Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bully for you!

Is our cultural practice in the US of honoring those who commit violence--from soldiers to police to boxers and football players--does that tend to produce more of the same? When we sacralize the man who flies a jet thousands of feet above a land that is not his own and he drops bombs that kill those below, do we then make it more likely that others will emulate his behavior?

Of course we do.

Anthropologists point to peaceful societies in which the warrior is not a holy role, nor even a valued occupation. Those societies tend to be peaceful, and they tend, like the Mehinaku or the Xinguano or Kalapalo peoples of Brazil, to teach their children that the traits of the warrior are repulsive. Many of the tribes even have varying proscriptions and strictures surrounding animal blood, some even forbidding hunting (Fry, 2005, p. 19).
A woman who grew up in territorial Hawaii (which never was a US state until summer 1959) told me that, in those days, indigenous Hawaiian culture had a strong bias in favor of compassion and inclusion, coupled with an equally strong disapproval of bullying.

We humans have the capacity for peace, for an end to war, for a culture that mitigates bullying and violence, as is proven by the examples of some 80 peaceful societies in which violence is almost nonexistent. Humans indeed have an enormous range of "natural" selves because we are so flexible, adaptable, and smart. Evolution, as Ornstein and Ehrlich (1989) reminded us, is conscious much more than biological in our human timeframes. We can learn and teach these naturally peaceful ways at our most grassroots levels.

This gives hope. It is not magic; it is work. It is not up to God nor does it take geological time periods to accomplish; it is up to us. Now.


Fry, D. P. (2005). The human potential for peace: An anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Ornstein, Robert, & Ehrlich, Paul (1989). New world new mind: Moving toward conscious evolution. New York: Doubleday.

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