“Man 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.
Fighting is usually of two kinds—physical and emotional, but the common aspect in both is some form of conflict. Where two or more humans, no matter how closely related meet, there is bound to be conflict. Being kin or a friend is no guarantee that there would be complete peace and harmony. Even a mother and her birth child may not see certain things in the same vein. Even the best of friends can get entangled in some kind of differences what to talk of enemies.
There are times when people are forced into a situation of protecting their lives, honour or freedom when the only options they have is flight or fight depending on their own prowess. It is absolutely natural to disagree and fight but in the end, in most cases there is a tendency to make up and move on in life. Hard feelings are usually forgotten or placed on a back burner for reignition in the future, like in the case of a wife whose husband complains that she always brings up the past in an argument. One can also be engaged in battles with one’s own emotions and desires. In other words, humans are subject to internal and external conflicts which, is why making peace with oneself and with others becomes equally imperative if we want tranquility in the world.
Mike Martin, a former British army soldier now turned lecturer in war studies, argues in his book Why We Fight that we need to look beyond politics, culture and psychology to war’s “biological underpinnings” in order to understand it. He believes that reasons coined by theorists are far from ones he had witnessed on ground. He writes: “Humans fight to achieve status and belonging”, he says. “They do so because, in evolutionary terms, these are the surest routes to survival and increased reproduction.” His posting in Afghanistan led him to discover that the Afghan people’s motivation for war was less to do with ideology or politics and more to do with upholding family honour or merely feeling the thrill of conflict. According to him, many people who have experienced combat say that it was the greatest rush of positive emotions in their lives without undermining extreme fear and related negative emotions.
Could biological genes be the cause of humans ‘engagement in fighting’? Every physical human trait or behavior is the result of genetics and environment with few exceptions. Evolving a theory is not child’s play. It requires tremendous research and knowledge, so rather than trying to isolate different types of drives in order to find answers to why we fight, we should rather look for that factor which can enable the establishment of a peaceful society.
Wherever circumstances lead to conflicts, the main protagonists are hardly in a position to think straight or logically. They are so overwhelmed with their short term emotional outbursts that they fail to recognize the gravity of their situation and the impact they may be leaving on those connected with them. Onlookers outside this arena, for reasons of their own, are prone to siding with one of the belligerent parties thus further expanding the scale of dispute. This is confirmed with historical evidence where many a times and due to war torn regions, the world found itself divided into blocks coming directly in confrontation with one another, the latest being the Ukraine war and Israel-Hamas conflict, bringing miseries for the common folk. Mediators too find themselves in difficulty when they are unable to prevent sanity from overpowering absurdity.
The absolute truth that emerges from any type of armed or impassioned conflict is that it generates indescribable suffering, pain, violence and destruction, leaving in its aftermath long term physical and mental wounds that continue to bleed venom through the cinders of devastation. Ceasefires, immediately after wars and battles though welcomed with relief, still have the potential to unleash another round and yet another round of confrontation. The seeds of dispute, once sown, can hardly be prevented from growing into an abominable monster whose slumber too is as vicious as its awakening. The plight of the human race is that there appears to be no end to this utter madness.
The starting point of any peace settlement is forgiveness. Perhaps the most difficult thing to do, forgiveness requires a conscious application of mind to let go of resentment or vengeance toward anyone who has actually or purported to have caused us harm. However, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley “it does not mean having to forget or condone the wrongdoing committed against you. Fortunately, forgiveness is cultivatable—and can be practiced through different strategies, including developing empathy, looking for the silver linings and properly expressing your feelings.”
Baylor University researchers have found that in case where one has himself been the perpetrator of a wrongdoing, there is a need to forgive oneself also. Hesitation from doing so is on account of deserving to feel bad about one’s offence. Of course, this is for those who admit their fault, forgive themselves, want to make amends and in the process, let go of their guilt.
Considering the scale of physical and mental damage caused by wars, asking victims to forgive is quite awkward though not impossible. Those who have suffered on either side will definitely find it extremely hard to bring themselves to greet their offenders with open arms, embrace them with the object of forgiving and forgetting the past. Anyone who dares to even suggest this idea would be considered inhuman if not divine, but this is where the secret of mediation and peaceful coexistence lies. The day human beings recognize the divinity within themselves is the day when all wars will cease and human race salvaged; when every person, tribe, faction, nation and country in this world learn to respect each other and appreciate differences; when solution to problems would lie in talks not torture; when duties are given preference over rights and when the world learns the truth and strength behind the power of pure love.