A Brotherhood of War

I often wonder what it is that binds us together, as a species? What kind of ideology, object, concept, or anything for that matter could unite the disparate societies of humanity under a single banner? There are of course many hypotheses that could be considered as feasible answers to this question: a desire for peace, a fear of anarchy, a search for justice, so on and so forth. Yet perhaps the answer is a much simpler and less tasteful one; that the strongest rope to bind us with lies in conflict. Or to put it in another way, that we are at peak cohesion when we have found a common enemy.
To say that a common enemy is a unifying element, is to reiterate the words, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It is to accept the axiom that we are creatures bred for war, chaos and all suchlike undesirable affairs. But it is not to declare that we are entirely incapable of peace.
Take for instance the post-colonial nations of Africa, Asia, the Americas, et cetera. Lands once ruled by a bourgeois class uncaring of the common native, who views the latter more so as objects than members of the same species—conducting pseudo-scientific researchers proclaiming that the non-Caucasian races are biologically inferior, even at times categorizing them as a sub-species of homo sapiens. These were likely the darkest years of the natives. An era of repression brought about not by Mother Nature, not born out of their own errors, but birthed by the insatiable hunger of the more advanced societies of the globe. Fortunately, said state of oppression could not last without end.
From Algeria to Indonesia, the natives of colonies eventually overpowered their captors—with the aid of a variety of external factors. They united under their respective banners; the Algerians, Indonesians, and their conquered kindred all shouting “We are our own people! We are not slaves!” and other similar sentiments. To put it simply, they identified with their fellow natives—most of which were once of different and clashing tribes—to overthrow the unjust colonialist powers. An undertaking of this kind must allow for newfound years of nationalist fraternity, should it not? Sadly, the answer is blunt “no.”
As soon as the colonial powers were driven out of the picture, segregation began. Old, nearly forgotten blood feuds between clans resurfaced. Struggles of power over who should be the ruler of the infant nation took place. And of course, religious and ethnic conflicts reared their despicable heads. How could a once proud, unified people, capable of defeating foes who are technologically, economically, militaristically superior to them suddenly forget that for a brief window in time, they were all brothers and sisters? Quite paradoxically, it is because there no longer are foes with the fortitude of colonialists to fight.
The colonialists completely occupied the agendas of the natives, instilling in them the same desire to be freed from occupation; to have total control of their own lives, to have futures not predesignated by arbitrary owners, and many more sensible desires. Yet when these desires could finally be realized, conflicting goals rise up. Many long to be the replacement bourgeoisie, some feel that they should be better rewarded in their efforts against the colonialists, a few want nothing more than to seek justice from archaic feuds overshadowed in the days of colonialism. But these are a mere few of the newly minted goals of the free natives—all of which harboring the potential for endless conflicts. And as such those beautifully patriotic days are gone once more, replaced by infighting amongst a people who had managed to realize their past, singular dream.
For mankind is a species consisting of countless varieties. Contrasts which, when brought to light, could be the spark to decades of chaos. For us to find peace, we must continuously—without any end in sight—search for menaces to fight; ones that require the combined efforts of each and every member of our kind.
We can find endless illustrations of this particular phenomena of brotherhoods in arms; from the alliances of the Greek states against the might of Persia, to the partnership of the United States of America and the Soviet Union against the Axis powers—the latter of which very quickly dissipated once the antagonists were eliminated.
Today we find ourselves fighting in numerous fronts, for radically different causes: the war on terror, drugs, climate change, and so forth. Each of these grounds hold their own respective merits and demerits, yet they hold a common ground in that they bring forth cooperation between parties with conflicting, personal agendas. Moreover, save for the war on terror, most of the mentioned and unmentioned phenomena are ‘wars’ in name only, not in the manner by which they are conducted. Hence, unifying threats do not instantly necessitate the production of fresh soldiers and corpses, but also that of scientists, legislators, philosophers, the fighters of peaceful warfare. It is for this specific reason that I wish for an endless struggle.
Humans are not gentle animals. We have survived up to the present thanks primarily to our extensive skills in violence—pushing many other species to the brink of extinction, cutting down forests to build our nests, enslaving animals to serve our wants and needs, crushing our fellow man for an assortment of purposes both reasonable and insane, and the list goes on and on. Though violent we may be, it is possible to divert our tendency to slaughter into a more beneficial direction.
By focusing the strategic, ruthless cunning we have cultivated over millennia we can conjure up opposition forces and bond over the prospect of defeating them. Again these forces may not necessarily be other human beings, but any and all things which threaten our ways of life or even existence. But to do so, a list of criteria must be fulfilled for an opponent to actually be unifying.
Firstly, an enemy must observably—either directly or indirectly—affect diverse groups of peoples at some level. Without it having any effect whatsoever, it would be nothing more but news. Second, that beating it would be directly beneficial to those who partake in the conquest. Realistically speaking, humans are not at all altruistic, though this is a discussion for another time. And thirdly, that it could serve as a direct opposite of moral human universals. That is to say, the other side has to be in one way or another be able to be construed as pure evil—in the moralistic and survivalist senses— for there to be no doubt that one should freely volunteer him or herself in the war.
War is in our nature. It is an inescapable trap of the human condition which we can never escape from. We must fight, day and night. But what we fight against, what we fight for, does not have to bring about our own destruction. It could, instead, be the push we have for our entire existence needed to finally be an eternally united species.
Reference: The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon