By Kyle B. Stiff
I’ve been noticing something goofy that crops up in TV shows on a regular basis, and since it’s normal for us to mistake TV for an accurate representation of reality, I thought I would shine a light on this incredibly inaccurate thing that all TV writers seem to believe.
Imagine a story about two war-torn nations. Their leaders want to end the fighting, but it’s just so difficult because hatred feeds into more hatred and the cycle of violence continues. The characters in the story make all kinds of pronouncements on the folly of mankind, “Alas war is a part of our nature” and “god damn we must be fuckin’ stupid to keep fighting like this” etc etc. Finally a special negotiator is brought in to help the two sides work out a peace treaty OR the two leaders meet on their own and both of them wring their hands wondering just how they can get their people to stop fighting. “How can we overcome the folly of human nature!” “I hear you brother, it seems that both our people hunger for war, are we not a fucked species!!!”
This pattern crops up in TV a lot, and once you see it you can’t un-see it. So what’s the problem? The problem is the commonly held belief that war is started or continued out of anger. It isn’t! War is a carefully calculated venture that people have to be compelled to take part in. It happens because it benefits someone (and not always who you might expect). Blind rage has surprisingly little to do wtih it!
We often think of war happening because of stupid leaders forcing their lemming-like followers to die for their benefit. A more realistic scenario is that leaders are expected to provide results for their underlings – that is, the people who have them by the balls. Nobody follows a leader just because he has a nametag that says he’s the leader; a leader is someone willing to take responsiblity, which is absolutely terrifying to most people. That’s why we look up to leaders. They’re willing to put their names on projects that could potentially fall apart. That’s one big reason why Nervous Nellies like me don’t become CEOs, but people with a high threshhold for fear and pain and embarrassment do become CEOs.
As soon as someone has taken a position of leadership, they aren’t surrounded by lemmings who yearn to take orders and be dominated. No, they’re surrounded by people who want results, and some of those people want results so badly, they’ll turn on the leader if they have the opportunity. If profits go down, somebody’s balls go into the fire – and someone always has the fire going, just in case.
This is why it’s silly to worry about the President having access to the “nuclear football” as if it’s dangerous. I heard this argument about Trump more than once – “He could push the button at any time!” There are really dopes out there who have this mental image of Biff Tannen sitting in the Oval Office, shaking his head while a blood vessel is pounding in his forehead, somebody made fun of him and now he’s more A*N*G*E*R*E*Y*Y*Y than he’s ever been before… “Fuck it, let’s see what these cocksuckers have to say when I launch the nukes!!!”
Obviously it doesn’t work like that. Even small nations that go to war have to have heads of state discussing plans with heads of business, everybody’s on the phone with foreign contacts, there’s arguing and rationalizing about potential gains, possible risks, can they get the public to go along, etc. War is so vastly complicated and requires such a high degree of intelligence and cooperation that you might as well believe someone could start a successful business in a fit of rage, or paint a masterpiece while blinded by anger.
And the idea that war is a part of human nature? Tell that to anyone who’s trained soldiers. The training that turns a civilian into a soldier is so demanding that most people can’t even handle it. Soldiers firing over the heads of the enemy and missing on purpose (as long as they are not in immediate danger) is a very real thing that has to be drilled out of people. If war was a part of human nature then you would see neighboring towns self-organize into small armies and raiding one another on a regular basis. Why wouldn’t they?! You could replenish your population indefinitely as long as even a handful of males survived. And yet countries are full of towns that don’t even have walls or moats, because they (realistically) never expect the next town over to attack them… even if they are rival sportsball enthusiasts!
Even a simple bar fight is difficult to pull off due to human nature. As a huge drunk who has spent way too much time in bars, I have never seen a bar fight where two guys squared off and their friends stood behind them shouting encouragement and egging them on. What almost always happens is that two guys will want to fight, but either one or both of them will have a friend with their arms wrapped around them holding them back, “Eyo yo yo it ain’t worth it mang ch-ch-chill out bro man it ain’t worth it” etc. This is human nature. It happens far more often than actual bloodletting, but it’s not often documented because it’s boring! What’s your favorite almost-fight-scene from TV? You don’t have one – nobody does!
Obviously I’m not saying that violence never occurs. It does. But I think it’s important to dump the idea that senseless rage drives large groups of people into self-organizing Murder Squads. Humans aren’t stupid. If they’re forming into armies and attacking someone, it’s for a reason, and that reason usually has to do with people in the middle wanting results from people at the top, and then it has to be carefully packaged to the people at the bottom. If war was a part of human nature, then war wouldn’t have to be packaged in a narrative. We wouldn’t tell ourselves that we’re doing something regretable in order to accomplish something good or necessary. Our leader would just stand up and announce, “This year we will attack… let’s see… (looks at his map, then spins an empty bottle)… the nation to the east! All males report to the eastern border and kill the first motherfucker you see!!!”
But seriously, this idea of a peace negotiator trying to stop rage-induced war happens a lot on TV, but there’s one specific instance in Star Trek: The Next Generation that is so dumb and so over-the-top that I can’t believe no one else has ever noticed it or made fun of it before. In that episode, there’s a planet where these people who look like apes are locked in an endless war. I guess they look ape-like because only unevolved people wage war, yadda yadda etc etc. Anyway, the Federation is so desperate to help these people end their war that they pull out all the stops. That’s right, you guessed it, they recruit the ultimate negotiatior… a man capable of ending even the most balls-out conflict ever imagined. He could even get a libtard and a right-wing death squad member to hug each other with tears streaming down their faces. I can’t remember the guy’s name, but this motherfucker walked around in a white robe, and his mind was in such a peaceful state that he couldn’t even speak for himself – he had to have three psychic people follow him around and narrate what was going on with the three different aspects of his mind. So they teleport this freak down into the no-man’s-land between the two armies so they can negotiate for peace. Once they set up the tables, some chairs, a Coke machine or whatever, then the guys from the opposing sides walk up – and, get this – they’ve got their rifles out, pointed, fingers on the triggers, looking around like they think that the alien from Alien is going to jump out at them! Have you guys ever watched the news and seen dudes from Hamas or the PLO negotiate with the Israelis while they all have their guns pointed at each other?! Of course not! Leaders negotiate peace treaties when their people (their sponsors) are ready for peace. They don’t do it in the middle of a conflict when all of their underlings are still expecting to get some sort of profit out of the affair. Anyway, I can’t remember what happened in that episode of Star Trek, but of course things went wrong… I think Worf ended up beating some guy’s head in with a 2×4, I don’t know.
I realized this frequent scenario was retarded when I started studying history. I was just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to thinking that war is just a facet of human stupidity, and that we have to leave it behind in order to evolve. We might minimize warfare, but we can never end it entirely. The species capable of ending warfare among themselves would have to be so spiritually castrated and so lacking in will and drive that over time their brains would degenerate. They would become like cattle, and eventually a harder, stronger species would come along and either enslave them or just take their shit and leave them with nothing. And the stronger species wouldn’t necessarily be monsters, either (although they might be). They could just be a civilization led by people given the grim task of making sure their people prosper… just like all leaders are.
We are in an era sort of like that now, where some humans crave peace so much, and are such natural servants, that they would serve the first alien species that landed. Just look at the comments section on any story or video about aliens – it’s always full of species-traitors quick to judge their own kind!
In studying history, I realized the importance of cutting people some slack… especially people at the top. Everyone’s back is against the wall, everyone is dealing with situations that aren’t ideal. The people at the bottom like to point the finger and blame their leaders for everything. But that’s the good thing about being at the bottom, isn’t it? You get to remain blameless and let others take responsibility for making impossible decisions!
If you enjoyed getting butt-blasted with the unasked-for opinions of Kyle B. Stiff, then please consider reading some of his books and stories, all of which were written to be entertaining (unlike this blog post) and can be found HERE.