Aggression & Fighting
Humans are critically disputatious, opportunistic and aggressively territorial. Human groups fight at regular intervals, often because of planned and strategic attacks on neighboring groups. While there are different motives for aggression, the term almost always points to fight and fight behaviors. Predatory aggression is goal-oriented, strategic and free of anger or fear. Angry aggression is defensive or retaliatory. Territorial aggression combined both predatorial behaviors and threat displays, often indistinguishable from anger.
The tendency and the skills required for fighting are innate. Fighting is one of the four prime movers of human behavior, sometimes referred to as the “four F’s.” In the primordial animal world, you have four options when you met another animal. You could feed by eating the stranger; you could fight with the stranger or you could flee. If certain prerequisites were met, you could have sex with the stranger. The four F’s interact in interesting ways. The motives and movements involved in fighting emerge in children’s play and continue in speech gestures even among the most pacific people. Fighting often begins with vocalizations, and continues with gestures, shouts and threats. The idea of the fight display is to avoid physical injury by reaching a settlement or by fleeing.
Nice people who live relatively peaceful lives will avoid fighting but retain the tendency. Fights among family members are inevitable and, in the best case, are limited to shouting, grabbing, pushing, shaking, punching and kicking. It is natural for humans to pick up objects and use them to hit at close range or to throw them to injure at a distance.
The tendency to fight merges with tool making. Human ancestors become more formidable fighters when they deliberately selected objects such as sticks and stones to fight with. Fighting on an interpersonal or tribal scale involved deliberately fashioning and carrying tools that were used primarily as weapons. Early weapons combined sharpened stones, attached to wood handles and shafts with leather thongs. Warriors are humans who have well developed fighting skills. Their goal is to kill other humans. Good hunters tend to make good warriors, but not always. Both hunting and fighting were required for the success of human groups and warriors have always been regarded with high esteem. A natural warrior had to be brave and strong, cunning, determined and tolerant of deprivation and adversity. Warriors fought each other, face to face, with hand-held weapons, strategy and skill. To specialize in fighting, warriors have to be physically fit and trained daily in the skills of combat. Without advanced training, even an unusually large and fierce warrior could be defeated by a smaller, weaker foe with well-practiced skills and superior weapons.
As local groups became larger, nation states emerged and warriors were replaced by anonymous soldiers who participated in anonymous combat that involved large numbers of combatants, with hand held weapons and machines designed to destroy property and kill other humans. If you combine hierarchy, territorial competition with weapon manufacture, you create war. The human fascination with weapons and the strategies of fighting have created a complex of militaristic activities and preparations for fighting that are incentives to fight and have provided reasons to fight.
You could argue that human history is the history of war with brief interludes of peace. Wars have a few instigators and many victims. Humans now fill the air with high velocity metal projectiles and use explosive devices to annihilate other humans and their property. Victors deploy larger numbers of more lethal weapon-machines than the losers. Soldiers and civilians perish when their weapon-machines are inferior.
The Second World War was a festival of atrocities, murder and mayhem, dominated by increasing horrors inflicted by large numbers of more elaborate machines designed and deployed to kill humans on an enlarging scale. The distinction between civilians and soldiers diminished and disappeared. The industrial basis for war continued to develop in many countries after the Second World War. The 21st century began with local wars erupting in many parts of the globe. The United States dominated the world by having well-funded industries dedicated to making weapon-machines. Electronic devices evolved rapidly leading to “smart weapons” that could find targets using satellite-based guidance systems.
The US and Russia dominated the world with stockpiles of nuclear weapons and delivery systems on alert, ready to destroy any and all nations on the planet. War planning for the 21st century imagines combat with smart machines and aircraft operated by remote control. The few soldiers left on the ground are transformed into robots by adding camouflage clothing, bullet proofing, makeup, body armor, electronic sensors, computers, communication equipment, 3 days of food and water, to their fragile bodies. The idea is that technologically superior victors can demolish property and kill others from a distance in relative safety.
In addition to good guys and bad guys, some humans are hawks who advocate and enjoy the idea of war and others are doves who abhor war and make conspicuous efforts to promote peaceful solutions for disagreements. Some readers might link the hawks with the bad guys. Without a doubt, doves are challenged by belligerent neighbors and friends and need to arrive at more effective ways of expressing their point of view, not as pacifists but as activists who seek to restrain their belligerent neighbors with tools such as persuasion, vaccination, social policy, law and the pragmatic enforcement of laws. Perhaps the planet could be divided into two halves with the doves enjoying a peaceful existence on their half and the hawks enjoying battle on their side. The trick would be to invent an impermeable membrane that could keep the groups separate.