Our better nature
I learned war is a funny thing. War! Hahaha! There is a notion called the “deep roots theory of war.” It implies war is an innate quality of our humanness…that war is in our genes. E.O. Wilson, who has been called the father of sociobiology, has said war is “humanity’s hereditary curse…” Now, everything within me, every fiber of my being, resists believing this. But then, this guy, a random guy I have never before met, says to me, “So! When you reckon we’re going to start bombing North Korea? Hyuk! Hyuk!” And I am forced to wonder.
After spending an appropriate while wondering of this, I have come to a conclusion; war is indeed part of the nature of at least some of us…the crazy people.
In 1953, during a war that encompassed every possible description of war, a revolutionary war, a war for independence, a civil war, a war of ideologies, a war for unification, a war of proxies, proxies and more proxies, a war of every possible excuse for war, the world tired of the insanity of war, paused, took a breath and stopped…the fighting…not the war. Born of this pause was a thing that at the time seemed a glimmer of sanity but soon became something akin to sanity looking at its reflection in a funhouse mirror, the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
While the powers that be mediated the creation of the DMZ, they wisely built into this heavily fortified wall opened doors to peace. One door was in the form of a conference building called The Freedom House Pagoda, a place for prisoner exchanges, diplomatic gyrations and peace negotiations. A good idea. Within the Freedom House is a conference table with the Military Demarcation Line drawn right through the middle, North Korea on one side, South Korea on the other
The other door to peace left open was in the form of two villages, Kijŏng-dong representing the North and Daeseong-dong representing the South. They were called peace villages. These are the only two villages allowed within the 160 mile long and 2 ½ mile wide DMZ. But these two peace villages, separated by only about 1 ¼ miles, because of the crazy people, pressed their own sort of war. First it was waged with loudspeakers, each side blasting propaganda to the other side for 20 hours per day for years and years.
When the crazy people on both sides tired of all the noise, they began to fight with balloons. Each village would tie propaganda messages, including instructions on defecting, to helium balloons and let them loose…the first un-manned drones.
Kijŏng-dong didn’t fair too well in this form of warfare mostly because of the tendencies of prevailing winds…so they returned to the use of loud speakers.
In the 1980s, the people of Daeseong-dong struck by building a flag pole. It was a glorious flagpole; 323 feet high, it flies a 287 pound South Korean flag.
The people of Kijŏng-dong counter-struck by building a flagpole at 525 feet and sporting a 595 pound North Korean flag … the fourth tallest flagpole in the world.
A truce on the use of loudspeakers was maintained from 2004 to 2016. But after a 2016 nuclear test by the crazy people in the North, the loudspeakers were turned back on by the crazy people in the South. And the war presses on.
This war has been going on, perpetuated by insanity, for 67 years. Today, the present situation threatens the incineration of 23 million North Koreans, 55 million South Koreans, 127 million Japanese, hundreds of thousands U.S. military, their families and support workers and untold Chinese. If we accept this because war is in our nature, we are doomed.
Anthropologist Jonathan Haas has written, “The truly dangerous part of the “deep roots” theory is that it provides a foundation for warmongers to ignore the actual root causes of war in the modern world, which are invariably to be found in the material bases of culture–environment, resource availability, demography and production. If we are going to understand why people go to war, we have to understand that warfare comes not from our biology but from causal variables that can be addressed and resolved by human actions.”
Today … now … would be a good time to leave the crazy people at home and take a seat at that conference table with the red line drawn though it and explore the “causal variables that can be addressed and resolved by human actions.” This is all I have learned today.
James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org