Thursday, February 12, 2009

Violence in the Age of Aquarius

Mike and I were discussing the perpetuation of violence and that there may not be a way to end it. I suggested a virus that targeted whatever hormones or DNA responsible for the violent response in humans, but that might end up in like Captain Kirk in Mirror, Mirror when he was split into the two halves of his personality (one violent and one passive reason), neither of which could live without the other. The same situation was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Xander was hit by a demon's weapon and split into smart and confident Xander and silly, immature Xander, both of which would die if they weren't reunited. Instead of a transporter fusing the two, Willow reversed the spell. Willow said that it was the natural state of the two halves of Xander to be one. In both situations, the writers were saying that we are darkness and light, violence and reason, good and evil combined in one package.

The dichotomy of the two halves of human nature -- dark and light -- is the central theme in many stories throughout history and is most prominent in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nowhere is the search to end violence and divide human nature more obvious than in Jekyll and Hyde, and that is one story that has been told and retold and cast in many different ways, even making the two halves of human nature male and female (Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde). So what is the answer? How do we control violence without cutting ourselves in half or castrating the population?


The tendency toward violence is inherent in all of us and religion certainly isn't the answer. Organized religion has fomented more wars, murder and destruction than any other catalyst in the history of mankind, and it's much harder to persuade a fervent believer that violence in the name of his god is wrong. After all, he has a mandate from heaven and he is the instrument of god's will, the results of which can be seen in radical Muslim suicide bombers. They have the force of Allah behind them and to deny Allah's will is unthinkable. Christianity isn't without its holy wars either and it's not even necessary to go back to the time of the Crusades in the Dark Ages to find proof. Hitler used religion to his advantage by targeting Jews, Gypsies and Christians that didn't follow the same beliefs. Even the Jews in their early days destroyed cities and put whole populations to the sword in the name of G_d. Instances of murder in the name of religion are very easy to find: Jim Jones, the Holy Inquisition, Joan of Arc (although Joan carried a sword, she never killed anyone, but her troops did), Cromwell, El Cid, Saladin, Richard the Lionhearted, the Children's Crusade, the Reformation Wars, David Koresh, Saddam Hussein, etc. I could go on for pages.

It is doubtful that violence can be reliably obtained through external means (drugs, religion, government) because each can be so easily perverted and turned from helping to fueling a more intense and destructive violence once removed or perverted. At the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, John Harvey Kellogg believed he had conquered the inherent predatory nature of a wolf by raising him to be a vegetarian, but I've little doubt that given a plate of raw meat the wolf would have reverted to type and become a dangerous predator. That much is evident in cats. A vegetarian cat will still chase, torture and kill any mouse that crosses it's path, its predatory nature hard wired in its DNA and its brain, and the same can be said for any predatory animal, including humans.

The only possible chance to curb the violent nature is to focus on the personality, the basic human psyche. Some people are more predatory than others (serial killers, abusers, murderers, etc.) but the instinct is in us all. It is the instinct to survive at all costs, as the members of the Donner party found when they were stranded in a snow storm while crossing the Rocky Mountains on their way to Oregon. The soccer players in the plane that went down in the Andes quickly turned to their dead fellow passengers to sustain them until they were found. The survival instinct is strong and I doubt it would exist without the inherent violence in human nature.

Humans can be tolerant and charitable and driven and reasonable, but given the right circumstances a mild mannered individual can become Superman or John Wayne Gacy.

As much as I would like to see peace on earth with good will toward all men, I doubt it will happen quickly and definitely not with religion, drugs or government intervention. You can lock up the criminals, but the most successful criminals never see the inside of a prison. We may not be ready for peaceful co-existence, as Kirk and Spock found out when they leapt through the time arch in The City on the Edge of Forever, which I discovered was written by Harlan Ellison. Edith Keeler had to die because her plans for peace were ahead of their time or it may be right around the corner.

At dawn on Saturday, February 14, 2009 the Age of Aquarius dawns when the Moon in Libra enters the seventh house of relationships, and Jupiter and Mars are aligned in Aquarius in the twelfth house of spiritual transformation. Sound familiar? It was a very popular song when I was growing up.

Whatever happens, we must find a way to use the violence inherent in the survival instinct, and the instinct to compete for mates, territory and possessions, to propel humanity into a new age of peace and prosperity without castrating human nature or ending up as ineffectual, weak-willed, intellectuals on the verge of fading away into nothingness. There has to be a way. Maybe the dawning Age of Aquarius marked in the eternal skies above this beleaguered planet will guide the way. The hippies of the 1960s were ahead of their time, like Edith Keeler. Maybe we have finally reached the time when peace will reign and violence will enhance our strength without robbing our minds and hastening the end of the Age of Man.

When the Moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars.
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars.
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation

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