Beliefs that perpetuate war

[Note from Kathie Malley-Morrison:  Today we again welcome a post from guest author Dr. Dean Hammer, a psychologist and peace activist.]

In 1989, Roger Walsh (a professor of psychiatry at University of California Irvine) wrote a seminal paper entitled, Toward a Psychology of Human Survival: Psychological Approaches to Contemporary Global Threats

Ploughshares 8

Ploughshares 8, including Dean Hammer (second from left)

Walsh identified several global threats that continue to plague us today including: malnutrition, resource depletion, the ecological blight, and nuclear weapons.  These threats to human survival and wellbeing “are actually symptoms of our individual and collective mind set.”

Walsh’s assessment of societal psychopathology provides a useful approach to understanding the pathology of  war-making, including the fatalism and Social Darwinism that create a self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuating war.

During my 35 years of peace activism, I have engaged in many conversations regarding the possibility of abolishing war. One of the most prevalent attitudes keeping people from imagining a world without war is the assumption that “there always have been wars and there always will be wars.”

This belief system is built upon a pessimistic view of human nature that sees human beings as essentially greedy and self-serving. The super-power nations, who depend on the military industrial complex as the backbone of their economies, depend on and promote this cynical view of human nature.

From a cognitive perspective, this core maladaptive assumption rejects the capacity of human beings to become altruistic and to commit ourselves to the well-being of the entire human family as a prerequisite for our individual well-being.

Therefore, an initial step in developing a revolutionary hope for our future is to promote an alternative vision of human nature that portrays humankind as having the capacity to create global peace and justice.

Dean Hammer


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5 Responses to Beliefs that perpetuate war

  1. Regina Amorello says:

    I think that this psychological thinking very perfectly fits the United States especially. There are so many people who do not bother trying, because they do not think things can change. So many people do not vote for the simple fact that they don’t believe their voice will be heard and things will remain the same. However, there is power in working together. I may not be able to end war, but we can. Wars should not be a given about society. We were not born to fight. Each of us was born to live.

    It is also interesting that America also has one of the highest rates of depression, which encompasses pessimistic thinking.

  2. Safa Bhimdi says:

    These arguments are very similar to the never ending arguments between two dominant International Relations paradigms, liberalism and realism. The liberalists arguing that conflict can be avoided by greater interdependence between nations by promoting mutually advantageous cooperation. The realists, however, argue that no matter how much interdependence there is between countries they will still promote conflict for their own personal benefit.

    So, it is these pessimistic realist thoughts that are promoting war as the only option in the international arena. I agree that a change from this pessimistic view on human nature to a more liberal thought will help promote a more cooperative nature within countries.

  3. Abram Trosky says:

    Check out the first and third segments of the Radiolab show, “New Normal?” (url provided in the “website field”). A thoughtful look at the cultural and biological-bases of aggression that will provide anecdotes for your arsenal combatting cynicism.

  4. Catherine Caldwell-Harris says:

    Decades ago eminent anthropologist Ashley Montagu demonstrated that “there always have been wars” is a fallacy in his book ‘Learning Non-Aggression: The Experience of Non-Literate Societies.’

    Montagu’s book needs to be read and rediscovered. Spread the word.

  5. pandora uk says:

    ,IT’s a good post.thanks for sharing.

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