of all cultural diversity. Oh, I'm not saying it'll be finished anytime soon. But it is happening all the same.
However, I don't believe that will erase the need for war on Earth. Man is an inherently violent and competitive creature - against his environment, against his neighbors, or (most oftenly in this era) against himself. Our lives are defined by strife.
What many do not care to think about is the idea that this is good for us. Our greatness is derived from competition and struggles against our peers. The ancient Greeks knew this - it's the reason so many amazing works of art and literature are traced back to that time and so many of today's examples imitate them.
War is an expression of humanity's violent nature. It will exist as long as we continue to strive for greatness. I am not advocating that war is a good thing; only that it is a part of us and we should learn to accept it.
In short, show me a world at peace and I will show you a world that has grown stagnant.
x59324 at 09:03 AM on 04/23/09
Drastic oversimplification of war as an extension of economics: Once a society has a surplus of some sort then bartering can begin, ushering in an age of modern economics following the basic rules of supply and demand. When supply can no longer keep up with demand no matter the increased bartering cost of the widget/resource then war ensues. Especially, if the widget/resource is demean essential in protecting and maintain their way of life. If both sides believe they can win then conventional war will occur. If one side feels it cannot win but has no other recourse then an insurgency will occur.
Biodiversivist at 11:23 AM on 04/23/09
WWI and WWII were not about resources. Come to think of it, few modern wars seem to be about resources. I suspect that our propensity for war was put in our genes to protect resources and that proclivity remains with us. People will start wars at the drop of a hat.
http://www.biodiversivist.com
AbleCluster at 07:46 AM on 04/24/09
Seems to me we have enough on our plates as it is! I mean really!
RT
www.anonymity.es.tc
nobody at 10:49 AM on 04/24/09
Can I offer the following in response to Galaxy Man's statement?
1. Man is not inherently violent. It is not our natural state to be actively seeking physical combat with other humans. I doubt any of us reading this article are experiencing the urge to get up from the keyboard and attack the closest person we can find, risking our own serious injury or death in the process.
2. Ironically, war is aided by our propensity to COOPERATE with our fellow man rather than an inborn tendency to seek out conflicts as individuals.
3. Our "greatness" is derived from a number of adaptations, including:
- Our ability to make and use tools
- Opposable thumbs
- Bipedal locomotion
- Abstract thinking
- Awareness of past, present & future
- Language
I'm sorry if this is an amateurish comment on this subject, but I reject the idea that we have some sort of inbuilt biological imperative to wage war, and that we "should learn to accept it."
Michael

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