Human Nature and Violence
Many of the books that I read depress me. They tell me that human beings are violent by our very nature, that there is nothing we can do to avoid this tendency to kill our fellow men. When I read these books it causes an imbalance in my psyche. Am I wrong? Are they really right about man’s violent nature? Am I a fool to believe in humanity’s potential for enlightenment and bliss?
It would be so much easier if they were right. Then I wouldn’t have to stay in this world of suffering anymore and struggle to teach and persuade and bring love and light into the world from my soul to your soul. All of my personal experiences tell me that you can overcome being wounded. Yes our universal human experience of being vulnerable especially in our love lives, and in our infancy and our later years leads to the inevitability of being hurt and suffering a broken heart but that our ability to tap into divine and inexhaustible sources of creativity and nurturing and love is what constitutes our true nature. A broken heart is only a developmental stage that leads to a bigger heart capable of receiving infinite love. Your heart can transmit all the love it receives to many souls and all at once. If you are not connected to the divine source of love then you can only give what your heart received from those individuals who loved you, and then it does seem that the love you give to one is not available to give to another. This is the great paradox of love. An isolated human heart cannot give what it doesn’t have to give.
I love when I read an author who thinks in evolutionary terms, and especially in the evolutionary timeline of humanity. Before The Dawn by Nicholas Wade is a very well written and well researched book that brings together archeology and genetics in a very informative way. One of the main points he stresses is one that I had not totally comprehended. I write about the great leap forward that occurred about 50,000 years ago, and in fact I say that this leap was directly due to the presence of crones, post menopausal women, and that this leap is the historical evidence for when menopause appeared in human history. What I didn’t realize specifically is that the Hunter Gathering society of humans did not exist before this time.
I remember reading in many places that archeological sites of mankind prior to the great leap were identical to archeological sites of Homo, erectus. But I never considered that these modern anatomic humans as they are called, could not be called Hunter Gatherers. They ate food but they didn’t grow food. They collected or gathered what was edible in nature. They had tools, and weapons and they did hunt. They did have fire. What they didn’t have was the Hunter Gatherer culture that started fifty thousand years ago. This is a subtle but important distinction that really clarified and refined my thinking. They were biologically human or homo, sapiens sapiens but without human culture they were human animals not human beings. It is not enough to be genetically homo sapiens sapiens, to be a human being you must have human culture too. My unique thought is that the necessary and sufficient requirement to create this human culture of Hunter Gathering and make us into human beings from human animals is the presence of post menopausal women.
Human animals prior to becoming Hunter Gatherers, lived from roughly 190,000 years ago to 50,000 years ago and Hunter Gatherers lived from 50,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago when agriculture was created by women. Some isolated groups of Hunter Gatherers such as those living in the South American rain forest or in New Guinea lived untouched by modern civilization until the early Twentieth Century. The main characteristics of Hunter Gatherers that differ from modern civilization is that they were egalitarian, primarily because there was no wealth, and that the sexes were roughly equal. Hunter Gatherers lived in balance with Nature, and worshipped Nature and lived in accordance with the Divine Feminine. Life and the source of life was more precious than material things and women were venerated as being closer to the source of life. Many modern individuals, especially those who are disgusted by the misogynous, violent, and materialistic culture of patriarchy, yearn for those characteristics of Hunter Gatherer life, without desiring to give up science and the modern world.
One of Wade’s main themes that he carries throughout his text is that Hunter Gatherers lived in a state of perpetual warfare. If he is correct then I am proved wrong. If Hunter Gatherers lived in perpetual warfare and morphed seamlessly into the world of professional armies of modern civilization as science and technology advanced and society became capable of having enough excess wealth to afford to go to war, then indeed I am wrong and would have to concede that human beings are innately violent and perhaps not worth saving.
Those who know me best know what a stubborn stiff necked Jew I am, and I do not concede. Hunter Gatherers were amazing physical specimens of strength, virility, flexibility, and courage. They were the essential male heroes that all men aspire to be. Their heroism is inside of every man but their heroism was different in nature than the violence of patriarchal culture. Their heroism was placed in the context of nature, and in service to women and the Divine Feminine. Hunter Gatherers did not rape nature and they did not rape women within their own societies.
Hunter Gathering men were hunter killers, and prior to the great die off of most giant beasts 12,900 years ago, they hunted mastodons and mammoths, dire wolves, saber tooth cats, lions, giant sloths and cave bears all with sticks and stones. They hunted in a group of men from their tribe, they sacrificed their lives and their blood for their tribe and most essentially to get the red meat that the women of their tribe needed to make babies. Their bravery served the women of their tribe and the children they would produce.
In the more recent past, Hunter Gathering men hunted smaller game and spear throwers were replaced by arrows and especially as populations enlarged and resources became scarce, they engaged in border skirmishes with other Hunter Gathering tribes. Wade makes a great deal of the life time mortality and morbidity from these skirmishes especially in New Zealand and states that Hunter Gatherers lived in a state of continuous warfare. It was not warfare. There is a difference between being a vigorous strong man who individually and tribally protects and provides for women and warfare. Warfare requires professional soldiers dedicated to killing other human beings. Warfare requires an ideology, a culture of death. Hunter Gatherers have a culture of life and dedication to life’s source, the Divine Feminine. That shift in culture is what patriarchy brought 7,000 years ago.
Especially in the distant past when human populations were so small, a rare encounter with other Hunter Gatherers, especially in the vast areas of North America so much larger than New Guinea, was an encounter that lead to trade and the sharing of human life affirming values. Most archeologists agree that warfare historically did not exist and cannot exist until human populations became fixed in location and lived in settled communities.
Therefore, war is a product of human culture and not human nature. What is human nature is to defend oneself and those you love. I like anecdotes. I remember when I was thirteen in ninth grade in 1969 and going with my friends on the bus and subway from Queens to Manhattan for an anti-war rally protesting against the Viet Nam War. I am generally speaking a pacifist, with the exceptions of the good war, World War II, fought against the Nazi’s and the wars that Israel is forced to fight against the political heirs of the Nazi’s who love to kill Jews and want to end the Jewish state. In other words I am against war and violence unless it is forced upon you in order to survive.
I am a large man and a natural red head with a red headed personality so most people are surprised to find out that I have only been in one physical fight in my entire life, and that was indeed in ninth grade. Now in the sixties in New York City, there was a lot of tension between Jews and Blacks. It is actually quite sad that it existed because Jews and Blacks are natural allies. When the civil rights movement began, 70% of all white freedom riders who risked their lives to end legal discrimination against Black people were Jews. Jews are a tiny minority of all Americans so to make up 70% of all White freedom riders is very impressive. Of the three men famously murdered in the South during this time two were Jews and one was Black. If you look at many of the photos of Martin Luther King, marching alongside of him you will usually see Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of my heroes.
Unfortunately the teacher’s strike in New York City in 1964 broke the political union of Blacks and Jews and Black anti-Semitism and Black radicalism was something I was afraid of in 1969. Here I was protesting the Vietnam War walking through Central Park when some Black teenagers tried to mug someone. My friends and I started to leave the area. One of the young toughs came up to me and punched me in the back of the head. It was a glancing blow, did not do anything other than to make me mad, and I yelled out very loudly and I guess instinctually "HEY!!". I turned around with a red angry face and perhaps smoke coming out of my ears and my would be mugger ran away. I did not run after him. My friends and I continued on our day and enjoyed being with the cool people who were war protesters.
The point of the story is that human nature is to want to be safe and to understand that being strong enough not to be a victim of violence is a very good thing. Being a pacifist and being against war does not make you a wimp. Sometimes you have to be even stronger to be against war. The important thing to know is that violence is not human nature. The need for safety is human nature and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s situation is human nature.
I look at history and I see the natural progression from small tribal groups into nations and larger and larger groups of humanity seeing themselves as sharing more with one another rather than being different. When you see yourselves and your neighbors in this way there is no need for violence.
The great thing about modern science, especially archeology and genetics is that it has essentially proved that all human beings, all of us homo, sapiens sapiens are the descendents of a small group of human beings that lived in Africa about 50,000 years ago and that the total number of human beings was about 160 individuals. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all the same family. Violence between humans is not only stupid, it is tragic. Imagine a family reunion with cousins, and uncles and aunts and grandparents and it is easy to have 160 people there. Now imagine into the far future that your descendents have been separated by geographic isolation and look different from each other in relatively minor ways. How would you feel about your children’s children fighting each other?
When we all realize that our human nature is to love one another because we are all family, and to make sure that all of our family is safe, then there will be no need for violence.