Thursday, January 10, 2013

Insecurity as the Cause of Social Conflict and International War.

In my previous post, I addressed the problems caused by widespread insecurity ... abuse and violence in personal relationships and in social interactions, as well as much unhappiness and stress even without those particular outcomes.  But insecurity also plays a major role in the larger issues of social conflict and international war.

For hundreds if not thousands of years, there has been a divide in most societies between the haves and the have-nots.  Whether we look at the English nobility, or the WASP establishment in the United States prior to 1960, Southern whites, or the caste system in India, the haves put in place a system which protected their interests and kept “others” or the masses from having the power to be a threat.  

The reader might look at these leaders of society and say that they were immensely secure; that this is not an example of insecurity causing conflict.  But I would argue that they were only secure because they had put in place these systems, which they did out of insecurity and fear.  They were at some level afraid of “others” or the masses gaining power.

The English nobility put in place a system where there was little upward mobility, and then only to a certain point.  The English class system ... which was the gate into good schools and good jobs ... was firmly in place until after WWII; many would say it still is.  Politically, even after election reforms in the 1800s which gave a political voice to men who either owned or rented property worth a certain amount, the House of Lords, which was the province of the nobility, had the power to veto what they didn’t like until 1911.  

In the United States, the WASP establishment until around 1960 had a pretty exclusive grip on all handles of power.   Whether someone was Jewish or Catholic, let alone black, all “others” were excluded from the seats of real power, for example, WASP law firms, country clubs, and private clubs.  Representative politics provided a path to elected status for many of the “others,” but real power was reserved for members of the WASP establishment until well after WWII.

In the South, whites from the highest to the lowest socio-economic groups put in place and violently supported a system in which blacks had no rights, or what rights they had were systematically denied them.  The language may have been one of superiority and security, but here more than in the other instances I discuss, the fear of losing control was always close to the surface and apparent.

Today in the United States, while we live in a very egalitarian society in many respects and there are many laws protecting the equality of people, discrimination based on fear and insecurity is still a major issue.  Much has been written, for example, about the vehemence of the Tea Party’s and Far Right’s attitude towards President Obama as being in large part based on their fear of blacks’, and other people of color, gaining more social and political power as the majority status of whites in this country begins to fade away, an opinion with which I agree.

And this is not just a Western phenomenon. For example, the caste system in India, which until relatively recently was very rigid and still causes many problems, especially for those formerly labeled “untouchables,” was an ancient system devised to keep everyone in their place and protect those with power from those below them.

As to the issue of international war, the issue of insecurity is more visible.  Virtually all alliances and wars have been an effort to make countries feel secure against the threat of enemies, real or imagined.  Even the strong have constantly been worried about attacks on their hegemony.  And understandably so.

Obviously, in the larger social context and international relationships, the problem is not directly that children, spouses, and others are not loved unconditionally.  However, the basic dynamic resulting from this which impacts interpersonal relationships ... a feeling of insecurity, of not feeling safe, of needing to project strength to counter such feelings ... directly impacts  actions in the larger social and world arenas.  If those in positions of power felt love towards and from all, then there would be no need for both the national and international systems that have ultimately caused much suffering in the world.

If everyone were raised with unconditional love, listened to deeply, and spoken to with loving kindness, then man would not grow up to be the way man is now and has been for millenia, at least in so-called “advanced” societies.  

So far I have discussed the impact of man’s insecurity vis a vis others and its impact on his relationship with other individuals or groups.  Another major aspect of man’s insecurity that has affected the course of human development has been his insecurity vis a vis nature, read broadly.  It is this insecurity that resulted in the development of religion, from the earliest to the current leading religions.  

Man formed religions to answer questions of why nature and other aspects of life are the way they are, and most importantly to provide a way for man to impact their course, whether through sacrifice in ancient times or through modern prayer.  And since religion was formed in answer to man’s insecurity, it is not surprising that it was made to serve his other insecurities, whether it was providing a respectable foundation for the continued practice of slavery or lending its authority to a country’s going to war against enemies.  Far from being the bringer of peace and understanding, religion has thus been the hand-maiden of war and untold human suffering.

And so, the book I’ve written which has just been published, Raising a Happy Child, is relevant regarding these larger issues as well.  It is available through as well as through the major online retailers and your local bookstore by special order.  While based on Buddhist principles, the lessons it contains are applicable regardless of ones religious affiliation.  For more information about the book as well as the Table of Contents and sample text, go to the website.