August 2, 2012

Seven Roadblocks to the Good Life: (5) Combativeness and the Cult of Violence

Competition for existence, expression, recognition and supremacy in a complex, interdependent highly organized society generates a survival struggle in which man’s combativeness, courage, determination and tenacity are severely tested. Such rivalry sifts out weaklings, while it grades and regrades the strong, the shrewd, the masterful.

Survival struggle goes on locally in family and neighborhood. It goes on regionally and nationally. Survival struggle is central and basic in the life process. In its most elaborate form it is called war. Acts of war are exercises in the application of violence.

War is a form of human association in which one party to the combat seeks not only to impose his will upon his rival, but seeks to exterminate the rival by the use of a maximum of violence, directed against the person, the associates and the property of his opponents.

Preparations for war require training in the efficacious use of violence. Violence is therefore taught as an art. A cult of violence is developed and every effort is made to dignify and even deify violence. This process has been an essential phase of the military preparedness that has played so large a role in the life of Western civilization.

Since every tool is a potential weapon, as technology has advanced, the possibilities of violence have been multiplied and magnified until with the advent of atomic and nuclear weapons used in waging total war, it becomes possible, in an instant, to vaporize property and exterminate life wholesale.

Linking combativeness, the cult of violence and nuclear technology has created a situation so decisive that in one supreme combat the existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons could destroy the totality of man’s culture and exterminate man himself, bringing an end to the period of human habitation on the planet earth.

Among the roadblocks to further human progress, the destructive potential of nuclear war seems to impose the most emphatic finality on the future of the human race.

(from Chapter III, The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965)

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