Human Hell and the Demons of War
Branch Warfare and the Evolution of Aggression
The pages of history, those monuments to humankind’s brief rule over the planet, are replete with violence, death and destruction. Indeed, it can be argued successfully that war, genocide, ethnic cleansing and human violence against each other have defined humanity’s tumultuous existence on Earth. We are inseparable from death and destruction, suffering and violence. Turning the pages of the little we know of our own past, one thing becomes quite apparent: Throughout time, in all corners of the world, mankind has lived side by side with war, destruction and death. We have defined our existence through the self-inflicted violence we unleash upon ourselves. What is it about the human condition that espouses in us a propensity to grossly annihilate ourselves, inflicting horrendous misery onto our kind?
Violence and humanity were born conjoined twins out of the thick canopy of our ancestral home in the Eastern African jungles. Even in the ape-like appearance and behavior of our primate selves could our violent genes be seen. Competition forced upon us the will to survive through the defeat of competitor groups. Wars waged high in the canopy became the first symptoms of our disease. Group versus group, competitor versus competitor, the violence ingrained in us manifested itself in the primitive battles and hollowed screams of our long-gone ancestors.
Branch to branch, foot by foot, with nail and teeth the prelude to modern warfare was born.
Struggling over territory we fought interlopers; competing for finite resources we waged battles. Our drive to procreate pitted male versus male in animalistic bouts of combat that killed, wounded or banished. The winner of such fights controlled fertile females, claiming new forested territory as a result, thus becoming the new procreator of genetic bonds, killing off genetic competitor’s offspring if he had to. Survival of the fittest ensured that only our most able ancestors succeeded and passed on their seed to future generations.
In a world of survival that depended on an ability to defend the group and protect territory from alien invaders our primate ancestors had to evolve violence. Only those who developed the greatest propensity to violence and those who possessed the best skills in combat could be assured of survival. Thus, it was these skills and propensities that got passed down generation to generation, eventually becoming attached to our evolving makeup. Survival of the fittest demanded that violence become part of the human condition, a necessary and adaptable behavior needed to survive and thrive.
To fight or fail, to battle and win, our early days, full of competition for sexual mates, territory and finite resources, became the primitive engenderer of the violence that befalls humanity today, just as it has throughout history. To develop aggressiveness, propensity to violence and skill in combat assured our ancestors lived another day. To fail in battle meant almost certain extinction and genetic banishment. It was those who survived, those who are today our most direct predecessors that were the most violent, the most lethal and most adept in aggression whose genes we eventually inherited.
The greatest symptom of our disease today was spawned in the wars of survival emanating in the now forgotten days of yesteryear. The virus that causes so much death, destruction and misery today was forged before we knew what we would eventually become. Out of necessity, out of adaptability and based on the laws of nature humankind arose from the jungles bipedal and intelligent, predisposed of violence and competition. The laws meant for the animal world mutated in form and substance with our ever-evolving brains, creating the most lethal, self-destructive and violent mammal the world has ever spawned.
Conditioned Minds, Hidden Realities
Our mistake is not wanting to see who and what we truly are. It is living in the delusion of our grandeur and the imposition of our omnipotence. It is neglecting to acknowledge the reality of our origins and the truth behind our behaviors. It is living in the delusion that we are something we are not. Thinking ourselves placed on this planet through the hands of our metaphysical idol, we believe in the façade of the magnificence of our civilization and the perfection of our existence.
Failing to erase the delusion of our god-appointed reign over the planet or the deity-inspired anointment over all living creatures we blindly devour anything in our path, destroying the knowledge of our being by the evisceration of our home. Thinking ourselves a completely different entity than the mammal world we belong to, we refuse to realize that from our cousins our behaviors arise. All mammals derive from a common ancestor, a rat like creature that evolution transformed to the plethora of diversity our species is slowly making extinct. It is only natural, then, that we share many of the same traits and behaviors as our blood relatives. As an example, we share over 98 percent of the same genes as a chimpanzee, while we share over 90 percent of the same genetic makeup as a common mouse.
To study the animal world is to in many ways delve into the far and not so far reaches of human behavior, peering through the unobstructed lens creatures sharing many of our traits comprise. To study the behavior of our closest relatives is to dive into the deepest wells of human evolution and seeing who and what we really are. By understanding that which we fail to escape but refuse to acknowledge better humans can we all be made to be.
We fail to understand where we come from, what we once were and how evolution works. Thinking ourselves immune to the same laws of nature encapsulating the rest of the animals world we are in essence abandoning an enormous chunk of information that can allow us to better understand the human condition. We do not comprehend that evolution works in eons, not decades, that behaviors and genetic mutations transcend generations and that much of what we think of as human nature today was first brought to light hundreds of thousands of years ago, long before the arrival of civilization, technology and religion.
Our religions have made us believe in the exquisite creation of our civilization and in the chosen ascendancy of our almighty sovereignty. They have, through the perceived greatness of our species deriving from the heavens above, guided us on paths of human myths, not realities. Created before our minds could conceive of or understand our relationship with the animal and natural world, religion furthered beliefs at odds with our animal selves and our own behavioral and instinctual evolutions. It condemned the idea of us as animals inclined with many of the same characteristics as the mammalian world. Instead, its dogma demanded that were gods onto ourselves, rulers of the planet, created by our deity in its same image.
Religion commanded that we look upon ourselves as separate entities from anything living on Earth. We were placed on the planet by powers higher than ourselves, created out of thin air, becoming human the moment we took our first breath. Evolution was non-existent, as was the idea that humankind was once part of the animal world. Our evolving physical and mental realities were never taken into consideration, nor the truth of the natural world that enveloped us.
Religion that was created thousands of years ago continues to control our lives today, with the same primitiveness of days gone by and with the same belief structure that fails to include the knowledge and intelligence we possess today. It is these mechanisms, along with our inability to escape the cloud of self-aggrandizing delusion hovering above us that continues to plague our advancement.
We live in the denial of our existence, believing us superior and chosen, unable, unwilling really, to accept that which our minds and egos refuse to acknowledge. For to degrade ourselves as having risen and indeed being part of the world of the beasts and mammals would be to strike down the fallacy of our own self-absorbed greatness that has led us down the wrong road for the last ten-thousand years. Conditioned for millennia to believe in our own hegemony and importance, we have been led astray, lost in our concrete jungle ecosystems, wandering aimlessly on our road to perdition, passing through the ruins of the knowledge that can save us but that we are destroying, even as we refuse to accept the reality of our creation and the truth behind our behaviors.
The animal world that birthed us have we abandoned, along with the vast knowledge it possesses. The keys to understanding ourselves lie in front of our eyes, in the world we refuse to acknowledge and only seem to want to destroy. Instead primitive we remain, thrust upon our violent selves by our refusal to evolve past the dogma of ancient times that was born to ignorance and fear. A perplexing quandary has arisen that denies the truth behind our ways and the understanding we desperately need to squash our demons. In light we see no evil and in darkness the truth remains.
The grand lie we live of our god-like divinity has for centuries clashed with the great truth of our animal-like reality. Except we are too delusional to see beyond the mirage of greatness we espouse onto our fragile egos. The great fallacy of our omnipotence is corrosively leading to the impotence of our continued existence.
Evolving Brain, Advancing Civilization, Destructive Violence
Spit out of the jungles by evolution after we landed on solid ground from the dense branches of our trees above, we began our great Diaspora, ever-slowly traversing savannah, desert, forest, tundra and oceans, reaching the far reaches of the globe. Yet within us we carried the virus that to this day continues to plague our existence.
Attaching itself to the human condition like a blood-sucking leach firmly entrenched on a mammalian body, our propensity towards violence has never left us. Like many species of animal, including our primate cousins, aggression and violence are deeply entrenched in our psyches. The real danger, however, lies in the evolving brain we have over the millennia allowed to develop.
What separates our aggression from the instinctual one residing in the animal kingdom is our capacity for intelligent, analytical and cognizant understanding. That is, our intelligent brain has the capability to mutate our many passions, emotions and aggressions into organized violence against our own kind, done methodically and purposefully, thereby superceding any instinct we might possess to the great detriment of our fellow man. The threat to our race is that unlike animals, whose aggression is minimal and based on instincts of survival that also serve the laws of nature, our propensity towards violence exerts pressure to endanger our own kind thanks to the complex mechanizations of the mind. Our deep thinking and highly intelligent brain unleashes violence not according to the laws of the jungle but for much more sinister purposes dealing with our highly volatile and misunderstood animal passions.
With feelings of anger, hatred, competition, revenge and jealousy so ingrained into our animalistic selves, it becomes extremely difficult to sequester them in our daily lives. These emotions, and the reactions inherent in such circumstances, are unique to the human race. It is our species that can act out violently against such passions; we are the only animal that can direct our passions in violent outrage, whether at one person, an entire army or an absolute nation. Our vast superiority in intelligence over the animal world, combined with the same behaviors and propensities as our mammal relatives, makes us much more dangerous animals than previously existed. It is our mind, combined with our animal passions, that allows our violent and aggressive selves to mutate to the kind of destruction, death and misery we are so capable of.
It is this Molotov cocktail of human intelligence and animal passions that makes of man that most dangerous of animals. Intelligence and passion, when mixed together, can create a volatile concoction that has been manifested in the often bloody history of man.
When combined with the collective brain of the many, such as in the case of tribes or nation-states, the propensity towards violence against competitors or rivals becomes even greater, escalating into full-fledged war. The same parameters that led to fighting among our primate ancestors and the animal world of today helps bring to the surface the human hell that has shackled us from our earliest beginnings and that today leads to untold levels of misery worldwide.
Competition for food, resources, sexual partners and territory condemn humans to releasing into the open the virus of violence attached to our psyches that lingers hibernating in the innermost closets of our minds, ready at any moment to makes its ominous entrance into our lives.
With our more intelligent mind, however, new non-nature parameters that open the scabs of violence have emerged in the last several hundred thousand years. As differences of religious dogma arose, eroded and mutated throughout tribal societies, so did the propensity for war based on differences of belief. Indeed, wars of religious inclinations have killed, maimed and destroyed more humans than any other excuse for warfare. The untold suffering caused by religious wars cannot be adequately described in words. The “my god is better than your god” syndrome, combined with the ‘my religion is the true and only religion’ belief in which battles for the true religion continue to be fought, has condemned hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of human spirits to the nadir of nothingness.
Wars of religious proclivity are the greatest example of the malignant human hell that legitimizes the murder and killing of our fellow man. Added to the already prevalent munitions of aggression our animal selves are born with, this breed of violence, encompassing a small timeframe of our life on Earth, against differences of religion, nationality, ethnicity, race, beliefs, goals and vision of the world, has elevated the violence against one another to a scale the first humans to inhabit the world could never possibly envisage.
Conflict has defined human society from time immemorial. Our gravitation to violence has characterized our existence and our history. After leaving our cradle in Africa, from our earliest nomadic tribal predecessors to our most advanced societies today our fate has in large measure been determined as a result of warfare. Competition for land, homes, food, sexual partners and resources were once the sole reason for human combat. Today, added to those just mentioned we can include the much more sinister wars based on differences of religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, beliefs and goals. With the advancement of human civilization our primitiveness only grows. The introduction of new anthropological creations in human societal evolution have only exacerbated the need to kill one another. The reasons for human hell keep increasing with the advancement of our existence and the continued growth of our species.
Conquest, usurpation, power and control have sealed destinies and advanced humankind to where it stands today. It is these same that will help seal our fates the more we clash and more we bump into each other’s vested interests. Under growing pressures for the finite space available and as nation states compete for Earth’s dwindling resources, the human hell we have known since the dawn of time will only resurface once more, continuing to dance alongside humanity’s unsustainable desires, animalistic passions and our voracious inability to understand the complexity of who and what we truly are that has scarred us during our entire time on Earth.
The Human Hell
What is it about war that makes beasts and demons of man? What is it about destroying our own kind that unleashes such anger and passion? What is it about the human hell that returns us to the savage and barbaric days of the past? Our animal and primitive selves are resurrected with the call to war, opening in our minds the collective memories of an entire history of death, destruction and misery. The human hell opens the conveyor belts of accepted violence, a time when those in power make it moral to destroy a fellow human energy along with the advancement of entire societies. The human hell allows warmonger leaders to condemn to death the citizens comprising the military while permitting those who survive to destroy their fellow men.
From nails and teeth to stones and branches to arrows and spears to guns and cannons to missiles and bullets the human condition has evolved. Along with us, however, is our twin called violence, sitting on our side waiting patiently for the bells of carnage to be heard, clandestinely shrouded in the inner bowels of man, released with the call to arms that mutates us back to the animal world we claim to rule, not be part of. For violence knows that she will eventually reap what man sows, commandeering entire armies of enraged men to become exactly that which human morality and religion stands firmly against.
Through the cross-hairs of a rifle or the aiming of a weapon man stops being man. He who fires and aims has become beast while he who is fired upon is but a subhuman target, losing all personality and humanity. The human hell turns man into beast, Jekyll turns into Hyde and the world becomes a bastion for the demons running rampant in the human condition. Atrocities become accepted, rapes become desirable, carnage fills the air and humanism erodes more and more with each new devastation of land and man.
The human hell legalizes those most heinous crimes our civilization condemns. It makes heroes out of war criminals, replaces justice with destruction and executes devastation upon innocence. Murder and cold-blooded execution are given the legal justifications never granted in society. The losers of war become war criminals while the victors become war heroes, to be honored and rewarded for the crimes against humanity they helped perpetrate. War presidents are given full reign to decimate tens of thousands of civilians and to make toxic entire nations, ruining countless lives in the process.
The human hell orchestrates a symphony of macabre manifestations, unleashing the most deadly weapons known to man upon cities and standing armies. Artillery rains down from the clouds, missiles strike like thunder from the gods. Bullets spray mercilessly onto fragile human bodies while rockets devastate both homes and lives. The human hell war is called, released from the innards of the human condition, magnifying the worst symptoms in our disease.
Death, destruction and misery enliven the energy that feeds from human blood. The animal inside us awakens with the adrenaline rush of death and survival. Hatred, anger, animosity and revenge are spawned as our animal selves usurp our human minds. Humans become worthless, their lives easily taken, their deaths expected. Entire cities are sacked, children and women are murdered without impunity, human morals and virtues are made extinct. Human hell makes monsters of entire peoples acquiescing to the crimes against humanity being committed in their name.
The enemy is hated, though he is unknown. The desire to kill him grows, though he never hurt us. Unleashing pain upon him and his people is ingrained into our minds, though we fail to realize he is as human as us. The human hell blinds us to a humanity we once possessed, unearthing our animal passions that, combined with our human intelligence, causes a weapon of death and destruction, unrepentant, unrelenting and unforgiving. The human hell makes man the incarnation of evil, released upon civilization, thrusting decimation upon our own kind.
It is evil born of man that our religions warn against. It is our violent selves our scribes write about. It is man at his worst that we must fear.
The development of stereotypes, differences in beliefs and racial identity, the arrival of fears and ignorance, ethnic and cultural complexities, different goals and ways of seeing the world, auras of superiority along with competitive pressure for land, food and resources contribute to the ever-growing need to unleash the human hell onto our environment.
Genocide and ethnic cleansing have, along with war, been a part of the virus we call human violence from the very beginning of human understanding. Entire groups have been extinguished, entire regions cleansed of humans. It goes on today as much as it did sixty years ago. Our history has been marked by genocide after genocide, ethnic cleansing after ethnic cleansing, war after war. After every atrocity cries of ‘Never Again’ rise as if this time humanity will learn its lessons. Yet, as we know too well, the cries go mute as the deaf ears of mankind once more tremble with yet another thunderous blast from a hail of bullets and missiles wiping out an entire grouping of people.
In the unrecoverable echoes of our lost humanity can be heard wails of ‘Again and Again,’ never learning from our atrocities or the evil born within us. War, that most dastardly of all human hells, as old as our first pioneers and as dangerous as the most venomous human to ever walk among us, has created Holocaust after Holocaust, monopolized by no group of humans, distributed to all corners of the globe, regardless of skin color, ethnic makeup or religious beliefs.
War is hell on Earth, affecting humankind throughout time and space, inconsequential to the perceptions we might have or the delusion we might live. War makes demons of our soldiers, free to roam alongside evil as it infects once placid men who respected human morality in peace but exterminate its principles in war. Through war humankind returns to our primitive selves, becoming the smartest of animals, capable of exterminating its own kind and setting free the misery that has befallen every generation of humanity from the time of first beginnings.
The absurdity of human war has yet to be stopped, for we have yet to fully understand who and what we truly are. Inside us lie the answers; in knowing the animal world lays our salvation. We claim ourselves the epitome of modernity, of civilization and of knowledge, but ape like creatures prone to violence is our reality, intelligent, sure, self-destructive, you bet. War has never ceased, and there is no reason to believe that is one day will. War is violence, and violence is humankind. Our reason is no match for our animal passions; our younger, analytical mind is easily clouded by our older, primitive one.
The salvation to the greatest symptom of our disease has been at our hands since the first human opened its eyes. Yet over the course of our brief stay on Earth we have been made blind, thanks to our own devices, to a reality that is as humbling as it is frightening. Our egos refuse to listen, see or touch that which emanates from all corners of the globe. We fear knowing that which for centuries has been denied, afraid that we will see that we are not what we once thought ourselves to be.
The human hell will continue to linger and determine our fates. It will continue to maim, murder and decimate. For as long as we have walked this now scarred Earth the demons running in our veins have dominated us, corroding our societies and humanity, manipulating us toward unleashing the great evil living within us. In the end, the human hell called war will be our demise as our inability to comprehend who and what we are will crash with the ever-expanding lethality of our technologies. From rocks and sticks to mutually assured destruction, our violent selves have never changed. Except today’s version of yesterday’s rocks and sticks could conceivably annihilate entire regions and indeed the entire surface of the planet.
Warfare is ingrained inside the human condition, unrelenting and dominating. We have yet to exorcise this most terrible demon from our wake. Humanity and violence are conjoined twins, it seems, inseparable brothers thriving off each other. Where man goes violence and war soon follow; where violence is found man will most certainly be found. In all regions of the globe, in all peoples and societies, violence lingers about and controls us, from spousal abuse to declared war among nations. All it needs to resurrect itself from outside the crate that lies hidden in our mind is a war like leader eager to launch the trumpets of war. All that is needed for violence to release its most toxic cancers upon our civilization is for good men to do nothing upon the calling of the masses.
As long as we fail to understand the world around us and the true psychology of the human condition violence and war will continue to lead to death, destruction and untold misery. As long as we remain ignorant and silent to the control violence has over our race children will continue to be buried by their parents. For, as Plato is claimed to have once said: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
To deny the fruit of our impulses is to deny the very existence of our being. Our denial and failure to accept the reality of what we are is guiding us down the road to perdition. The corrosive unwillingness to delve into the internal realizations of our past, present and future will inevitably lead to our never putting a stop to the dastardly deeds our species is capable of unleashing upon ourselves and the lands we inhabit.
As a result, ‘Never Again’ will continue to be shouted in vain after yet another war, act of genocide or ethnic cleansing. The impotence of such words will only be seen in light of the omnipotence of continued human violence and war. In time, ‘Again and Again’ will come to be seen as the perpetual reality that haunts our existence, plaguing humanity from the beginning to the very end. We seem incapable of stopping ourselves from repeating a history that is all too familiar to us.
In truth, perhaps our very existence is defined by war and violence, and addicted we have become to the horrors our creative energies wreak upon our world. Maybe violence is as ingrained a part of our psyches as love, affection and happiness are. How else do we explain an entire existence, spanning many hundreds of thousands of years, scarred by death, violence, destruction and suffering? Only when we confront our animal selves and escape this delusion of ourselves as almighty creatures of chosen prowess will we find respite from our evil ways. Until then, only the dead can be assured of never again experiencing that most devastating of human hells called war.
Essay originally published 11 May 2004