I’m aware this is probably a pretty bizarre discussion to have on a forum completely unrelated to psychology/philosophy but its a pet topic I like to float around my circles and was wondering what you guys would think about it.
To preface this isn’t a justification or endorsement of violent or psychotic behavior, it’s just a thesis on human condition. Starting off with a personal anecdote to set the stage:
A good mentor of mine and I were hanging out wasted, started trading stories about some of the fucked up shit we’ve seen/heard about in our lives. He told me about the time that he had also gotten drunk with another guy, a friend of his who was a shrink for the VA. He’d told him about one his clients, active duty ranger, and the story of the first time he had killed someone. The client and his team were running an assault on some Afghanistan compound, and this was the first time he was going to be pointman in the stack. The shrink asked the guy how he felt, and he said that he was pretty much ecstatic, it was a surprise attack on a confirmed haji compound, 99 percent chance he was going to get to kill someone today. Said he felt like he was about to “burst with excitement” lol. Anyway they start clearing the x, and the guy’s team stack up on a door, go for a breach, his body’s tense, his adrenaline though the roof, they bang the door down, and as he enters he see’s a guy raise his rifle towards him, and the ranger starts dumping his mag into him. He told the shrink that as soon as he saw the dude’s body drop, he came his pants, like actually, literally came lmao. That moment had changed him dramatically, and he shared to the shrink that he felt an immense guilt, thought that he was inhuman, a sick freak, a psychopath, going to hell, etc. Couldn’t look his kids in the face, couldn’t have sex with his wife anymore, borderline suicidal at this point, so he went to this therapist. And the shrink had pretty much told him, after a long session, that there was nothing wrong with him, it was perfectly normal reaction to the adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, everything else attributing to his hormonal high, that it just manifested physically in this “release.” Think about when a hunter finally takes the shot on a deer he’s been stalking, and lands the perfect hit, its the same kind of “pleasure” just multiplied by a hundred in his case, it’s not reflective of his mentality. I guess that mindset worked for him, cause he met with the shrink for a few more follow-ups, and his psyche had pretty much returned to normal, no longer distressed about his guilt. My mentor then asked the shrink “is that really true, is it normal to have that kind of reaction to killing people.” Shrink replied,” No… that guy’s a monster.”
So that brings me to the actual topic, is it really immoral or wrong to “like killing,” not in the serial killer fashion, more or less on the excitement of combat and war. From a biological analysis; our ancestors were hunter’s and gatherer’s for the majority of our evolutionary lifespan, we’ve developed genetic and behavioural traits to accomodate those roles. Traits which still are the foundation in much of our psychological behaviour today. Competition, conflict, “winning,” are all very present in society, I think we all have a level of satisfaction that comes from these moments, and put into simple terms, we “crave that rush.” However, as humanity at large aims to pull away from our animal instincts, civilization and society doesnt cater towards these more disruptive behaviours. Sure we have recreational hunting, sports, martial arts, etc, but you’re only allowed these as ways to placate the satisfaction from instinctual urges. Bar fights, Gang wars, and other acts of “mutual violence” are obviously not allowed for the sake of a peaceful, civilized society; except for war.
Now you could talk all day about why war is beneficial or disruptive, but I want to focus on the effects towards the psychology of the individual. Most nowawdays, grow up with the consensus that killing, war, and the death that comes with it, is morally, ethically, and legally wrong in every manner, and should always be avoided at all costs. I think this developmental mindset ends up being ingrained into our psyches, and as a result, for the most part, when we experience, or cause severe violence, its generated often as a negative and traumatic, event in our concious. In our present state, I think we all perceive that there is metaphorical castration of the animalistic desires that dont benefit a civil society, especially in first world countries. And as a result I think alot of people today, especially young males, end up feeling a sense of purposeless, pent up rage, anger at the world, depression from feeling apart from society. As a more broad correlation, it could be one of the reasons for so much mass shootings, gang/cartel violence, hatred in our fellow men, as we are forced by governments, corportations, and society at large to stay sedated from these more “natural urges” to seek conflict and thrills. So many of the military I’ve met had honestly thought deployment was the best time of their lives, and many retirees wish they could go back and do it all again.
Perhaps there is a balance that war could provide, a “healthy” level of violence, conflict, and competition that actually satisfy our souls. Maybe if the common human sentiment against killing and death had changed to accomodate what our genetic behavioural patterns seek, trauma would be less prevalent in those who are actively at war, bringing the idea of honorable combat back. What do you guys think?
Originally posted on the Mariana Bay Forum on 14/1/2024 (https://forum.marianabay.com/threads/war-is-le-good.457/
Credit to n0sb0mb, author of this article.