The Cause of War: Poenaphilia and Tribal Instincts [Love to punish]
Copyright 2014, John Manimas Medeiros
I disagree with the main premise of Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong. In this book, according to the review by James Fallows (The New York Times Book Review, December 14, 2014), "As a cause of terrorism, Armstrong says, nationalism has been far more important than religion." The subtitle of this book is: Religion and the History of Violence. I have not read the book, but Fallows' review appears to be meticulous and conscientious, and he states that in this book Armstrong presents a scholarly argument that the violence of terrorism and war is caused primarily by the state rather than the church, or primarily by political conflict rather than religious conflict. If this is the core of the book, then I feel that what has happened here is that Armstrong has regressed and retrieved her initial impulse -- to become a nun. She is using her powers of reasoning and her mastery of history to defend religion. It is okay to defend religion, but I believe most strongly -- it is my deep conviction -- that religion is defended by a much simpler observation of human history: religion does not cause wars, it is simply used by one group (or tribe) to promote and defend violence against another group (or tribe). Armstrong blames "nationalism," and this kind of argument is usually followed by a specific logical solution: All we need to do is transform the "parochial" exclusivity of nationalism to "pan-humanism" and inflate the humanist viewpoint, like a giant balloon our in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, to replace nationalism and the violence it generates. But I disagree.
The real cause of nationalism is not a people's desire to be a cohesive and pure nation, but to become a cohesive and pure TRIBE. Look at the history of nationalism again, through the eyes of a social scientist, through the lens of sociology and psychology. People caught up in a nationalist movement are invariably already a nation, or they have the social and economic bonds of a nation but perhaps not yet a unifying politics. Thus, the politics of "nationalism" which is really an emotional movement, is in fact simply a tool, a psycho-social tool. The purpose of the tool is to motivate a large group of somewhat diverse people to overcome their differences of opinion, and differences of history and ethnic origins, with a contrived and or real tribal bond. Look at some specific examples, the most explicit being 20th century Germany: We are Teutons; We are the pure, valorous Viking-like Nordic Race, the Aryans, pure and Prussian in our viewpoint on the human identity. To be imminently human means to have all aspects of civil society guided or controlled by militaristic values: strict discipline, strict obedience, and strict order. Not only the trains, but everything must be on time. THE PRIMARY TOOL OF THE STATE IS NOT THE GUN, BUT THE CLOCK. The social contract is an agreement, and therefore it is a kind of trade. All governments are imposed. You, the individual, agree to obey the law and do what is expected of you, be a good citizen. Be a patriot: love your father's land. And loving one's fatherland means being a devoted member of a tribe, not a nation. Tribal love and tribal membership is in fact a primeval human emotional need that is missing from the national state. The nation state has to strain itself to be emotional, because it is essentially an act of reason. The nation is not an organization of human dimensions; it is super-human and super-tribal in size. It is a trade: you diminish your tribal loyalties and replace them with national loyalties and you will receive certain benefits of great value: 1) a national economy; 2) a national defense in the form of disciplined armed forces and the latest technology in violence; 3) you still get to talk and act (patriotically) like your membership in the nation is still based on an emotional love. That contrived love of the fatherland, or motherland, or country, is regularly revived (like a religious tent revival) by parades, songs, poems, political speeches, flags, uniforms, celebrations, bumper stickers and the most powerful promoter of all, the rhetoric of violent nationalism, the words: "Algerian is French" or "Italy for the Italians" or "We are German" (even though we live in Austria, or Czechoslovakia) or "My country right or wrong, but always my country" or "America is a Christian nation" or "We have to get rid of all these immigrants" or "the pure race is the true patriot" or "I believe in American "exceptionalism." All nationalism is horseshit. Forget about the overwhelming scientific evidence that if a group of humans practice racial purity they practice a form of incest and become mentally retarded. If you want to use history to prove a point, there is no point better proven by history than that no great civilization was started by a tribe of married cousins. Science tells us that a pure race is a dying race. Great Britain and the United States of America are two of the best examples of how and why great societies grow out of mixed races and or mixed ethnic groups, miscegenation. Other examples have occurred: Russia, modern China, modern India, modern Brazil. Just in case you thought that the British are English, you should look again more closely. The history of Great Britain tells us one of the hidden secrets of Western history: Great Britain was an extreme "melting pot" of different ethnic groups long before "diversity" was "invented" in the USA. Just so you know, medieval Britain was invaded by, visited by, and married into Vikings, Italians, Dutch, Irish, French, Germans, and God only knows who else. The Britannia that explored, invaded and conquered the world was most definitely not a "pure race." Many historians will tell you, if you ask: The United States of America is an imitation of the British Empire. Start with the British Empire, add pizza, Africa music, and replace the teaspoons with guns, and you have modern America.
Let me get back to the meaning of nationalism as tribalism. The impulse to assert one's membership in a tribe grows directly out of the basic human need to belong to a tribe, to be part of a group that is larger than the immediate family, and in most cases even larger than the extended family that we call a "clan" or the "gens." This is an emotional need, not an impulse to be organized, but an impulse to be thrilled by the emotionalism of tribal membership. Remember, one cannot claim tribal membership by signing a document or by joining an organization. You have to claim tribal membership by claiming a "pedigree" whether it is valid or contrived. Many people who make a lot of noise about their membership in a tribal or racial group are just plain liars. Out of the terrifying fear of not belonging, they invent their personal history, and genetic history, so that they can claim membership in the pure race or pure tribe. Just as one example, the invisible "elephant in the room" of American racism, is this: Just as about one quarter of the population are dark-skinned citizens with some white ancestors, another quarter of the population are in fact light-skinned citizens (who pass for "white") with some black ancestors. I predict that f genetic testing were done, fully one-half of the American population would be found to have either an African or a Native American ancestor. Try a random sample.
The primary cause of modern "terrorism" and the conflicts that we call "assymetrical warfare" grow out of conflicts between nations and tribes. There are people in this world who really do not want to become a "nation." The asymmetry in asymmetrical warfare is embodied in a nation at war with a tribe. The tribe (or group of tribes) does not have what nations have. It does not have the latest technology (but it steals what it can). It does not have a strictly disciplined and intensively organized armed force, but it has guerilla warfare, which is known worldwide to be lethal and formidable and the same method of fighting that caused the British colonists to wear out the British army on the continent of North America. The world has not and will not forget that armed peasants can beat the crap out of a high technology force. It is still possible, and it is attempted repeatedly. We are not sure yet that the USA has "won" its war in the East. It could be that the low-tech terrorists will not give up (having observed the Vietnamese experience) until the USA is worn out and gives up. It is easy to kill an ant or even many ants, but not possible eradicate ants. The Americans did not win World War II. The Russians defeated the Third Reich with waves of Russian peasant ants. World War II continued from 1945 through 1989, but was restrained by the fear of nuclear suicide. Korea, Vietnam and many other nations throughout the world suffered profoundly from the war between the American West and the Russian East. World War II is not over yet. But now the participants and the issues have become more complex. The Americans are now imitating tyrannical dictatorships, acting as though they lost the Cold War, acting as though they believe democracy is inferior to the oppressive and emotionalism of Prussian order and discipline. The best explanation of the cause of World War II appears, as many people know, in Childhood and Society by Erik Erikson. In brief, Erikson advances the social-psychological evidence that a "nationalistic" society promotes war by the way that it raises its children. This social science of Erikson will be convincing to anyone who examines the argument with an open mind. Train children to view obedience as a religious doctrine, and the adult that results will kill on commanded.
ALL GOVERNMENTS ARE IMPOSED ON SOCIETY, INCLUDING DEMOCRACY. The same Rousseau who gave us the benevolent concept of the social contract also argued that people need to be forced to be free. The social contract is an agreement, something that two parties have imposed on themselves, a list, brief or lengthy, of things that each party will do and not do. Look at the Constitution of the United States of America. It is a list of carefully considered things that the government will do and not do, and we know what the citizens are expected to do: obey the law and fight to the death if anyone tries to interfere with the bond between government and the people, the American "tribe" that sustains the commitment of the people to the government. This is why American "patriotism" is often grotesquely exaggerated and appears contrived. To many people outside of North America, the patriotism and nationalism of Americans, the foolish assertions that America is an "exceptional" nation, is not healthy. In fact, it is terrifying. Here we have a very large and powerful nation, the world's most heavily armed nation, the world's most violent society and a racist society, claiming it is better than all other nations. And entitled to use violent force to discipline other nations, like a Prussian father disciplines a rebellious teenage son. Who can sleep in peace while this monster is loose in the neighborhood?
All governments are imposed, including democratic governments. The United States began as an imposition of democracy on a society that desired it, but there were factions who did not desire real democracy, and of course there still are. The schizophrenia in America, writing the most democratic institution of its time, while half of the new nation depended desperately on slave labor, and in particular the "peculiar institution" of African slave labor, was and continues to be the fatal flaw behind the American tragedy. Ask this question: Is there a reason why American will fall? Why American will fail? Is it "capitalism" or the persistence of pathological tribalism? If there is a problem that will destroy American civilization, it is the problem defined by pathological tribalism, the psychological disease that causes people to act as though an ethnic group is invading the pure tribe, and must be stopped. How odd is the United States of America in that it is obsessed with pushing away and pushing out the black tribe that it invited to come and do the work that needed to be done. Come, work here, as a slave, so that we white folks will then be free. Why not? Sounds reasonable to … a lunatic.
So we have a lunatic nation in America, armed to the teeth and arguing that it is Christian and "exceptional" and worthy to be the leader of the world. In this reality, the current scenario of the political reality of Earth in 2015, religion is being used, as usual, to justify violence. Muslims are using a corruption of Mohammed's Islam, Americans are using a corruption of Christ's loving kindness and radical equality, and others will use Atheism and the Cult of Science, similar to the Nazis, in order to motivate people to assert their membership in a tribe that needs to be pure and repel or eradicate those who are not the pure tribe, and therefore comprise an obstacle, a kind of genetic disease, to be removed for the safety of humanity. That is why, when we get really crazy in our drive to purify the racial tribe, or the tribal race, we call it "genocide." Religion is a tool in the promotion of this violence, but not the real cause. The real cause of violence is the human mind, a defective product of amoral evolution. We adapt, and we adapt to our fears. When our fear is extreme, our violence becomes as extreme as our fear. When we fear, desperately, that we will not belong, not be an emotional member of the tribe, will not be entitled to the love and affection of our fatherland and motherland, fear that we will be impotent and unable to have the orgasm of belonging, we will be thrilled by the act of killing anyone who is named as the cause of our distress. We are driven to punish those who threaten the tribal membership we must have as much as we need food, sex, and approval. That is the cause of war. The primary tools of war are: the clock of government -- doing everything at the appointed time, weapons, and the religion that gives people the reasons they need to enable them to do what they would never do if they were in their right mind. That is why and how they have forgiven themselves after the most extreme and despicable violence: forgive me for acting crazy and I will forgive you for acting crazy. The solution to all this is not a form of unity promoted by international love, but the imposition of government, the primary rule of such government being: Don't act crazy. When this rule is effectively applied, there is no war. I will give this to Karen Armstrong, and to anyone who is concerned about the relationship between religion and violence: All we have to do, if we could do it, to stop the violence of war, is acknowledge that "Thou shalt not kill" means just what it says. It applies to all killing. It is obvious to a person who is truly intellectually and emotionally objective, that this Commandment is useless if it is interpreted to mean only that the local crime of "murder" is wrong but it is noble to kill an enemy of the tribe. Think, my child: Does "Thou shalt not steal" mean that it is okay to steal from another tribe? Be real. What kind of God are you believing in? Do you really believe that a benevolent God, a Creator God, would make a rule that says it is wrong to kill your brother or sister but killing a cousin is okay? Every tribe talks like its God is universal, but if your God is universal, then God's protection must extend to everyone, not just to your tribe. The claim that war is justified morally, that religion supports a "just" war, is ridiculous. God would not create the universe and then instruct you to destroy it. If I love you, I don't burn down your house. I say to Karen Armstrong and to everyone, war is not an act of Nature. Hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes are an act of Nature, but war is an act of men. Men can kill women and children. Women do not sustain an impulse to kill other women or children. War, being an act of men, is not an act of God. In any case and every case where religious thought is offered as a justification for war, men are shitting on religion. Using religion to justify war is as violent as pushing the body of a child into a wood chipper. Imagine you hear that your child has been murdered. Later, you meet the person that killed your child and you ask them why. They respond promptly, with a genuine innocence: "Because you told me to, of course?" That is the experience of your God. As I argue in my book The Primacy of Stewardship, the best preventive of war might be a serious effort to compel men to accept accountability for it, and discredit the tradition of blaming the will of God. Then again, it may be that the genetically imposed need for tribal belonging is a force that nations cannot replace. We may engage in war simply because we have neighbors who belong to a different tribe. If this is the case, we will have wars until we have a genetic mutation that produces an overwhelming emotional need to belong to a group that has billions of members. We will find out, in the future, if this is possible. Until the human character is changed, we will feel compelled to name and kill an enemy, and use our wonderful adaptable brains to persuade ourselves that killing is good and commanded by God. Thank you, Dear God, for letting me know that my crazy behavior is okay, and you will still let me into Paradise even though I have acted like a mindless predator without a conscience.
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