Press "Enter" to skip to content


For those who grew up in the 1980s, Culture Club’s “The War Song” released in 1984 is a familiar tune. If you know the song, sing with me: “War, war is stupid and people are stupid; And love means nothing in some strange quarters…”

Culture Club’s lead singer, Boy George, who’s also one of the songwriters, said: “Most people are very ignorant politically and we’re all told how glamorous war is.”

Billboard called it “an effervescent protest song, hard to disagree with.”

If it’s hard to disagree with the thought that war is stupid, how come we are still doing it in 2024?

Oxford defines war as “a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.” In other words, it is a conflict carried on by force of arms.

Therefore, war is a violent act. It is destructive and harmful. It destroys things and kills people.

Why people would want war is something that has always baffled me. Whatever justification or rationalization may be given, I still could not bring myself around to accept it as making any sense at all.

One popular explanation people give about why war exists is this: humans have always been violent and warlike since prehistoric times. I call it the “it’s always been this way” explanation. It is tradition, it is history. Don’t question, just accept it as it is.

Because I am the kind of person who does not agree with stupid things, I tried to find out if being “warlike” is a “natural” characteristic of being human. Is it really our nature to want to harm each other?

This quest led me to the work of Prehistorian Marylene Patou-Mathis, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Based on their study, our image of “wild and warlike prehistoric humans, which persist even today, is actually a myth, devised in the second half of the 19th century.”

Archeological research shows that, in fact, “collective violence emerged with the sedentarization of communities and the transition from a predation economy to a production economy.”

It is therefore reasonable to assume that there was no war in the Palaeolithic period, strictly speaking. One of the notable reasons given why war (as we know it today) did not exist then was the presence of “a social structure that was egalitarian and less hierarchical.”

Collaboration and mutual support among all members of the clan were the norm among nomadic hunter-gatherers. It is, in fact, essential for their survival.

“Unlike the exploitation of resources in the wild, food production allowed the option of a food surplus, that gave rise to the concept of ownership – and, consequently, the emergence of inequalities,” noted Patou-Mathis.

During the Neolithic period, marked changes occurred such as environmental (start of global warming), domestication of plants and animals, search for new territories, population explosion, emergence of an elite and castes. A significant religious change also happened — the shift from female goddesses to male divinities. So “god” wasn’t always a man and women weren’t subordinate beings.

This radical change in social structures is believed to have played a major role in the development of violent conflicts. With the emergence of an elite and castes included the warriors and, as a consequence, the slaves needed to do the agricultural work.

“The emergence of an elite with its own interests and rivalries provoked internal power struggles and inter-community conflicts…These would proliferate in the Bronze Age, which began before 3,000 B.C. It was during this period, when genuine war weapons made out of metal appeared, that war became institutionalized,” wrote Patou-Mathis.

She explained that while violent behavior towards others may be prehistoric old (such as cannibalism), war has not always existed. Its origins appear to be correlated with the development of the production economy, which led to a radical change in social structures.

This explanation actually makes more sense. It is to the credit of our human capacity to cooperate with one another, rather than in killing each other, that we have survived this far.

Nonkilling predominates over killing in human nature. Most humans have not killed and do not kill. Being creative, not destructive, is our natural state. We learned violence as a consequence of historical and social causes. It is created by society and the culture it generates. If we learned it, then we can unlearn it.

And we are unlearning war the way we have unlearned slavery.

As John Mueller, author of the book entitled “The Stupidity of War,” points out: “International war seems to be in pronounced decline because of the way attitudes toward it have changed, roughly following the pattern by which the ancient and once-formidable formal institution of slavery became discredited and then obsolete.”

Mueller further explained that this process of change suggests that “international war is not a requirement of history or of human nature, but merely an idea, an institution or invention that has been granted onto international society.”

If the idea of war persists in 2024, who are these people promoting it? Who are benefitting from the existence of war?

Studies of early human societies reveal that communities that are resilient and can easily bounce back from crises are those that value cooperation and mutual support rather than individualism and competition.

If we really think about it, who is pushing us now to go to war? Who is promoting individualism and competition as “good”?

Before you echo the idea of a need for war — be it a “war on drugs” or a “war against terrorists” or a war against another country — I urge you to pause and think really hard if this is something you really believe to be a useful exercise or even an effective tool or strategy to improve the human condition.

Maybe in the Bronze Age or even in the Medieval Age that thinking can be popular, but in this so-called Age of Intelligence surely there are more creative ways we can think of than war to solve our social problems.


Powered By ICTC/DRS