War And Human Nature

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is raging and the we seem to be at the cusp of a changing world; one where dog-eats-dog, heading towards a bleaker, conflict-ridden future. Humans have progressed exponentially in science and technology. Custom-made babies, machines which can think, drugs which can cure cancer – all these were science fiction just a few decades ago. Why, then, are humans unable to make equal progress when it comes to establishing peace and security? Why has war been a recurrent phenomenon throughout human history?

So, what are the causes of war? The ‘Killer Ape theory’ suggests that humans being were able to survive and evolve due to greater aggression in their nature, than other apes. This means that violence is an inherent instinct of the human race. However, there are some tribes, like the Samara of Malaysia, which are pacifist and non-violent.  Some scholars suggest that war is a societal construct; as societies became more complex, wars began to be fought over new concepts like honour, religion, nationalism, ethnicity, race and so on.

To say a few words on the causes of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it is the expansionism of NATO, bringing it to the very doorstep of Russia, which has brought it about. Of course, USA’s waning global influence, and rise of multiple poles of power in the world, including China and India has emboldened Russia. However, Ukraine has been caught in the middle of the power play between the two giants. Also, violence against innocent people, children and animals is unjustifiable, especially in this day and age.

This brings us back to the question, why wars continue to occur, in this day and age, despite such tremendous human progress. Perhaps the same factors which spur innovation also trigger wars. Advancements in science and technology give greater power to humans in terms better health, better resources, better productivity and better information. Wars also give humans access to greater resources – material, natural and human. For instance, USA’s war against Iraq and Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula. The instinct of humans to create, to explore and to dominate seem to have the same roots. Through technology, man attempts to tame and harness nature and its forces; wars result and taming and domination of peoples.

Does this mean that wars are inevitable as long as humans progress? When human progress is measured in terms of wealth, technology and resources of the people, wars will keep occurring as they are a means to achieve the exact same ends. A change of thought is needed, where progress means happiness, humanism and morality.

Author: Mahima Prasad

Doctor, dog enthusiast, UPSC aspirant

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