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MACROSCOPE

On the Nature of Violence

Pat Shipman

Toward a Greater "Us"

That violence and exclusiveness lie so deeply in our biological heritage, intertwined with the nurturing concepts of kin and affiliation, home and neighbor, is a grim thought. Humans have been fighting and killing other humans for years, and years and years. Over time, we have shifted the identity of those for whom we will fight. It is no longer simply kinfolk or immediate neighbors; it is vast groups like "those who proclaim themselves citizens of this thing we call a nation" or "those who follow the practices of this holy man." Perhaps we can shift the identity of Us still further, extend the boundaries still more widely until there is no longer a Them to fight, but only an Us who must survive together or not at all. If violence is in our nature, as it seems to be, there is no other hope.

I remember some relevant words from the classic movie The African Queen. They were spoken by Katharine Hepburn, who played a missionary spinster, Rosie, to Humphrey Bogart's ragtag steamboat captain, Mr. Allnutt. Sitting with her spine straight and proud, her expression resolute, and without lifting her eyes from her devotional reading, Hepburn proclaimed:

Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.



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