Posted on August 29, by Scott Alexander [Epistemic status: Pieced together from memory years after the event.
It has seemed to me worth while to show from the history of civilization just what war has done and has not done for the welfare of mankind. In the eighteenth century it was assumed that the primitive state of mankind was one of Arcadian peace, joy, and contentment.
In the nineteenth century the assumption went over to the other extreme — that the primitive state was one of universal warfare.
This, like the former notion, is a great exaggeration. Man in the most primitive and uncivilized state known to us does not practice war all the time; he dreads it; he might rather be described as a peaceful animal.
Real warfare comes with the collisions of more developed societies. If we turn to facts about the least civilized men we find proofs that they are not warlike and do not practice war if they can help it.
The Australians have no idea Note. Their fights do not lead to slaughter or spoils or other consequences of victory. Quarrels between tribes are sometimes settled by a single combat between chiefs. They have no political organization, so there can be no war for power.
An Englishman who knew them well said that he knew of serious wounds, but he had known of but one death from their affrays. We are told Edition: Perhaps the converse would be true: We are not astonished to hear that they develop excessive tyranny and cruelty to those who are weaker than themselves, especially to women, and even to their mothers.
This is attributed in great part to head-hunting and cannibalism. In general they know the limits of their own territory and observe them, but they quarrel about women.
In one case only had he heard of war for any other reason; three brothers, Barolongs, fought over one woman, and their tribe had remained divided, up to the time of writing, into three parties. During his residence in the Bechuana country he never saw unarmed men strike each other. They quarrel with words, but generally both parties burst into a laugh and that ends it.
A Spanish priest, writing an account, inof the Aurohuacos of Colombia, 5 says that they have no weapons of offense or defense. If two quarrel they go out to a big rock or tree and each with his staff beats the rock or tree with vituperations.
The one whose staff breaks first is the victor; then they embrace and return home as friends. Even our American Indians, who appear in Edition: Wampum strings and belts were associated with peace-pacts and with prayers for peace.
In contrast with these cases we find others of extreme warlikeness which account for the current idea that primitive men love war and practice it all the time.
But if we examine the cases of peacefulness or unwarlike-hess which have been cited, we see that only two or three seem to present evidence of Arcadian peace and simplicity, such as, in the imagination of the eighteenth century philosophers, characterized men in a state of nature.
Probably if we had fuller knowledge these few instances would be much modified. What we see is that men have always quarreled.
The cases which have been selected are some of them also those of people who have been defeated, broken, and cowed down. Another set of examples consists of those in which abstinence from war is due to cowardice, and with it go the vices of cowardice — tyranny and cruelty to the weak.
These cases are calculated to delight the hearts of the advocates of strenuosity. What our testimonies have in common is this: When we undertake to talk about primitive society we should conceive of it as consisting of petty groups scattered separately over a great territory.
I speak of groups because I want a term of the widest significance. The group may consist, as it does amongst Australians and Bushmen, of a man with one or possibly two wives and their children, or it may have a few more members, or it may be a village group as in New Guinea, or a tribe or part of a tribe as amongst our own Indians.
It is to Edition:Species Profile of the Bur Oak. Mary Ann Riley Kemptville College Historically the oak is seen to represent power and strength.
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