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Why are we so violent?

Louis Rene Beres ponders where civilisation is as man's evil on man continues on a grand scale :
After Nuremberg, after the Holocaust, one might have expected a far-reaching change in human conduct, a welcome reduction of egregious harms occasioned by both new knowledge and new law. Yet, let us look around us at the present moment. The views are not encouraging. Look at Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Sudan, Uganda, and the Congo. Let us try to figure out the presumptively democratic but also riotous ethos sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East. Not to be forgotten, there is present-day Iran. Today, its faith-based leaders openly declare a determinedly genocidal intent against Israel. Let us also consider Cambodia, Argentina, Rwanda, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia.

War and genocide are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Sometimes, war is simply the optimal means by which an intended genocide can be most efficiently carried out. How has an entire species, miscarried from the start, scandalized its own creation? Are we all potential murderers of those who live beside us? What about slavery? In every form and permutation, this “natural” crime continues to grow, insidiously but without evident disguise, in Mali and Mauritania, and in other more conspicuous places. Shall we recall the murderous diamond mines of Sierra Leone and Liberia? And let us not forget the ever-widening radius of human child trafficking, an ancient and medieval practice, now especially visible in Nigeria and Benin.

Where is civilization? These devastating crimes are still far-flung and robust. Paradoxically, they are flourishing even now, in the “developed” and thoroughly “modern” 21st century. For as long as we can identify the tangled skeins of world history, the corpse has been in fashion. Today, on several continents, whole nations of corpses are the rage. As for the international community, it stands by as it has so often, incredulously, with self-righteous indignation, sheepish, yet also arrogant, simultaneously calculating and lamenting its own self-reinforcing impotence.
The question he is asking is why are human beings not able to stop bring this evil to a stop? Beres is one of the most influential thinkers around and he must be commended for recognising the evil around us. It takes honesty to admit that things are not as they should be. It takes courage for someone like Beres living in an increasingly liberal landscape to say that things are not necessarily get better in terms of man's inhumanity on man. He also wisely recognises that progress is not inevitable. However, where Beres comes short is in the diagnosis of “why” – why are human beings not able to stop this evil? He answers the question as follow::
Although generally unseen, the core problem we face on earth is the universal and omnivorous power of the herd in human affairs. This power is based upon individual submission. Ultimately, the problem of international criminality is always one of distraught and unfulfilled individuals. Ever fearful of having to draw meaning from their own inwardness, most human beings, like a moth to a flame, will draw closer and closer to the nearest collectivity. Whatever the gripping claims of the moment, the herd spawns contrived hatreds of dissimilarity that can make even mass murder seem warm, welcome, and reasonable. Fostering a persistent refrain of “us” versus “them,” it encourages each submissive member to ceremoniously celebrate the death of “outsiders.”
It is not that Beres is wrong that human beings are distraught and unfulfilled. But that is only a proximate cause not a fundamental cause.  The question is why are we unfulfilled as human beings?  It is not because we are fearful as Beres later suggests. The reason is that human beings were created with needs far deeper than the material universe can fulfil.  King Solomon said that God has “put eternity in the hearts of men” giving us a longing far beyond the present. To such an extent that even if we had all we wanted, at the end we will still cry, "meaningless, meaningless, it is all meaningless". This is a truth that St Augustine recognised when meditating on God, he said “you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you”. In short, we are made for God. We really do have a God shaped hole in our hearts!  

The fall of man at the begin of creation severed the ultimate link we have to the Creator and we are now left like ET trying desperately to dial home in any case we can. For some that process of dialling leads them to Beres’ “Kingdom of the Herd”. But we should be under no doubt the answer is not, as Beres supposes, simply a question of us migrating from the “from the Kingdom of the Herd, to the Kingdom of the Self”. Rather the migration we desperately need is the from the Kingdoms of Herd and Self to the Kingdom of God! We need God himself to re-establish eternity and fill the void He has left behind. The great news is that God in Jesus Christ has already doe that by sending His Son to be the substitute penalty for our sins! Only when we embrace the Son do we find true fulfilment. 

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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