I read something the other week and again this morning which really got me to thinking about something I’ve often thought about: that humans are inherently violent. Evil.
Now, I have always taken issue with this statement from the very beginning and as far back as I can remember, which to me was my early 70s Star Trek watching days. Maybe it was from all the other reading I did, which was largely philosophical and metaphysical, but I never believed that statement–and still don’t.
What I recently read was a “letter” written by ex-Army Captain Paul K. Chappell. Chappell is also a West Point graduate, served seven years, and deployed to Baghdad. Look at this link and take a good look at his pictures. He has a different look in his eyes, his face, his energy, from his Army days to civilian life. Really look at the last photo, April 2005. And check out this 10-minute YouTube video Mr. Chappell gave at American University, in Washington, D.C.
What Chappell wrote was that people are not inherently warfaring nor violent nor evil nor warmongering. We are the opposite to all this, because the basic nature of people is to FLEE violence or someone else trying to disembowel us or anything else heinous. If we were so inherently violent, we would not flee violence, not avoid war–but embrace it, run toward it. If we were so naturally violent and warlike, why does war mess up so many people? Why PTSD? Mr. Chappell says that 98% of soldiers who go to war experience some form of psychological trauma, but 2% do not. Why do these 2% not go “crazy,” as he puts it?
Because they were already that way.
One of the key things Mr. Chappell also discusses in the letter I read was how do governments get people to go to war? And this I’d learned over time on my own: by dehumanizing the “enemy.” By getting those fighting wars to feel they have to go to war to protect some element of their own, be it family or their own localized “band of brothers.” Then, Mr. Chappell says, people will fight and not flee.
I didn’t write this post to attack our government or give reasons for why we’re in war. I write this post to show others and clarify and corroborate–to myself, even–what I’ve always believed to be true: that humankind is inherently PEACEFUL.