Debating Human Nature Over Star Wars

Posted by Anshul Rawal
February 5, 2017


Note: That the article has little to do with the movie and more with human nature and the concept of war.

I remember having this conversation with my friend some years back regarding the human nature, to be specific the inherent strand of violence in it. Although the violent part is contestable, one could not ignore the desire that drives our actions, colliding with others’ resulting in conflict. Based on this fundamental thought someone came up with the concept of “Star Wars”, a story revolving around warring factions in space. Without getting into the philosophical foundations of the movie or the message the movie might be generating in general or otherwise, let us proceed further to the actual point of contention with the term “Star Wars” as was pointed out by my friend.
“In the space age, “star wars” is an oxymoron. We tend to see the future with the current mind set, that’s why we still imagine/invent wars even in the future of space travel…”
To elaborate on the aforementioned argument regarding the oxymoron, the title suggests some form of intergalactic conflict in a star system (probably). But given the (human) origins of the term and the movie, the statement argues that one assumes the nature of the future civilizations through the current human discourse. It is a valid point, how can one speculate the future of interactions in-between humans or with other species based on the conditions that prevail today, in an age where the technological advancements might eliminate certain bad habits and revolutionize human life?
As compelling the argument is, I have to disagree with it to some certain extent. The first obvious point is that Star Wars is not a futuristic story, the intro text rolls “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” at least not story wise. Now that is out of the way, the statement assumes that basically socialism (or its variations) will ultimately be established as a new form of political order, where everybody will be equal thus eliminating any national conflicts or wars. Hopefully it will, it might take a thousand years, but still worth a try. What it doesn’t take into account is the fact that conflict is human nature, it is like factory settings of humankind, and there will still be groups in that future, just not on today’s criteria. There will be skirmishes, battles and conflict will reach its final stage – war (in my views War is more like evolutionary stage of conflict rather than invention). The scenario where there are no wars is an idealistic prediction at best. In more realistic terms the past has been evident that it is better to have high hopes for the future.
The human nature is not completely ‘fixed’, although to decide what and how much of it is fixed or dynamic is one of the oldest questions of science, this debate might take years. I consider human nature to be both fixed and dynamic, as there are certain traits that are constant and others evolving and changing with time. Albeit some could easily argue that human nature is evolving and changing and that we are a lot better than we were in primal era. We have evolved and have changed, both psychologically and physically, we are more prone to anxiety attacks than we were in Neolithic age. Then again I am basing my opinion on historical data, so maybe I am wrong to a certain extent if not completely, but this begs a question – If human nature is subjected to change completely, than we can safely assume that Humans today are better in every way than the ones when they started migrating from Africa. Well they surely evolved in matter of physical appearance, and the ‘brain-size’ too, but the question remains – What is the difference between a human tribe wiping and driving out a Neanderthal tribe during Middle-Late Pleistocene period, around 80,000 years ago and a group of people wiping other people out, today; in respect to ‘basic’ human nature?
It is true that the wars today are not instinct based. People don’t join the army out of instincts or because of human nature. A group of people waging war on another, using cooperative strategies wiping out others tribes, cannot be explained in basic human nature terms, there is more to it. There’s resource grabbing, scarcity paradigm and little to no education and a lot to go on, we cannot compare today’s wars with that of the Neanderthals or some such others. Today’s wars and conflicts are manufactured. And the kind of civilizations that star wars shows are a sorry lot. Wars in star age civilizations tells us that they don’t know how to solve a problem.
But it is important to understand that the Neanderthals example was about conflict on limited level, it might not necessarily escalate to an all-out war, but that same conflict might be happening on a different terrain someplace else for the very same reason, it will not be called War, but people will still be dying so basically a tinderbox is being prepared, somebody just needs to light the match to set it ablaze. And one must really delve deep into the word ‘instinct’ before applying it for humans, it is too simple a word for human behaviour.
War is a tool, with the tactics and technology and so on, but there is one human nature involved in its roots, involved in its inception (albeit not every time), the notion of superiority, of dominance over the other, the feeling or the lust for it. This notion of power is also deep seated in the school of realism in international relations. Examples are given throughout ages: the rise of empires, Imperialism, New Imperialismthe great game, scramble for Africa, the two great wars and emergence of US as a new super power, the cold war – the bipolar world, and current period the uni-polar world. In fact USA follow the policy that world is a chaos, a rubble and they are only ones that can bring order to it. And of course you can compare the Homo-sapiens coming out of Africa and people now, when it’s limited to basic human nature, they both wanted domination over other race. And as I said before war is a product of evolutionary process, therefore the ‘wars’ then, were not so much as high scale or political driven as they are now, but think of it as the one of the very first chapter in its endless book. Its origins are somewhat similar to origins of the state, the social contract and such.
The “resource grabbing, scarcity paradigm and little to no education…” they are just excuses, ‘reasons’, and they are very much dynamic, there’ll be variation in these- race/ethnicity, religion, nationalism, ideologies and so on as age progresses, these “reasons” change, and so will the means of warfare, today’s technological innovation will be tomorrow’s weapon.

And of course not to forget the greed, anger, jealousy – the typical seven deadly sins, they come pre-installed. Although I am not suggesting everyone might fall for it or use them, but there’ll be at least one of these in every human being, and these things do affect the chain of thought and possibly the actions that follow. And there’ll be people who’ll repeat the same mistakes, there’ll always be people who want other to follow their will.
As I am not very good at explaining I’ll just summarize it – what I am saying is that even a small dispute can turn out to be a major conflict, a small matchstick can burn a whole forest down.
But I do really hope, that I am wrong and if John Locke’s Tabula Rasa is right, then we must change now so that future of mankind is peaceful.

Youth Ki Awaaz is an open platform where anybody can publish. This post does not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions.