Striving to better understand human behaviour, I came across the 18th May 2012 edition of the Science Magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. On pages 819-884, there are two dozen news analyses, reviews and original articles on human conflict. Hence, I strongly urge readers to access these articles online or, if possible, to obtain a print issue of the Science Magazine from a library.
Personally, I found the magazine’s coverage of human conflict most intriguing as it made me more cognisant of the intricacies of conflict, violence, the mind-set and the psyche. Having recently published papers on the in-vivo assays of neurotransmitters, the above provocative readings helped me better understand my own scholarly output.
Human conflict has persisted since prehistoric time, shaping the destiny of species.
Some scholars believe that conflicts have intensified only in the modern era, due in part to the proliferation of nationalist, racist, ethnic or sexist strife, socio-economic disparity or political disenfranchisement, religious or cult dominance, overpopulation, modern warfare and, above all, the exploitation and over-exhaustion of natural resources and dramatic climatic change. Whereas we might selectively concentrate on the motives that perpetrate, intensify, control or mitigate conflicts among humans, parallel conflicts have existed among other species throughout the evolutionary pathways of the past billion years: ‘the survival of the fittest’.
We humans claim to be the sole possessors of logic, rationale, conscience, discourse and negotiation. We expect to resolve differences and establish justice, equity and equality for sustaining peace, harmony and tranquillity. However, this is far easier said than done. We aspire to take exception to the notion of the ‘survival of the fittest’ aiming to act with empathy, compassion, and sympathy toward our fellow human beings irrespective of their creed, handicap, or ethno-cultural origins.
The notion of ‘we’ vs. ‘they’ or type altercations is as ancient as evolution itself, if not deeply rooted in our primate genome and behavioural modifications. Fears of ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ can lead to racism followed by violence. This has, in some instances, led to catastrophic genocide. The fear of others is presumably encoded into every species’ gene pool and subsequently amplified or reduced depending on social circumstances such as economic crises, resource scarcity, or environmental disasters where survival comes into question. To put it controversially, perhaps a megalomaniac thirsty for greed and power prevails in the human species.
On the other hand, there is a plethora of evidence suggesting a symbiotic co-existence of two more species. Take a rhinoceros and an oxpecker (the tick bird): the bird eats ticks and insects for sustenance or sucks infected wounds in the thick skin of the rhino, also alarming the large animal of any impending danger. In turn, the rhino provides a both protection and a food supply for an otherwise vulnerable bird. The mutual relationship is synergistically beneficial to both species, thereby increasing both their chances for survival. Even closer to home, consider the 2.5 lbs of symbiotic microbes, 100 trillion microorganisms, that we each carry in our body to regulate our digestion, metabolism, and endocrine systems. Such a degree of symbiotic interrelationship is, however, far from being achieved among the nearly seven billion human inhabitants of the earth. Does that imply that these ‘sub-species’ may be more evolved than humans when it comes to survival?
It is thought that the balance or imbalance of measurable neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, in specific human regions of the brain impels us to act one way or another. Hence one’s thoughts, decisions and actions may be determined based on the lack, excess or balance of these neurotransmitters.
The earth’s natural resources, namely, water, air, soil and materials are finite. Accordingly, the earth’s capacity for over-exploitation is also limited. Although there is no magic bullet to fully resolve conflicts and bring about the utopia dreamed of by many different civilisations, showing respect towards and sustaining a meaningful dialogue with others is a pivotal pre-requisite. Sustainability to safeguard the essential necessities for sustenance and survival, and the relative pursuit of happiness, ie: food, shelter, healthcare, education and empowerment of the individual are fundamental pillars if humanity is to avoid self-annihilation.Tags: Global
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This post was written by David Rahni