30 August 2009

Wildfire and Human Violence

In the forest, on the plains, across the prairie and mountainside -- there is a history of fire that stretches back farther than life. Natural wildfires sweep through the countryside, clearing away debris and nature's offal, making way for a clean start, new growth. Fire is a part of nature.

Humans use fire for their own purposes, but they wish to keep fire confined. As humans build their estates deeper and deeper into countryside that has been subject to periodic cleansing by fire, the natural human tendency is to prevent wild, unconfined fire at all cost, year after year.

Whenever humans have prevented the natural cycle, or have attempted to freeze nature into one particular arrangement in time, they have set the stage to reap hell on Earth. By interrupting the natural cycle of cleansing by wildfire and subsequent re-growth, humans allow the accumulation of fuel to grow so dense and explosive that when the inevitable fire does sweep through, there is very little left behind, for starting over.

Likewise, wherever humans walked the Earth, there is a history of violence that sweeps back through history to the beginning of homo and beyond. Natural disagreements would escalate into fights. The energy to sustain the fight would soon be exhausted, life would go on. Sometimes old coalitions would often be swept aside, making way for something new.

Human societies have come a long way from their violent pasts, but human nature still retains all the violent impulses that causes murder and war. As civilisations developed, and humans came to live closely packed amongst one another in cities, it was in the interests of the ruling classes to confine violence into a restricted volume of space, away from the main. Certain neighborhoods were left alone to fend for themselves. Men who were naturally good at fighting were recruited for armies. Dangerous men who could not be controlled were either confined in prisons, or ended up as rulers themselves.

Human societies use violence for their own purposes, but they try to keep it contained. Inevitably, violence spills out of containment, and society must try to deal with it. When society tries to suppress all violence, the problem may be swept under the rug temporarily. Disagreements that might ordinarily grow into physical fights are suppressed, sometimes brutally and beyond all reason. The underlying disagreements often simmer over time into bitter resentments. Then as its fuel supply builds, resentment flares up into bloody battles and outright war.

When society enforces laws that perpetuate and inflame natural resentments -- yet attempts to confine all disagreement to sanctioned arenas where the conclusion is foegone -- the ability of that society to maintain control grows more tenuous by the day.

Violence is currently bursting through the seams of containment by way of youth gangs and religious gangs. Much of modern violence has an ethnic component -- as when ethnic minorities across Europe, Oceania, and North America commit a wildly inordinate amount of crime. Crime committed by minority populations is committed against other minorities, and often against weak members of the majority -- such as rape. It is possible (perhaps likely) that the threshold for violence is largely genetic, more easily triggered by environment when particular alleles are active.

Wildfires in nature can be prevented and minimised by particular preventative measures, such as controlled burns, regular cleanup of undergrowth, controlled logging and periodic clearing of forests, etc. In some cases, humans should probably evacuate particular areas of wilderness.

Uncontained violence in humans can be similarly prevented or minimised, using ethical prudence, compassion, wisdom, and common sense. Hotbeds of violence should not be ignored or patronised. They should be confronted and evaluated dispassionately. They should not be fertilised and then fanned into flames, as has been the case in western countries over the past few decades.

Violent impulses are far more common for some than others. They are more common for males than females. They are more common for the pubertal and post-pubertal young, than for the old. They are more common for some ethnic groups and religions than for others.

Better ways of safely expending and sublimating that violence can be developed, than our current crop of video games, spectator sports, and other sanctioned arenas of violence.

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