“The Myth of Man The Killer”
The Rousseauian myth of technological Man as an ugly scab on the face of pristine Nature has become so pervasive in Western culture as to largely drive out the older opposing image of “Nature, red in tooth and claw” from the popular mind. Perhaps this was inevitable as humans achieved more and more control over their environment; protection from famine, plague, foul weather, predators, and other inconveniences of nature encouraged the fond delusion that only human nastiness makes the world a hard place.
Another, darker kind of romanticism is at work as well. To a person who feels fundamentally powerless, the belief that one is somehow intrinsically deadly can be a cherished illusion. Its marketers know full well that violence fantasy sells not to the accomplished, the wealthy and the wise, but rather to working stiffs trapped in dead-end jobs, to frustrated adolescents, to retirees — the marginalized, the lonely and the lost.
To these people, the killer-ape myth is consolation. If all else fails, it offers the dark promise of a final berserkergang, unleashing the mythic murderer inside to express all those aggravations in a gory and vengeful catharsis. But if seven out of ten humans can’t pull the trigger on an enemy they have every reason to believe is trying to kill them, it seems unlikely that ninety-seven out of a hundred could make themselves murder.
The man who fears Hobbes’s “warre”, who sees every one of his neighbors as a potential murderer, will surrender nearly anything to be protected from them. He will call for a strong hand from above; he will become a willing instrument in the oppression of his fellows. He may even allow himself to be turned into a killer in fact. Society will be atomized into millions of fearful fragments, each reacting to the fear of fantasied individual violence by sponsoring the political conditions for real violence on a large scale.
That’s enough – go read the whole thing. It is, I must say, a perfect companion peice to “A Mistake a Free People Get to Make Only Once.”