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Thread: Pacifism and Conflict Resolution

  1. #1 Pacifism and Conflict Resolution 
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    Have there been any rigorous scientific studies as to the effectiveness of a pacifist response to what is perceived as aggressive behaviour?

    I think it is accepted as "fact" that an aggressive response to Hitler's aggression would have been more productive than an "aggression averse" response.

    Has "pacifism" any remaining credibility (just a faddish cult) or can it be the right horse to back provided the circumstances are propitious?

    Is the right policy to attempt a pacifist response for as long as possible (talk softly but carry a big stick : iron fist in a velvet glove....) but with a physical defense as a back up?


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    I think it is accepted as "fact" that an aggressive response to Hitler's aggression would have been more productive than an "aggression averse" response.
    And it's also a fact that Kennedy giving Kruschev time and room to manoeuvre and to save face/ talk down his own advisers during the Cuban missile crisis, despite lots of aggressive advocacy by many of his advisers, was a good strategy for avoiding a nuclear engagement, if not outright war.

    Different circumstances require different strategies. The most important consideration being that the patient, peaceful, diplomatic approach can always be abandoned in favour of aggressive or warlike action. It's not so easy to do the reverse.


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    I don't think it is possible to conduct serious and rigorous science on historical subjects.
    There is no way to set up any controlled repeatable experiment to test any ideas, so all you have are imperfect one off observations which are subect to any multitude of interpretations.
    Also:
    I think the idea Britain was being pacifist towards Europe before WWII is a myth.
    I think Britain was trying to provoke a war between Germany and Russia which they thought would be confined to eastern Europe.
    I think they were hoping for Stalin's USSR and the Hitler's Reich to destroy each other and leave England to pick up any good pieces of territory that were left over after it was done.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I don't think it is possible to conduct serious and rigorous science on historical subjects.
    There is no way to set up any controlled repeatable experiment to test any ideas, so all you have are imperfect one off observations which are subect to any multitude of interpretations.
    Also:
    I think the idea Britain was being pacifist towards Europe before WWII is a myth.
    I think Britain was trying to provoke a war between Germany and Russia which they thought would be confined to eastern Europe.
    I think they were hoping for Stalin's USSR and the Hitler's Reich to destroy each other and leave England to pick up any good pieces of territory that were left over after it was done.
    Well if that was the plan it was a epic failure since it resulted in the collapse of the British Empire.
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    I am not just talking about historical subjects.

    What is a good approach if you are confronted in the streets by people who don't like your appearance or the group they assume you belong to and try to provoke you into an altercation?

    Do you confront them verbally? Ignore them? Physically attack (or ridicule) the "leader"?

    What does "pacifism " advise? Is "pacifism" touted as being morally superior or also more efficacious?

    By the way is there evidence for Britain trying to provoke a war between Germany and Russia ?


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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    I am not just talking about historical subjects.

    What is a good approach if you are confronted in the streets by people who don't like your appearance or the group they assume you belong to and try to provoke you into an altercation?

    Do you confront them verbally? Ignore them? Physically attack the "leader"?

    What does "pacifism " advise? Is "pacifism" touted as being morally superior or also more efficacious?

    By the way is there evidence is there for Britain trying to provoke a war between Germany and Russia ?


    I would suggest you avoid putting yourself into situations where you have to deal with hostile gangs by yourself to start with.
    It is usually thought of as situational awareness.

    As for evidence of what politicians do or think there is never any such thing. Even the statements of politicians about what they believed about a situation are extremely suspect.
    That is why politicians like Bismark and Kissinger said the only facts to consider were the Realpolitik facts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Have there been any rigorous scientific studies as to the effectiveness of a pacifist response to what is perceived as aggressive behaviour?I think it is accepted as "fact" that an aggressive response to Hitler's aggression would have been more productive than an "aggression averse" response.mHas "pacifism" any remaining credibility (just a faddish cult) or can it be the right horse to back provided the circumstances are propitious?Is the right policy to attempt a pacifist response for as long as possible (talk softly but carry a big stick : iron fist in a velvet glove....) but with a physical defense as a back up?
    There is an entire field of Psychology known as "Conflict Resolution Studies", which focuses on healthy methods of resolving conflicts at both the personal and international scale. It is a very new field of study, so you may be hard pressed to find a lot studies/research on the topic. Within CRS is an even newer, and much smaller, area of study known Nonviolent Direct Action. In general, on the international/national scale, nonviolent means have been more successful in bringing about change in countries over the last 20-30 years. You might want to look into a book entitled "From Dictatorship to Democracy" by Gene Sharp.

    http://www.aeinstein.org/wp-content/...13/09/FDTD.pdf

    Here is a PDF of the book. FYI this is Sharp's website.

    One of the larger issues when it comes to someone like Hitler is understanding theories of power. It suffices to say that had Hitler invaded countries without a shot being fired, and the people protested against it, Hitler still would not have succeeded. Invasions of that sort require occupation, but rely on pre-existing infrastructure to function. As groups within that infrastructure remove their support, such occupations inevitably fail.
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    What is a good approach if you are confronted in the streets by people who don't like your appearance or the group they assume you belong to and try to provoke you into an altercation?
    Or if you see something that needs to be stopped?

    I was seriously impressed with a friend of mine once. We were part of a group of about 8 or 10 wandering down a city street looking for a quick meal. Unfortunately it was the "wrong end of town" that was handy to our meeting. We approached a pub well-known for bad behaviour and there was a couple on the footpath. The man had a woman in a headlock and she was down on her knees sort of pleading with him. A few of us walked past trying to convince the interstate visitors that Adelaide wasn't a bad place, really, it's not.

    My mate stopped beside this bloke and started talking to him very quietly. And in less than 2 minutes the woman got free and he helped her up. Turns out his casual, very infrequent references to judo were him keeping quiet about being some kind of super duper national champion. He never once made a move to touch this bloke - just talked him out of what he was doing.

    He wasn't a pacifist. But he did have the ability to take quiet control of a violent confrontation and save a woman from injury.

    As I said. Seriously impressed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    That is why politicians like Bismark and Kissinger said the only facts to consider were the Realpolitik facts.
    Not really relevant to the thread but I much preferred Brzezinski to Kissinger.
    Also, I thought your post number 3 was about as accurate as your spelling of Bismarck!


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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post

    As for evidence of what politicians do or think there is never any such thing. Even the statements of politicians about what they believed about a situation are extremely suspect.
    That is why politicians like Bismark and Kissinger said the only facts to consider were the Realpolitik facts.
    So no evidence just opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    That is why politicians like Bismark and Kissinger said the only facts to consider were the Realpolitik facts.
    Not really relevant to the thread but I much preferred Brzezinski to Kissinger.
    Also, I thought your post number 3 was about as accurate as your spelling of Bismarck!


    You would prefer Bizmarck instead maybe?
    Being picky over minor typos and spelling mistakes in forums is not usually a sign of high intelligence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trivium View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I don't think it is possible to conduct serious and rigorous science on historical subjects.
    There is no way to set up any controlled repeatable experiment to test any ideas, so all you have are imperfect one off observations which are subect to any multitude of interpretations.
    Also:
    I think the idea Britain was being pacifist towards Europe before WWII is a myth.
    I think Britain was trying to provoke a war between Germany and Russia which they thought would be confined to eastern Europe.
    I think they were hoping for Stalin's USSR and the Hitler's Reich to destroy each other and leave England to pick up any good pieces of territory that were left over after it was done.
    Well if that was the plan it was a epic failure since it resulted in the collapse of the British Empire.
    I didn't say that I thought it was a particularly intelligent plan.
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    So no evidence just opinion.
    Other than records that only include dates and simple facts, I don't think so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I think the idea Britain was being pacifist towards Europe before WWII is a myth.
    Ah, that would explain the 10 Year Rule.
    Only lasted from 1919 to 1932 (with an unofficial extension until around '37/ '38).
    Not pacifist, just working on the assumption (with the concomitant lack of funding - to less than 1/7 - for the armed forces) that we wouldn't get into a war...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Ah, that would explain the 10 Year Rule.
    Only lasted from 1919 to 1932 (with an unofficial extension until around '37/ '38).
    Not pacifist, just working on the assumption (with the concomitant lack of funding - to less than 1/7 - for the armed forces) that we wouldn't get into a war...
    Churchill was in charge of the budget and he was very aggressive about cutting funding for everything.
    The economic depression was too deep for them to deal with anything, especially since their only policy was to cut taxes and cut govt spending.


    The bizarre thing is even Hitler failed to budget properly for a major war too in spite of his almost constant threats of war.

    The fact Britain could not afford a decent military did not prevent them from encouraging Hitler to attack USSR, and might have been one of the reasons they did it.
    Britain and USA both thought USSR was weak enough for Germany to defeat.
    They also thought Germany was getting too strong and would be weakened and made more manageable if it had to spend treasure and lives fighting the Soviets.
    Of course the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact changed that dynamic quite suddenly.

    Edit:
    One thing you should also notice is the Ten Year Rule was replaced with a rearmament plan shortly after Hitler came to power.
    See also
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_re-armament
    Last edited by dan hunter; April 9th, 2014 at 11:44 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Churchill was in charge of the budget
    Only from '24 to '29 only.
    And he wasn't the one that set the 10 Year Rule.

    The fact Britain ... encouraging Hitler to attack USSR
    Source?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Source?
    In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion
    It might still be available at Amazon
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion
    It might still be available at Amazon
    Ah right.
    Even IF true that applies only to a 1 year before the war started: i.e. when it was (seen as) inevitable.
    An attempt at diversion away from Britain, as opposed to a deliberate fomenting of war between Russia and Germany.

    I'm somewhat wary of books like this - ones that - out of the blue - overturn everything we (thought we) knew.
    In a similar vein is Friendly Fire: The Secret War Between the Allies, which lays the blame squarely on the US... (including Churchill getting into power through secret deals and political manipulation).
    That didn't particularly convince me either.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion
    It might still be available at Amazon
    Ah right.
    Even IF true that applies only to a 1 year before the war started: i.e. when it was (seen as) inevitable.
    An attempt at diversion away from Britain, as opposed to a deliberate fomenting of war between Russia and Germany.

    I'm somewhat wary of books like this - ones that - out of the blue - overturn everything we (thought we) knew.
    In a similar vein is Friendly Fire: The Secret War Between the Allies, which lays the blame squarely on the US... (including Churchill getting into power through secret deals and political manipulation).
    That didn't particularly convince me either.
    I am even more skeptical of the book than you are, but even at that I am just as skeptical of almost any history text that ascribes motives to politicians.

    History is a fertile ground for conspiracy theorists simply because so much of what happens politically is shrouded in deep secrecy. That is a small part of an earlier point I tried making in this thread about how unscientific most of it is.
    Except for a few concrete facts and dates that have to be matched almost any story can be plausible.
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    I did find that that book - the one you mentioned - is a new edition (or a rewrite) of an earlier one (that garnered zero reviews on Amazon UK) written by a guy who was apparently a hardcore leftist (and anti-British).
    Like I used to get told in my social science classes: always ask yourself "What is the source? What's their agenda?".
    Wiki references it on one of their history pages and largely dismisses it as "left wing revisionism.

    Meh, when (if ever) I'm flush again I may buy a copy just to see...

    Regardless, I don't think it provides any ammunition against a general inter-war Brit policy of "pacificism".
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    [QUOTE=Dywyddyr;550830
    Meh, when (if ever) I'm flush again I may buy a copy just to see...

    Regardless, I don't think it provides any ammunition against a general inter-war Brit policy of "pacificism".[/QUOTE]

    I wouldn't bother ordering a copy of it. You could likely find it for free on an internet crank site somewhere.
    It does not really matter.

    The reason I made my comment about pacifism and militancy regarding Britain in the 30s was to illustrate why there are no reliable studies of the results of pacifism in opposition to militancy.
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    ..."Speak softly and carry a big stick." Teddy Roosevelt picked it up in West Africa:

    "In a letter written in 1900, a year before he became president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "I have always been fond of the West African proverb: `Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.'' He repeated what he called this "homely old adage" in a speech as president in Chicago in 1903, and twice again in his writings after that. Every time, it was "Speak softly." "
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I don't think it is possible to conduct serious and rigorous science on historical subjects.
    There is no way to set up any controlled repeatable experiment to test any ideas, so all you have are imperfect one off observations which are subect to any multitude of interpretations.
    I disagree. Science doesn't require controlled repeatable experiments to test ideas (though its desirable if possible), it requires observations consistent with hypothesis. History being a natural phenomena is certainly within the realm of scientific study; but like many natural phenomena, is so complex that its darn difficult to do.
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    Do there remain any advocates of non violence as a first and last resort?

    I was under the (wrong?) impression that people like Ghandi did in fact advocate that behaviour.

    Mind you I think he also said that it only worked for him because he was dealing with the British (or something along those lines).

    So did he only see it as an opening gambit rather than an all inclusive strategy?

    BTW to my mind "pacifism" is a term I would equate with this kind of belief and not to describe a country that was conflict averse (which is obviously more than sensible)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I disagree. Science doesn't require controlled repeatable experiments to test ideas (though its desirable if possible), it requires observations consistent with hypothesis. History being a natural phenomena is certainly within the realm of scientific study; but like many natural phenomena, is so complex that its darn difficult to do.
    I would be very cautious about that because it opens the door for a lot of adhoc theory which is one of the major problems with history.
    It is quite easy to create theories that postdict instead of predict results.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I disagree. Science doesn't require controlled repeatable experiments to test ideas (though its desirable if possible), it requires observations consistent with hypothesis. History being a natural phenomena is certainly within the realm of scientific study; but like many natural phenomena, is so complex that its darn difficult to do.
    I would be very cautious about that because it opens the door for a lot of adhoc theory which is one of the major problems with history.
    It is quite easy to create theories that postdict instead of predict results.
    As they never stop saying "History never repeats itself" (unless that is a banal observation).

    It certainly is "not repeating itself" more and more I would say.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I would be very cautious about that because it opens the door for a lot of adhoc theory which is one of the major problems with history.
    It is quite easy to create theories that postdict instead of predict results.
    I agree. One of the problem with many of these fields such as history, economics etc. is they seem stilted in analysis methods which were well developed before modern science, and perhaps more importantly before development of many of their supporting sciences essential to understand them, such as sociology.
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    In modern conflict resolution pacificism is a form of surrender / giving in and is not considered to be a psychologically healthy method of conflict resolution. Just like people who are always aggressive, people who are always pacifist need professional help. The pacificm usually comes from a lack of self confidence and a self perception of weakness / hopeless. On a national scale, pacificism is usually a bad idea since there is usually someone else around who is willing to take what you have if you're not willing to defend it. "Avoiding conflict invites aggression" is a thoroughly established pattern at an international scale because like at the individual level, it projects weakness. China would have taken Taiwan if Taiwan attempted to be Pacifist, N. and S. Korea, etc... Consider every conflict in history and in that consideration, what would have been the result had one side attempted a pacifist approach? In virtually all cases I can think of, that side would have ceased to exist and been assimilated into their invader's country and culture. Tibet tried pacifism, and they're still part of China. That's the only example I can think of where a nation state attempted a pacifist approach.
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Do there remain any advocates of non violence as a first and last resort?

    I was under the (wrong?) impression that people like Ghandi did in fact advocate that behaviour.

    Mind you I think he also said that it only worked for him because he was dealing with the British (or something along those lines).

    So did he only see it as an opening gambit rather than an all inclusive strategy?

    BTW to my mind "pacifism" is a term I would equate with this kind of belief and not to describe a country that was conflict averse (which is obviously more than sensible)
    I want to respond to this even though I think it was directed toward Dan.

    When you say, "Mind you I think he also said that it only worked for him because he was dealing with the British," I actually think it's a myth - I am pretty sure Gandhi did not say that (He may have, but there is a larger point to mentioning this). That is actually one of the long-held, false, beliefs about when non-violent direct action works, and when it does not: That you have to be dealing with a "civilized" occupier, or authority. In fact, before one of my old professors became a proponent of NVDA (She is CRS and used to believe that NVDA only worked to a certain extent, then she saw the truth and got active in TPNI campaigns in South America), she too held the belief that the only reason it worked for Gandhi was because he was dealing with the Brits.

    In reality, NVDA works in all the circumstances that violent direct action works - even when you're dealing with violent despots that "disappear" vocal detractors.

    In regards to your question about Ghandi advocating peaceful means being the first and last resort, Ghandi believed in an philosophy of non-violence that he called Satyagraha, and actually hated terms like "pacifism" because it implied that the actions being taken were "passive" or that non-violence is a "weak" form of direct action. As far as violence is concerned, Ghandi actually condoned violence in circumstances. He believed that if you only have two choices: Sit there and take it -or- resort to violence, then you really ought to resort to violence.

    The principles of "Satyagraha," meaning something along the lines of "grasping the truth," definitely describe a philosophy prescribing all inclusive strategies - and NVDA campaigns heavily rely on strategy, arguably more than some violent campaigns do. Another website I recommend you take a look at is:

    http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/

    It is a database of various sorts of nonviolent actions, both successful and unsuccessful. This is just to help give you an idea of how NVDA campaigns are organized and the types of strategies/goals they use/have. Usually, NVDA campaigns in the context of liberation revolve solely around winning the favour of the population at large. Once a campaign has the majority of the peoples' support, it is nigh-impossible to keep changes from happening.
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    Quote Originally Posted by motgnisrep View Post
    In modern conflict resolution pacificism is a form of surrender / giving in and is not considered to be a psychologically healthy method of conflict resolution. Just like people who are always aggressive, people who are always pacifist need professional help. The pacificm usually comes from a lack of self confidence and a self perception of weakness / hopeless. On a national scale, pacificism is usually a bad idea since there is usually someone else around who is willing to take what you have if you're not willing to defend it. "Avoiding conflict invites aggression" is a thoroughly established pattern at an international scale because like at the individual level, it projects weakness. China would have taken Taiwan if Taiwan attempted to be Pacifist, N. and S. Korea, etc... Consider every conflict in history and in that consideration, what would have been the result had one side attempted a pacifist approach? In virtually all cases I can think of, that side would have ceased to exist and been assimilated into their invader's country and culture. Tibet tried pacifism, and they're still part of China. That's the only example I can think of where a nation state attempted a pacifist approach.
    Not necessarily that Tibet failed. Tibetan Buddhism has grown vastly in the world since they were invaded by China. Someone else mentioned situational conditions require different responses. There is no possible way for Tibet to beat China on a military front. But their Spiritual front is vast and powerful, as it has been the national specialty for thousands of years.
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    There's pacifism and then there's pacisfism. Like violence or aggression it seems fall across a spectrum. The most extreme example I ever heard of was a Buddhist parable about a man who was about to be murdered and he grabbed the knfie and stabbed himself so that his assailant would not suffer the karma from his actions. But pacifism can also be, as Adelady pointed out with the Cuban missle crisis, part of a realistic and practical strategy.

    One time when my daughter was little, I took her to Toy Library, where small children and their parents can socialize and kids can check out a toy to take home for the week. Her first day there, a little boy came up and grabbed a toy she was playing with out of her hands. Her little eyebrows shot up in horror. Being an only child, nothing like that had ever happened before. She ran away, and stood to the side of the group and watched. She looked at me, and back at the group, but I didn't intervene. I was kind of curious how she would handle it.
    The next time, she started to choose a toy but noticed the same little boy. She chose another toy, and pretended to be enjoying it immensely and enthusiastically. When he noticed, she offered to him, and then went and scooped up the first toy that she really wanted.
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    That is either heart warming or a little chilling

    Your other story reminds me of George Harrison whose reaction to his house intruder was that he was preventing him from going through his own " dying" .

    That seemed a little weird but who is to judge when someone is under physical attack? (maybe Judge Thokozile Masipa?)

    But (I admit I haven't looked into sandr-j's helpful link yet ) I wonder if any rigorous or semi rigorous tests have been carried out in a social situation when people have adopted different approaches to disarm an aggressor successfully and when they themselves are in direct danger perhaps.

    The Stockholm Syndrome comes to the top of my head as one obvious tactic and there is an amusing example in the Shawshank Redemption film. (but that is a one off surprise tactic)
    Last edited by geordief; April 11th, 2014 at 04:31 AM.
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    I was thinking about the OP and I realized I had missed something.
    Robert Sapolsky had something to say about aggression and passivism from his work with baboons.
    PLOS Biology: A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission

    It seems that a plague (tuberculosis) wiped out the most aggressive males in a baboon troop and after they were gone the troop reorganized as an internally more peaceful troop.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    I was thinking about the OP and I realized I had missed something.
    Robert Sapolsky had something to say about aggression and passivism from his work with baboons.
    PLOS Biology: A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission

    It seems that a plague (tuberculosis) wiped out the most aggressive males in a baboon troop and after they were gone the troop reorganized as an internally more peaceful troop.

    That 's an interesting study. Especially since they say that male adolescents leave the troop and join another, so the original members left from the epidemic were gone, but the more pacifistic culture was still passed on. Perhaps, as they mention, because new males weren't challenged as much when they joined. It will be interesting to see how long the effects last. Perhaps nonviolence and cooperation is the default mode, unless competition is fierce. In which case, it's hard to say which is their "true" nature. And I tend to think it's that way with humans as well - our true nature depends on which program we are currently running in response to the environment we find ourselves in.

    This podcast on Radio lab about attitudes toward violence and war mentions Salposky's work.
    New Baboon - Radiolab

    I wonder if in human history epidemics have been followed by relatively peaceful and cooperative times. I would think something like the the plague might have had the same effect, by suddenly freeing people from oppression, reducing competition, or opening up new opportunities.
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  36. #35  
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    That is either heart warming or a little chilling
    Yes, a little bit manipulative. But if you can't physically over power your opponent, get an adult to physically overpower them for you, your only strategy left is to out think them.
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