Crossposted from Axis of Logic
If not inhibited by a wise and loving upbringing, human beings certainly turn out to be the cruelest of animals. Other animals kill for food and possibly to save their own lives or the life of a loved one. Humans kill and torture from a cruel sense of power or for the ultimate fulfillment of their greed.
All human beings seem to have a deeply ensconced need to feel and express their superiority over other humans. In other cases, they take their viciousness out on animals who are in most cases helpless to defend themselves.
It requires a high degree of civilized indoctrination to get people to feel horror in the face of brutal behavior. Most of us may be that civilized, but it seems more and more obvious that mankind is by nature a power-hungry, destructive and greedy species. Of course we don't like to admit such horror and most of us will fight hard to suppress the realization of this fact. We convince ourselves that our anger is justified, that the people we hate and fear are deserving of our hostility. There is actually no limit to how far we can go to make ourselves feel self-righteous in our negative emotions and to cover up for our uncalled-for aggression. It should be added that a weak and emotionally unstable individual is more likely to commit cruel actions, to be aggressive, in order to cover up for his weakness and insecurity.
Man has always been set on dominating man. Ruling human specimens have regularly used the torture of other, 'inferior' beings either to callously enjoy the spectacle or to mistakenly reason that there will be some positive outcome from this cruelty. Consider the Roman gladiator games staged to entertain the masses in the huge Roman arenas all over their vast empire, or the spectacle of cutting off prisoners' heads that attracted masses of enthusiastic onlookers during the French revolution and in some other countries even today. Consider the more-than-willing participation in the unspeakably horrid treatment and gassing of humans who were considered inferior by edict from the ruling monsters, or the ongoing killing of prisoners in several states in the U.S. and many other countries in the world, the savage killing of Tutsis by the Hutus in east Africa – and the list goes on – all these and uncountable other horrible acts of show, revenge or political expedience seem to convey ample evidence that man is innately a being without a conscience or a sense of compassion for suffering fellow men.
The violence served out to us via television and computer games adds to the numbing of the feelings of horror when confronted with cruel images and actions. Games and reality are getting more and more mixed up and the one shapes the other so as to thoroughly confuse the human mind, when left defenseless to the workings of the propaganda and entertainment industry.
For reasons of practical convenience, most parents realize that cruel behavior does not lead to a socially acceptable communal life. So they try to bring out the feeling of compassion and inhibit the cruel instincts of their children to such an extent that many of us have been led to believe that man is inherently a benevolent creature. For most of us, this kind of positive brainwashing has produced good results and we do behave with compassion and friendliness towards our fellow human beings under most circumstances. It seems to be in our own interest to be able to get along well with our neighbors, as has been pointed out by all the major religions and by most of the great philosophers.
But look at where we are today. Give a person some strength and he will want more. Give him some power and he will want more. Give him some wealth and he will want more.
Also, behold the different scene when the neighbors happen to be of a different skin color, a different faith, or to have a different language and customs. Or one nation can develop the false impression that it is superior to all other nations, that its citizens count for more than those of any other country. And if circumstances are set so as to make it possible, they will draw the conclusion that they have an inherent right to control any other country that can add to the greatness of their own superpower status. This can of course lead up to a situation where the world is controlled by 'disaster capitalism', which is what we are seeing today, where the Big Corporations are in collusion with the governments in order to strangle democracy and rule the world by blind opportunism. The all too widespread human need to feel superior to others of their own species has led to so much atrocity in the world that nothing should surprise us any more.
The fear of those who are different from us is perhaps one of the most innate features in the make-up of human beings. And yet there is also much proof that differences can be accepted without any hostility, in cases where those fears are not enhanced by the powers that be for political reasons, that is for profit of some kind. Man is certainly prone to committing violence towards man, but there is also the instinct of self-preservation that acts counter to the readiness to commit aggressive acts.
In the final analysis, wars are fought and hostilities blown up for reasons of greed and power hunger. People of different religions can get along perfectly well, as long as political leaders don't interfere in their daily lives. Muslims and Hindus can live peaceably next door to each other, mingle in the streets and show no hostility whatsoever in most regions of India. Also, without outside interference, Jews and Muslims in various Arab countries, as well as in what was formerly called Persia, North-African Muslims and also those of the Christian religion were living peacefully together for hundreds of years, until the day when an inside or outside power ignited the spark and stirred up hatred towards those who were different, which the power holder will readily do if he sees some profit coming from the confrontation. Until hostilities flare up, fueled by the extreme political or personal ambitions of some madman in a position of power, people of different ethnicities have been known to live peaceably together.
To this indoctrination of people in order to stir up fear and hatred has to be added the fact that people are seen as expendable by the self-anointed leaders. People are reduced to worthless agents in global power games. If millions are killed and a whole region in the world is set ablaze, so what, as long as the war lords are safe and holding on to their booty?
The 'clash of civilizations' that is a common interpretation of the disastrous situation in the Middle East today, as well as in many other places of the world, has no base in reality. If it had not been for the vicious propaganda blown up by the neocon regime after the 9/11 horror, the so-called 'war on terror' could not have been invented. Propaganda of that kind has of course been going on from the beginning of time, whenever one people felt the need to invade and control other peoples or tribes. Were it not for this insidious use of propaganda in order to dumb down the people and to create fear and hostile feelings in a nation, most of the inhabitants of our earth would probably manage to live relatively peacefully together – from a sense of self-preservation if nothing else.
The neocons had learned their lesson well and knew from the outset of their aggression how to run the propaganda machine so as to create hatred and fear where there was none or very little. After all, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was the product of many years of planning by the neocons long before the disastrous event of 9/11. The growing feeling that the world was practically ready to be taken over by a strong U.S. power machine, uninhibited by such things as a Constitution or international conventions, had been brewing at least since the days of Ronald Reagan. The U.S. Empire was going to be headed by Republicans forever and ever. And in order to make this take-over totally seamless, they were careful to work with the Big Corporations and to control the nation's mass media by means of corporate money.
Propaganda is an easy-to-wield arm when it comes to convincing a people that they are superior to the rest of the world, particularly when this brainwashing has been going on for centuries, or to imbue them with a sense of fear or hatred or desire to get revenge on an imagined enemy. Fear and/or hatred of the Other is probably the emotion that is the easiest to instill in a person subjected to never-ending propaganda.
Obliviousness to the horrors that their own governments have perpetrated is extremely easy to achieve, given the fact that an individual wants to believe that his family is good, that his group is good, that his community is good and that his country does everything for the best. Given also the obfuscation and omissions of history books and the non-stop propaganda pouring out of the electronic media, it is obvious that an entire country can be made to believe that they are invincible and in all respects superior to the rest of the world. Children as well as grown-ups are constantly brain-fed with the gospel that 'Americans' (the U.S. citizens of course, leaving out all other Americans) are the most moral, the most intellectually superior and that they have the lives the most worth living. The world simply wouldn't stand up if the Americans were not there to hold it up. 'Civilization' to them equals the American way of life.