Root Causes of War

January 19, 2019


Introduction: The Trauma of Civilization

The human invention of urban “civilization” about 3500 BC (5,500 – 6,000 years, 250-300 human generations) coincides with the advent of patterns of systematic violence previously unknown. The development of massive civil obedience to the vertical authority structures that first ushered in civilization, originally in the form of kings, has witnessed a reported 14,500 major wars. This obedience has become a habit, generally void of any memory of the autonomous freedom of pre-urban civilization tribal groups.

Power became and has remained an abstraction as an end in itself, utilizing the first megamachine comprised of human parts in support of statehood – kings and their elite team of priests and scribes overseeing huge projects using organized human labor. Civilization’s features:

* centralization of control with hierarchy overseeing bureaucracy

* separation of classes – stratification and lifetime division of labor

* slavery, and forced labor for industrial, agricultural, military purposes

* mechanization for massive production (pyramid tombs, irrigation, palaces, grain storage, etc.)

* magnification of power via a military expanding into adjacent territory, enforcing more labor

* secrecy

* human sacrifice, direct or disguised (as in the West)

SEE Mumford, Lewis. (1966). The Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

Root Causes of War


            *Massive complicity with vertical authority structures (rigidly adhered to belief systems) that emerged with the passing of Neolithic Goddess period of small, tribal units; consent became and remained a habit from losing memory of pre-urban civilization freedom, and the corresponding insecurity and fears arising therefrom, setting the foundation for living with “protection” of defense mechanisms (deferring freedom to authority structures, mythologies, ideologies, obsessive controlling) instead of living authentically; [Etienne De La Boetie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, Circa 1553, Black Rose, 1997; Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, Harper & Row, 1987]

            *Many successive generations of shame-based child upbringing (ignored, routine put downs, physical or sexual violence, authoritarian versus nurturing atmosphere, etc.) [Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983]; shame-ethics lead to generations of patterns of violence unless the insecure authoritarian parenting habit is interrupted by more secure nurturing (James Gilligan, Violence: Reflections On A National Epidemic, Vintage, 1997)

            *Arrogance rather than humility, and Denial rather than awareness, became major “defense mechanisms” to override deeply felt insecurities [Michael A. Milburn and Sheree D. Conrad, The Politics of Denial, MIT, 1996]

            *Changes from hunter-gatherers to Neolithic and beyond, to urban “civilization” has removed people from their visceral and experiential integration and oneness with Mother Earth – perhaps such removal has created a primordial breach resulting in severe trauma and insecurity within the human psyche that has manifested in consenting to defer freedom to vertical authority as a substitute. [Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes, Allen D. Kanner, Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, Sierra Club, 1995]

            *The ancient memory of the high of a “rush” from critical social experiences such as rallying collective defense to a common enemy (Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: The History of Origins and Passions of War, Henry Holt, 1997) and search for a meaning of life in a culture of void suggests “war is a force that gives us meaning” (Hedges)

            *The need to Believe in a mythology directly associated with a sense of well being keeps us intact, since the ancient grounding experience of being integrated with the earth has been lost, at least for the moment; when belief collapses or is intentionally withheld, systems collapse.

            *Tyranny is inherent in concentration of political, social, economic power, whether achieved through elections, force of arms, or inheritance.  The method of ruling is essentially the same — achieving massive consent either through fear or propaganda/myth (Etienne De La Boetie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, Circa 1553, Black Rose, 1997).

Structural – political-economic systems that are based on preservation of privilege and class through exploitation, require forceful expansion (for workers, resources, markets), which has been mysteriously supported by the masses (psychological-see above); AWOL (4.6% consuming 25% to nearly half the world’s resources) is the mother of all structural problems – requiring constant theft by force or its threat; AWOL resides within the context of 500 years of colonialism by Eurocentric powers enriching 20% on the impoverishment of the other 80%.

Political – Economic – centralized vertical structures from the origins of “America” in first “bourgeois” revolution (American Revolution) which initially “preserved inherited property (over human rights) as it destroyed inherited government” shrouded in language describing it as “republican” when in fact they were and remain oligarchic in nature forcefully protecting privilege and what emerged as monopoly capitalism, but mysteriously supported by the masses (psychological) despite hurtful policies; the second “bourgeois” revolution (Civil War) enhanced property in factories and railroads as it abolished property in man.” [Staughton Lynd, Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, Harvard, 1982].  Corporations as legal persons usurps the Bill of Rights (especially 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments); The military-industrial-intelligence complex makes huge sums of money on war.

Technological – myth of progress through large technologies (rather than small and local ones), capital technologies (rather than labor intensive ones), violent technologies (versus nonviolent ones), and complex technologies (versus simple ones), pre-empt intermediate technologies, local ingenuity, and real democracy enabled by bioregional economic and cultural sufficiency independent from external inputs.

Cultural – AWOL/WWOL after 500 years of colonialism created a spoiled rotten 20% while impoverishing 80%, rationalized with a racist ideology and Eurocentric arrogance that enabled the “West” taking a holiday from history, a holiday from an accounting (virtual total impunity), living in a bubble of make-believe; militarization of culture in entertainment, language, Humvee vehicles, clothes, etc. [Ashley Montagu, Ed., Learning Non-Aggression: The Experience of Non-Literate Societies, Oxford, 1978: “Why are some people aggressive and others gentle?…The answer lies primarily in child-rearing, particularly in the treatment of infants…..”  Central Theme: “That non-aggression rests on a foundation of loving maternal care. In each non-aggressive society, infants’ basic needs are continuously satisfied without obstacle, and young children learn without punishment to cope with angers, fears, and hostilities.” “The peaceful component in human nature is as strong as the aggressive impulses and that it only awaits the proper set of cultural conditions to flower into a way of life for people everywhere.”  “Non-aggression is culturally taught in … studied non-literate societies.”] 

The US Civilization

The U.S. “Founding Fathers” had a vision for an “empire of liberty” (Jefferson), “imperial republicanism” (Madison) and a mercantile, expansive nation, but NOT a vision of democracy or popular freedom.  U.S. historian William Appleman Williams has described U.S. America – “Empire As A Way of Life” – what author Derrick Jenson describes as “The Culture of Make Believe,” a fantasy which SBW describes as having been built on 3 unrecognized, incomprehensible holocausts that stole land, labor and global resources at gun point, killing millions (billions?) with virtual total impunity.  The U.S. has been on a holiday from history, as if it suffers from the convenience of virtual total amnesia. Some call it the United States of Amnesia. The United States has been built and sustained by TERRORISM from our origins. And the people, believing in their “exceptionalism” have eagerly paid for it, allowed it, and have often directly participated in it. The 1787 Constitutional Convention pre-empted the vision and values of the original U.S. American revolution of 1774 emerging from farmers and small communities in MA that did not seek nor want a strong central authority structure.

The United States origins and continued growth as a “civilization” occurred and continues to occur in the context of 500 years of colonialism that has enriched 20% of the world’s “White” nations while impoverishing 80% of the “Colored” based on racial ideology and technology conducting grotesque patterns of terrorism, but even within the 20%-nations, the stolen riches are not distributed equally due to the continued oligarchic, selfish nature of vertical structures. Globalization began 500 years ago, not in the 1970s. Modern civilizations (since 1500) have participated in some 3,000 serious military wars with substantial casualties, and about 250,000 battle encounters in maintaining its colonial ambitions.

AWOL (American Way Of Life) is the most dangerous force in the world, far more threatening then WMD, because its government and collective population insist on continuing grotesque overconsumption maintained by military aggression or its threat, bully diplomacy, and massive lying to preserve at ANY cost its make-believe mythology and the ideology of racism that makes it possible.  AWOL requires war and grand theft and virtually all of us are implicated to varying degrees. It is our collective responsibility to correct this unjust result of a history of manifest destiny and imperialism, because justice for all is the precondition for our survival – for all of us.  Equity IS survival.


The folly of “progress” – human evolution has not been linear or “progressive” but like a twig on the hominid (bipedal primates of which humans are a part) bush with happenstance a major determinant as to which twig survived; the theory of “punctuated equilibria” suggests that rather than a process of Darwinian gradualism the evolution of a typical species is most accurately characterized by periods of geologically rapid change followed by lengthy periods of stasis (equilibrium) with most of the change occurring at point of speciation (original formation of new species).  The present is the product of countless contingent events like “wandering across a landscape of possibility” governed primarily by happenstance.

 – Stephan Jay Gould


  1. Posted August 4, 2019 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Most of the time Ego and name fame is the reasons of war i think.

  2. Posted August 27, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Brian, always helpful to ponder your insights. Why all the pathology?

    ‘*Massive complicity with vertical authority structures…..’ Why?

    ‘Many successive generations of shame-based child upbringing…..’

    I do think Becker & others came close to the root with perceiving our ‘denial of death.’ I am very amused but also chastened by J. Krishnamurti’s observation that ‘If you go really deeply into yourself, you will find there is nothing there.’

    Would be so liberating to be comfortable being nothing…before dying.

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    Thanks Brian! I have spent some time reading your article and I must say that I enjoyed it very much

  4. Posted November 2, 2019 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    AWOL (American Way Of Life) is the most dangerous force in the world, far more threatening then WMD for sure

  5. Posted November 3, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Thanks Brian so much for spending time writing this interesting article!

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    We should start looking more for keeping the peace

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