Human Aggression is Counter-Evolutionary

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“Mankind must evolve, for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We are all distressed by what is happening in Ukraine. Putin is a bully, wanting things his way. He cannot see beyond his personal beliefs. There is no limit to what he will do to get what he wants, even if that means committing war crimes.

Why is Putin this way? What are we to learn from what is happening in our world?

Humans, like all animals, have a built-in potential for aggression. It was there in the beginning so humans could survive: it helped to defend oneself from a life-threatening attack, protect food supplies, and protect the young.

The aggressive impulse remains today, however, much to our detriment. Aggression only begets more aggression. Left to escalate, it can result in death: death of a person, a culture, or a relationship, and most assuredly, of peace.

Other than in truly life-threatening situations, interpersonal aggression is the result of ego’s machinations. Ego does not get its way, does not feel in control, or has taken offence; therefore, it decides it must strike out. The one who vents anger, aggression or otherwise attacks, virtually always blames the outside world. The child made the parent frustrated, so it is the child’s fault the parent went off the deep end, perhaps even physically or emotionally abusing the child. The employee made a mistake, so it is the employee’s fault that the boss had to yell and humiliate the individual in front of the rest of the staff. Another driver cut off the motorist, so it is the driver’s fault that the motorist had an episode of road rage.

This process of shifting blame and denying responsibility for one’s own unconscious and inappropriate reactions is typical of children. Mother’s refusal to give a treat before lunch causes the tantrum, in the mind of the four-year old. Dad’s refusal to extend the curfew is the cause of the teen’s door slamming and under-the breath muttering or outright screaming.

Perhaps Putin’s actions, while the behavior of a megalomaniac, is a very extreme example of the ego aspect in all humans.

Ego is certainly the less evolved, more primitive aspect of our being, and truly does operate from a childlike perspective. It is impulsive and reactive. It does not reflect and consider the best course of action, or think about what would serve the highest good of all.

We shake our heads over the conflict in Ukraine. We ponder the ongoing difficulties in the Middle East, wondering if we will ever have peace in our world.

Yet we, in our own lives, may have been unable to learn to deal with differences from a place of wisdom and compassion, searching for solutions, rather than needing to prove we are right. Both as individuals and as a species, it seems we still have some growing to do.