I have a friend who is married, with children. He was telling me, the other day, about his six year old son. Now, my friend is not a pacifist. He just doesn’t like guns, though, and tried to keep guns, and stories about guns, away from his son. One day, however, totally out of the blue, his son came up to him, with his index finger extended, his thumb up, and said, “bang.”
There have been in the history of mankind, most likely, six year old girls who have, spontaneously, cocked their index fingers and said ‘bang’ to their mothers and fathers. If so, I have never heard of such an expression. I daresay, I doubt if anyone reading this have ever heard of a girl making a gun and pretending to shoot someone. As I said, I am sure it happens. In the realm of human experience, anything is possible…but for a girl to do this would be unusual. For a boy not to do this would be unusual.
For some reason, boys play in terms of competition and war. It seems to be hardwired into their brains. While I am quite certain that, before the invention of pistols, young boys did not cock their index finger and say ‘bang,’ I am quite certain that young boys have always figured out ways to simulate weapons, if they did not have a real weapon with which to play. It is as much as being a boy, and being a man, as is anything else.
Men love war. There were times and places where men were not afraid to say so, and other times where they were, but one of the few constants that exist in the history of mankind is that wars happen, and there has never been a lack of people around to fight those wars. Men volunteer to fight in droves, at the beginning of any war, seeking the thrill and excitement associated with the fighting, the uniforms, the saluting, drilling, the ability to make big explosions and destroy everything that can be seen….in other words, everything else associated with war.
This impulse towards violence seems to be capable of being re-directed, as the level of civilization increases. A prosperous, economically well-off culture rarely goes out to seek a fight with another culture. While, even in these cultures, there are always males who seek the thrill of combat and destruction (the reason why police are always needed), most males seem to be able to channel their destructive impulses to vicarious enjoyment of others trying to kill each other, watching football, kick-boxing and watching John Wayne on the tellie, for instance, or taking out their aggression on business rivals. This gives us hope for a future time when war is a thing of the past.
We do not live in that world, yet, however, and no matter how comfortable we feel in our home, watching the Red Sox cream the Yankees one more time, there are people out there who are not living a cultured, comfortable life, and those people have no problem with the idea of killing others. These are uncivilized males, barbarians, if you will, living in primitive societies who have not been given an alternative to war and killing. They have, historically, been the bane of civilizations. It is not that civilizations have been brought down by barbarians, in the past, but barbarians have always been at the edges of civilization, waiting for those civilizations to become so indulgent as to ignore their outer defenses. At that point, barbarians invariably take advantage of the weaknesses of the defenses, and pour through the breaches to take the civilization from within.
We see this happening in Europe where, at the end of World War II, Europe essentially disarmed, under the assumption that civilized people do not prepare for war. The logical result is that Iran feels no compunction about taking British soldiers hostage, while British warships are standing by. Britain appeals to the European community for help, and the European community does nothing, because it can do nothing. While they excoriate the United States for doing their work for them, they cannot do anything without working with the strength of the United States. They are a self-made paper tiger, without the will and the strength to defend themselves. It is a consequence of civilization, that living becomes so much more pleasant than dying that one would do anything to live…even to giving up ones freedom and sovereignty. Few people understand what Stan Rogers, the famous Canadian Folk Singer, once wrote, “That to call myself a man, for my loved one I must stand.” Sometimes you have to fight to be a man.