January 4th, 2012


Month of Interesting Things Day #4: Hope on the Battlefield

I tend to read a lot about psychology. It's fascinating to learn about how the human mind works. And today, for my interesting thing, I'm linking to this article (http://www.http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hope_on_the_battlefield/).

The article basically goes into how soldiers are very reluctant to actually pull the trigger and kill another human, even under intense fire, under threat of their own lives. One researcher found that only 15 to 20% of all soldiers actually shoot to kill.

From a humanistic viewpoint, this is awesome. We have something within ourselves that basically prevents us from killing each other -- a strong moral pull not take someone else's life. However, from a military viewpoint, this is not so awesome. And the military knows about this statistic, and has tried extremely hard to desensitize troops. However, doing this makes for a lot of trouble after battle is concluded. A huge amount of PTSD diagnoses is one consequence. Those with this condition are more prone to drug use, divorce, suicide and joblessness.

It is interesting to me that people are ingrained with something central to their being that tells them not to kill another human. However, I wonder how ingrained this is in people who actually do kill people, and not in a military situation. When we talk about "humanity" not the group of people, but the characteristic -- like humaneness -- we generally talk about how this characteristic makes us good. We help others because of our humanity. We love each other because of our humanity. And then when we hear reports of murder or mass killings or whatever atrocities that happen in our world, we generally characterize these people as "monsters," and "not even human." As a culture, I think that we do subconsciously/semi-consciously know that everyone is supposed to be ingrained with a love/respect/appreciation for human life. Those who can just discard this aspect of themselves are less than human. (On a side note, you've also got to appreciate the juxtaposition of the phrase "I'm only human," to denote that we are not perfect, yet we use the same root word to describe our goodness and also our imperfection, interestingly.)

Anyhow, I guess that the lesson we can learn here is that there is hope for humanity. Generally, the majority of us is good. We don't want to harm others. We want to make a difference for good in this world. And that can make you happy to be human.