Thursday, August 02, 2007

Our Suicidal Species

One of the strengths of our species is that we seem ready to dare almost anything. Climbing dangerous peaks is an emblematic instance of such daring that risks life simply for the excitement of doing it.Is there possibly embedded in our genetic structures a disposition towards suicide that is escalating towards what could be the end point of our species? If one examines the ancient literature of our major religions, death and the afterlife are central themes for nearly all of them — with a few exceptions that stress simply extinction as our ultimate.

Watch even young kids taking terrible risks for the thrill of them. I cringe as I recall the things we did when out of sight of our protective parents — swinging out from the side of a mountain over rocks below on a detached vine connected to a jutting tree (one of us fell and fortunately hit soft mud between two boulders 20 feet below); crawling across the mill race of an old mill on a weathered two by four — had it given way the racing waters led into the mill wheels which ground up anything that passed through them. Sadly of my 50 odd classmates from mainly comfortable backgrounds at the Kingswood day school in West Hartford, Connecticut, one blew his brains out. Two suicided on a steep highway down Avon Mountain with a crash at 100+ miles per hour.

Back to the present — suicide bombing apparently was launched not by Muslims, but several decades back by Hindu Tamils in their battles with the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. This latter day manifestation of the suicide impulse of homo sapiens echoes apocalyptic mentions in our earliest religious scriptures which make one wonder whether there is not a deep unconscious drive towards death implanted in many if not most of us?

The survival drive fortunately kept the Cold War combatants from launching the ultimate end of things as we had known them. But the conflict now in the Middle East looks to be another re-run of our suicidal impulses. You say that that it is the Muslim radicals who are committing suicide? What do you suppose our body counts of “insurgents” or “terrorists” are inspiring in those who suffer our brutal attacks? They now want us out of Afghanistan and Iraq. We came as saviors, disrupted their lives, and now are boasting how many of them we are killing off on a daily basis versus how many of us they have killed or maimed:

Iraq Snapshots Give 2 Views
In Iraq, the news emerging from the American
counterinsurgency campaign can seem particularly

If this is not suicidal madness I do not know what so qualifies?

The catch here is that with the decline in critical resources and the increase in our populations needing them, one must fear the ultimate Mathusian threat — that a final war will replace peace-making sometime within this present century:

Will these be our last years before the ultimate self extinction of homo sapiens?

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]


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