By one estimate, there have been only 292 years of peace in the world over the last 5,600 years, and during that time more than 3,500,000,000 people have died in, or as a result of, more than 14,000 wars. This includes not only the obvious military and civilian casualties associated with war, but also deaths from the common consequences of war- disease, famine, and civil violence.
With those kinds of statistics it's perhaps understandable that a common response to Anti-war arguments is that aggression is part of 'Human Nature' and wars are inevitable. It is, of course, a huge question and has been debated for centuries.
War School is a film about the increasing militarisation of UK society, especially of children. Over the last ten or so years it's been evident to many campaigners and educationalists, like Forces Watch, that UK Governments, whilst cutting many areas of youth support, have been investing huge amounts of money and resources in military activities for young people.
We are now entering the second century of unbroken global wars which have resulted in the most horrific series of statistics ever seen. Britain is the only country with the record of being at war somewhere in the world during every year of that period. (Guardian 2014)
It really comes down to a question of 'Nature Vs Nurture' and we think there's a lot of evidence to show that 'Warfare' is a learnt, or more precisely 'taught' behaviour. In this clip from War School Veteran's for Peace Ben Griffin and Wayne Sharrocks share their experience of Army training methods.
Werner Levi notes that there never seem to be enough “aggressive” men flocking to the recruiting stations during war, so that everywhere men are drafted to perform such services. Once drafted into the military, they need a heavy dose of indoctrination to turn them into killers. It takes a great deal of conditioning to prepare them for face-to-face combat. Even so, in some armies more than half of the men who were supposed to fight did not pull the trigger. They were willing to die for their countries, but they were not willing to kill for them.
Albert Bandura, a proponent of social learning theory, maintains that aggression is learned in large part from the social environment. Aggression is very much influenced by the socialization process that almost all youngsters encounter - in the home, among family members, with peers, in school, and in religious groups - as a natural part of growing up and becoming familiar with societal norms.
In this clip from War School, filmed at an Armed Forces Day event in Guildford Surrey, one of the youngest of many very young children there asked the 'soldier' introducing him to the 'Brown Bess Musket' a direct and unprompted question, "Why do you need it?". The answer is one of the most telling quotes from the film.
More from "War & "Human Nature"
Most cultures, especially the more complex modern cultures, have subcultures with a set of competing values and norms. If individual behavior is the product of cultural environment, then the behavior of our rulers is probably the product of several different environments, too. In summary, social learning theory reminds us of the importance of culture as a source of violence. It admonishes us that if we seek to understand the cause of violence and aggression, we need to understand that individuals (including national leaders) are quite frequently the products of social and cultural environments that condone and even reward aggression and belittle peaceful cooperation.
In spite of the Pandemic Armed Forces Day is still scheduled for June 27th. We will be looking at its implications in the coming weeks.