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VIOLENCE AND THE HUMAN CONDITION July 29, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
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In his most recent article at Truthdig, framed by the crime committed in Olso, Chris Hedges is emphatic in his conclusion.

He writes:

Our faith in the inevitability of human progress constitutes an inability to grasp the tragic nature of history. Human history is one of constant conflict between the will to power and the will to nurture and protect life. Our greatest achievements are always intertwined with our greatest failures. Our most exalted accomplishments are always coupled with our most egregious barbarities. Science and industry serve as instruments of progress as well as instruments of destruction. The Industrial Age has provided feats of engineering and technology, yet it has also destroyed community, spread the plague of urbanization, uprooted us all, turned human beings into cogs and made possible the total war and wholesale industrial killing that has marked the last century. These technologies, even as we see them as our salvation, are rapidly destroying the ecosystem on which we depend for life.

There is no linear movement in history. Morality and ethics are static. Human nature does not change. Barbarism is part of the human condition and we can all succumb to its basest dimensions. This is the tragedy of history. Human will is morally ambiguous. The freedom to act as often results in the construction of new prisons and systems of repression as it does the safeguarding of universal human rights. The competing forces of love and of power define us, what Sigmund Freud termed Eros and Thanatos. Societies have, throughout history, ignored calls for altruism and mutuality in times of social upheaval and turmoil. They have wasted their freedom in the self-destructive urges that currently envelope us. These urges are very human and very dangerous. They are fired by utopian visions of inevitable human progress. When this progress stalls or is reversed, when the dreams of advancement and financial stability are thwarted, when a people confronts its own inevitable downward spiral, dark forces of vengeance and retribution are unleashed. Fundamentalists serve an evil that is unseen and unexamined. And the longer this evil is ignored the more dangerous and deadly it becomes. Those who seek through violence the Garden of Eden usher in the apocalypse.

That seems to be a bleak view of the human animal and the possibilities of the human mind, both singularly and collectively. Surely we do have to be enticed and entangled by either violence or vanity? We might, for example, transcend the entangling systems of industrialism with their illusions of power, and re-establish our place in the systems of the natural world as a method of survival without losing the motive of living better.

It seems to me, at least, that nature has been seen as the enemy until now in large measure the war has been won but at the expense of human survival, biodiversity and ecological sustainability.

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