“We are violent primates, but the only ones capable of reconciliation”

Did we never have a peaceful and happy ancestor?.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 November 2023 Monday 03:24
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“We are violent primates, but the only ones capable of reconciliation”

Did we never have a peaceful and happy ancestor?

I fear that we have been violent since we were human...

How sad!

...But being human also gives us a capacity that no other primate has: that of reconciling ourselves after having been attacked.

Franz de Waal already explained here that chimpanzees plan chimpancides.

Chimpanzees plan, it is true, to murder their fellow humans; but the bonobos, on the other hand, resolve their disputes...

...De Waal observed that with gifts and sex.

...But it is not proven that our ancestors were deliberately violent like chimpanzees.

You excavated paleohuman fossils that evidenced a planned slaughter.

I discovered it by chance, because I was working with fossils much older than those there in Turkana. And it was by chance to find evidence of that massacre from 10,000 years ago.

Does that massacre prove that we have always killed each other and that there was no happy savage?

Let's say that it is more evidence in favor of those who think that violence is innate in humans and against those who, on the contrary, believe that the planned massacres only occurred later and only as a consequence of the beginning of agriculture and, with her, of private property.

Was the nomadic human without territory as aggressive as those who already had it?

Some colleagues believed that before agriculture and land ownership we were not violent and that only with possessions did we begin to plan violence and civilizations, armies, homelands and religions...

Didn't nomadic hunters kill others for hunting grounds or prey?

It is true that in the bipeds that lived until 2 million years ago, nothing shows that there was conflict between groups. And we find violence, cannibalism... but those fossils are only bits for now.

Why are they not used to prove violence?

Because how do I know that that isolated piece of fossil with signs of violence is not an isolated case of aggression due to momentary anger and not a planned massacre at all?

Isn't killing a brother-in-law in anger equal to planning the massacre of another tribe?

It is not the same at all: planning or not is relevant. And there is evidence of isolated homicides in the Paleolithic, but before agriculture we have not found evidence of organized slaughter. On the other hand, in the Neolithic, with agriculture and property, violence between farmers is endemic. And, furthermore, they buried the victims in cemeteries.

Do you also believe that agriculture was a sad regression for humans?

Fossils attest that the first farmers lived less and much worse than the last nomadic hunter-gatherers; but also that nomads stopped being nomads because hunting was no longer enough for everyone to survive.

Were we farmers and shepherds because, if not, we would starve?

And we almost starved to death when we switched from nomadic hunting to agriculture: the fossils of the first farmers show that they were much worse fed and sicker than the nomads.

Why do we continue farming then?

Because once we have overcome that first stage of need, hunger and illness, we improve agricultural techniques and begin to generate and store surpluses and, thus, develop culture and progress.

But wasn't it progress only for some?

A social hierarchy was created; Those who commanded fared better than those who obeyed them. The world of the nomadic hunter was primitive but egalitarian; that of the shepherd farmer was hierarchical and unequal, but cultured. If you don't have food stored and someone to grow it for you, you don't have time to write poetry.

In Australia, where until recently there were only nomads, was there no violence?

Tremendous and that is why I do not believe that organized violence appeared with agriculture, but much before.

Since when are we violent?

For 100,000 years and long before, we were violent: we have been since we were human, but what makes us so is also the ability to reconcile.

Reconcile and fight again and reconcile again... is it called politics?

In traditional societies, they still reconcile by getting married and exchanging goods. And we also have the ability, which chimpanzees do not have, to regulate ourselves by norms, education, morals, principles that make us predictable.

Also predictable to attack?

The chimpanzee does not fight over ideas; But these ideas also allow us the immense progress of coexistence and cooperation until we reach 8,000 million humans and the risk that we endanger the balance of the planet.