Human beings are unpredictable species, but one thing remains constant: everyone is engaged in conflict, whether actively or passively. They are either actively involved in violence by participating in violent acts against their fellow beings or passively involved in violence by arranging or hoping for their counterparts to be involved in violent acts. According to Sloane (2013), violence is described as any action that involves physical force which is intended to damage, hurt or kill someone. Violence within men has spurred from domestic within families to global aspects. According to psychologists Vierich & Townsend (2015), humans are violent because they belong to the animal kingdom which also has a few more species which enact violence on each other just as humans do. Most members of kingdom Animalia use aggression to ward off competitors or fight for food or mates with the sole intention of causing death or injury (Hyvärinen & Muszynski, 2016). Predators use violence only for sustainability preying on species different from their own. However, two unusual species go against this rule of nature, and that is the Chimpanzees and Humans (Gubler, Herrick, Price, & Wood, 2015). This paper will examine the reasons behind the fact that humans are violent using philosophical thoughts from classical, renaissance and contemporary philosophers. Finally, the paper will analyze the Syrian conflict as a case study for violence among humans and various effects of violence in human life.
Why Does Violence Exist in Humanity
To understand why violence exists we would have to go back to the prehistoric times when man had no government to protect him (state of nature), and lived in a society where he had to protect himself from any potential threat to his life (Okebiro, 2016). Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, points out that the state of nature is ‘natural,’ according to him, authority or government is artificial. Hobbes claims that the only natural authority that existed in the state of nature is that of mother to a child because the child depends on the mother for survival. But in adulthood, there is no authority to stop man from doing anything, but only their conscience (Perry, Bratman, & Fischer, 2015). Hobbes adds that every man is equal in the state of nature and there is nothing like a strong man or a weak man. For even, the most powerful man goes to sleep and can be killed by a weak man while sleeping. Optionally the weak man can persuade other people to help him kill the strong man. Because there is no morality or government in the state of nature man walks in fear and suspicion for one another and has no trust whatsoever. Therefore violence is eminent among them due to this suspicion and lack of confidence on one another. Hobbes describes this situation as Omnium Contra Omnes (War of all against all) (Vallacher & Brooks, 2014). Jean-Jacques Rousseau adds that in this state of nature, man has needs and desires since the resources are scared there must war and conflict among some shared interests among people. In the presences of war, death is inevitable. Therefore, men had to come and of the state of nature and form a government which will protect him from the harshness of the state of nature (Perry et al., 2015).
From the above philosophical thoughts, there are various reasons highlighted as causes of violence among humans and that is fear, suspicion, desires, competition and needs. Hobbes and Rousseau agree to the point that man formed the government so as to avert the conflicts in the state of nature. So according to them, the government is supposed to end violence among humanity. Several questions would arise from the above statement again; does it mean that the government is not doing its role? Or have humans outgrown the authority system? Or what could explain the presence of conflicts among people yet there is an authority. The essay will try and answer these questions so as to get to understand the humanity and violence.
Brief History of Human Violence
From the biblical account of the human creation of the first man and woman (Adam and Eve), Adam and Eve bored their first children and named them, Cain and Abel. Later the Bible tells us that Cain killed Abel due to Jealousy because God had accepted Abel’s offerings and rejected Cain’s. This is the first account of human conflict in the history of violence that man experiences (Vernay, 2016). Later the Bible goes ahead to give us various reports of human violence that we cannot mention all of them in this article. Examples include; conflict between Abraham and his Nephew Lot over grazing lands, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, Israelites against the Egyptian Pharaoh, Israel against other nations among others. Among the medieval philosophers, the first account of human violence is recorded by Thucydides in his book titled ‘Peloponnesian War’ which was written in 431 B.C (Vallacher & Brooks, 2014). After this account, several conflicts are later recorded including religious wars such as the Crusaders, ‘the 100 years of war in Europe’ and Reformation period in Europe. In the contemporary period, the 19th and the 20th century were recorded to have lots of conflicts which included the revolutions against imperialism and colonialism, the 1st and 2nd Word Wars, and Wars on self-determination among others. All these forms of violence were directed to cause harm to one a targeted group of humans (Vernay, 2016).
Philosophical Thoughts on Human Violence
This section will look at various views of philosophers about human violence and why violence exists within human and what can be done to stop human violence
According to Muirhead (2016), Plato fails to look at the causes of violence but instead gives the remedy on it in the society. Plato states that a nation can stay peaceful only if there is justice, and according to Plato justice is doing what one is mandated to do. In short, Plato implies that if every human focuses on his or her duties, then we are likely to have a peaceful society. Plato highlights that soldiers are meant to fight, kings are made to rule, and cobblers are supposed to mend shoes and therefore when a soldier tries to rule, then the society is likely to fall into conflicts that will turn to violence directed at the citizens. Therefore, if you were born a soldier, then one should embrace the military life if he was born a ruler then let him adopt and marry politics. Plato further explains that the main reason why Athenians are in constant conflicts despite having the ruling elite is that they do not have an ideal King and according to Plato, the ideal King should be a philosopher, but philosophers do not like ruling instead prefer to advise the rulers.
Plato’s arguments dictate that if today everyone would concentrate on doing the duties he/she is mandated to do by the society, and various Nations had “philosopher kings” then human violence could be prevented entirely, and people could live in harmony.
Machiavelli’s articles were directed to the ruling prince of Italy during the 15th century. According to Machiavelli violence occurs among men because of their nature. According to him, people are self-interested, and their affection for others can be bought, won or lost. They are only happy and contented as long as they are not victims of a violent act that can harm them (Calkivik, 2016). Humans can turn to be trustworthy in prosperous times, but in times of diversity, they will quickly turn to deceitful, selfish, and profit driven. Every person admires honor, generosity, and courage in others but in the real sense, most of them will not exhibit these virtues. Humans are bound to feel a sense of obligation whenever they are awarded a gift or a service; however, this feeling is bound to be broken easily (Calkivik, 2016).
Machiavelli purports that it is because of human nature that violence occurs. The fact that humans are comfortable and would want to maintain the status quo whenever there is no potential violence against them makes them not to intervene in cases where violence a looms another party
John Locke is known to for his work on human rights and a proponent of peace. Locke argues that the people should be loyal to their leader and should not take part in any activity that jeopardizes the legitimacy of the leader as this may lead to conflicts. The leader should also acknowledge the sovereignty of the people and uphold the human rights of his subjects. Locke identifies the fundamental human rights to be right to life, right to property ownership and right to liberty (Locke, 2015). Leaders are therefore mandated to uphold these rights to the latter and at no point should he go against these rights. In case a leader violates these fundamental human rights then the citizens are justified to carry out a violent revolution against the leader. Locke further justifies violence in cases where the citizens demand self-determination (the right to determine your leader).
According to Locke if the government could uphold the fundamental rights of humans then, there is a possibility of having a violence free nation. It is also important to note that the principles of John Locke have been used to draft various human rights bills, including the American Bill of Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights currently used to by the U.N.
Judging from the institutions and nations that have applied John Locke theories, they are relatively peaceful as compared to those countries that have ignored human rights such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini.
Gandhi viewed violence deprecatingly and categorized human violence into two forms, which are Passive and Physical abuse. Passive violence directed at another person is a daily affair, and most people do it consciously or unconsciously. This passive violence ignites physical abuse (Allen, 2007). Gandhi stresses that the individual who possess nonviolence traits in times of actual violence then he or she is blessed. Gandhi is against violence because he purports that violence among humans brings hatred, and when violence appears to be producing something positive, the positivity only lasts for a short period. Omar (2015), points out that Gandhi argues that the only time when one should accept violence and suffering is when fighting for human rights. To him taking violence and suffering on one’s self-does not mean that he is a coward. In fact, Gandhi goes ahead to say that he would have Indian go to war with arms rather than be considered as a coward. According to Gandhi, violence is not the natural character of humans rather it is art that is learned through experience (Radhakrishnan, 2015).
Gandhi highlights that nonviolence is the greatest weapon, than weapons of mass destruction and for nations and human to achieve peace then they must adopt nonviolence and dispose of any elements of war including the weapons of mass destruction.
Case Study (Syrian War)
Violence in Syria erupted in 2011 in the midst of the Arab Spring when the President Bashar-Al-Assad tried to violently repress a revolt in Damascus (Cohen, 2016). The Revolution began when the Syrian government detained and tortured 15 boys after alleging that the boys had taken part in drawing a graffiti that was supporting the Arab Spring. One of the boys Hamza al-Khateeb who was 13 years at the time died from this torture. This led to a series of revolutions which today has come to be known as the Syrian revolution (Carpenter, 2013).
The Development of the Syrian War
Doganay & Demiraslan (2016) highlights that during the revolution; several groups were formed with an aim to liberate Syria from the tranny of Al-Assad family. The government quickly reacted by terming these groups as terrorist groups that were armed and should be dealt with through arms and not diplomacy. Ruys (2014) adds that the supporters of the Syrian government also responded by forming armed groups that would help the government fight the rebels. Among the groups loyal to the government are; Salafi Jihadist, Syrian Democratic Forces, Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISL). The opposition is formed by the Free Syrian Army and Kurdish YPG.
According to Sharara & Kanj (2014), each of the principals engaged in war has their interest that they desire to achieve through war. For example, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISL) and the al-Nusara have their first objective as making Syria an Islamic country; other forces such as the Syrian Democratic Forces have a sole interest in controlling the Syrian oil. These different interests have made it even harder to negotiate peace in Syria and alleviate human violence
Human Suffering in Syria
Syria is one of the examples where one can learn the effects of violence on people. Since the beginning of the war in 2011, 700,000 people have been trapped in the besieged areas making them not to access proper medication, education and live in abject poverty. To make it worse, it estimated that at least 4.9 million people are living in remote places which are hard to reach. The human development index within these people is very low and therefore subjecting them to more suffering and vulnerability Ruys (2014). Ruys (2014), estimates that at least 6.9 million people have displaced internally, meaning that they are living as refugees in a war-torn country where access to basic needs is hard.
The number of refugees from Syria has been rising as the years go by and has caused alarm in the international community, calling for the attention of the United Nations and the European Union to search for a quick solution. As by December 2016, the number of Syrian refugees had grown up to 10 times the number it was in 2012; the United Nations estimates the number of Syrian refugees to be around 4,837,248. More than half of the Syrian refugees are children and women, half of these kids are growing up without education. This already presents a challenge to the future of Syria. How would a country manage itself when half of the populations are either semi-illiterate or totally illiterate? Since the start of the conflict in 2011, close to 16,000 children has crossed the Syrian borders unaccompanied by their parents; this means either they separated from their families or their parents died before crossing the border.
With almost half of the refugees being children that are about 2.4 million in total, about 306,000 have been born as refugees and do not know their home. They only know the host country, and the refugee camp is as their home. Close to 2 million children are in places where they cannot receive aid due to the heavy presence of the militia groups.
The statistics above shows us what violence can course in humans’ life. Before the war, Syria was a middle-income economy driven by oil and traded its oil for foreign exchange. The Human Development Index was high; the road system was improving, and the general indicators of quality life had begun cropping. Currently accessing a road network in Syria is hard as most of them have been destroyed while fighting, health, and sanitation is at its worst, and human life is horrendous.
The violence has not only affected Syrian physically but also emotionally. Most Syrians refugees admitted in foreign learning institution has been reported to face trauma and emotional instability due to the horrors they experienced in war. In a case example, Professor Guterres of Athens University collected seven Syrian refugees in a room, after an hour he asked them to draw whatever they were thinking. It was shocking that five of the seven refugees drew images with violent acts such as an injured person, destroyed property or a dead body. All these are signs that most these refugees have plugs of trauma in their minds.
In conclusion; various scholars have tried to understand the cause of violence in human life. As seen above in thoughts of most philosophers, others have blamed human violence on the nature and traits of people. Other scholars have blamed it on the institutions such as the government among other forms of authorities and the various experiences humans’ beings face in their daily lives, but none has fully given a full account of why violence exists among people. Religious scholars have blamed human violence on the fact that man has turned his ways against God wishes and commands; therefore man is paying for his sins through fighting each other. But the question remains that even in the biblical writing human violence was experienced even between the Kings of Israel such as King David and Saul who were in conflict till Saul died in a war. Both of these Kings were ordained and chosen by God, but they still had conflicts (this is just one case in several situations in the Bible), then why was there conflict among them? Does it mean that human violence is beyond divinity? Or what is the cause of violence? The various philosophical thoughts are not comprehensive when it comes to explaining human violence, and in fact, these htideas at a point contradict themselves, such that when followed then human will at some time still get into conflicts.
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