If humans are supposed to be conscious and loving, why do we cause and allow such hideous suffering to happen in our society, including the killing of other fellow humans? The answer is actually based, in evolution. A study by José Maria Gómez, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Granada in 2016 (summed up in this article by Lizzie Wade here http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/why-do-we-kill-controversial-study-blames-our-distant-ancestors) points to the answers. It appears that we are no different to the rules of nature that evolved us into these supposed loving and conscious beings but statistically we are almost as likely to kill those of our own species as our close mammalian cousins.
Whereas mammals who live in groups and defend territories, such as wolves and chimps have the highest rate of lethal violence on fellow species members (4%), humans are predicted to have a lower rate, with just 2% of deaths being caused by another human. Looking through the data from 50,000 years ago to recent times, it shows a large variation in this figure, with medieval times showing a staggering 12% of human caused deaths, down to a modern low of 1.3%, mainly due to modern culture and laws modulating our aggressive tendencies.
So if we are at least partially preprogrammed to kill our own, what can be done (if anything) to bring this rate down further and could there ever be such a thing as peace on earth?
Firstly, let’s look at the modern age and ask the simple question: Why do we kill each other at all? Here’s my own list, although I’m sure there are more which could be added: Jealousy, pride, guilt, revenge, mercy killing, honour killing, drugs (altered states), delusion, self-defence, economic gain, suicide, justice, power, psychopathy and sport… and all in the name of personal gain, nationality (war), religion, sect, caste, creed or gender.
But there is actually only one reason why we do anything, including kill. We want something to change as a result of our actions. As I referred to in this blog post after the Manchester suicide bombing (http://rethinkingbusiness.biz/why-this-will-never-ever-change/), these jihadists are not deranged madmen, they are Fathers and Mothers who firmly believe that their actions are justified and necessary.
Which is actually hopeful, because it means we are not dealing with something incomprehensible here, even though their actions appear to be so. We are dealing with something closer to home than we might have previously imagined, something ‘human’ even. There is even a distinct possibility that we can understand the drivers of the human condition and potentially adjust our approach to the problem to bring about a successful outcome for everyone (peace).
To do this, let’s look at where humans have managed to deal head on with hatred and succeeded in bringing peace in seemingly impossible historical conflicts.
Northern Ireland was described by successive British prime ministers from Churchill to Thatcher as an ‘insoluble problem’. And yet, decades later, the problem has a solution. The main reason for this has been the realisation that peace is a ‘process’, not an event. The first breakthrough negotiations were as a result of communication on both sides in secret, despite the rhetoric displayed in public. As is the case in most difficult negotiations, when both sides feel hard done by, there is often a chance for some kind of agreement. Look at the divorce courts for examples of this. Of course, the starting point for any negotiation is that both sides will already feel hard done by, so there lies the hope for a starting point. Jihadists are evil… the West is evil. Stalemate.
The Middle East situation, in stark contrast to Northern Ireland, outlines a clear eventual settlement in terms of land and refugees and even what should happen to Jerusalem, but there is no ‘process’ in place and in the vacuum of this action, there sits continued violence. As the former President of Israel, Shimon Peres summed up: “The good news is there is light at the end of the tunnel. The bad news is there is no tunnel”.
Looking at the recent spate of violence towards innocent citizens in the United Kingdom and across the World by so-called Islamic State, there sits a complete vacuum of communication (process). In the gap that remains there lies exactly what the instigators of the violence wanted in the first place. Divide and conquer: arguments between those who want to use force to solve the problem and those who believe that love and peace is the only solution. Neither are correct.
Communication is the key. Communication from a place of understanding. Understanding how humans interact and why they do what they do. Understanding that no matter what someone does (action), they are doing it from a position that they truly believe is the right thing to do in that moment.
This is the common ground that will allow us to speak with the ‘enemy’. Because if we had their thinking, we would be seeing their world. And vice versa. This is the common ground that actually unites all humanity. We are thinking beings, capable of love and hate. Capable of building bridges and mowing down or blowing up our own fellow species on them. But until we learn how to communicate with each other, we are doomed for self-destruction.
Communication, it would seem, from this place of understanding, would be an excellent place to start and yet I don’t hear any of our ‘leaders’ suggesting it as a strategy.
Perhaps now is the time….