Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vengeance and government

Article:

Vengeance Is Ours

What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even?



In short, Jared Diamond tells the story from the tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea. From there, and by relating back to his own's father-law's experience in WWII, where he did not personally avenged his family; Jared Diamond learns about the importance of human vengeance as a human feeling - ranking as high as love, anger and grief.

It is interesting to note that the following 2 points:
1. "It’s true, of course, that twentieth-century state societies, having developed potent technologies of mass killing, have broken all historical records for violent deaths. But this is because they enjoy the advantage of having by far the largest populations of potential victims in human history; the actual percentage of the population that died violently was on the average higher in traditional pre-state societies than it was even in Poland during the Second World War or Cambodia under Pol Pot."
2. "This question of state government’s recent origins, and, conversely, of its long failure to originate throughout most of human history, is a fundamental concern for social scientists. Until fifty-five hundred years ago, there were no state governments anywhere in the world. Even as late as 1492, all of North America, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, New Guinea, and the Pacific islands, and most of Central and South America didn’t have states and instead operated under simpler forms of societal organization (chiefdoms, tribes, and bands)."

Thereafter, Jared Diamond lists down the 2 reasons that cause societies of tribes to form into a state government, while noting that "No people has ever freely organized itself into a state in the absence of external pressure, and people have always been understandably reluctant to cede power over themselves to some other entity. "

1. " Sometimes external pressure from an encroaching state has placed a people under such duress that it ceded individual rights to a government of its own that would be capable of offering effective resistance."

2. "More frequently, chronic competition among warring non-state entities has ended when one gained a military advantage over the others by developing proto-state institutions"

To end:
" ethnographic studies of traditional human societies lying largely outside the control of state government have shown that war, murder, and demonization of neighbors have been the norm. Modern state societies rate as exceptional by the standards of human history, because we instead grow up learning a universal code of morality that is constantly hammered into us: promulgated every week in our churches and codified in our laws."


"Why, then, didn’t New Guineans give up a way of life that obviously made their lives miserable? A striking feature of New Guinea’s history is that New Guineans traditionally practiced unchecked violence against each other, yet they offered only limited resistance to the imposition of state government and the ending of that violence by European colonial powers. That wasn’t just because Europeans had guns and New Guineans didn’t; the number of armed Europeans involved in “pacification” was often absurdly few. Daniel’s view points to another reason: as more New Guineans were exposed to the benefits of state-administered justice, they saw that they were better off living without the constant fear of being killed, though, of course, no tribe could ever have followed that course of peaceful dispute adjudication unilaterally."

"My conversations with Daniel made me understand what we have given up by leaving justice to the state. In order to induce us to do so, state societies and their associated religions and moral codes teach us that seeking revenge is bad. But, while acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged."
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