A Progress Report
|Historical Significance||Page 8|
Having presented our methods and results as objectively as possible, I should now like to take a more subjective view of the significance and future of the Seville Statement. This is the perspective that comes from my experience as editor of the newsletter that coordinates the dissemination of the statement. It also derives from years of peace activism in the US which often requires dealing with the mass media and other institutions. Supporters and signatories of the Seville Statement on Violence come from many backgrounds and perspectives, and the following perspective should not be taken to represent them.
Our experience suggests that the Seville Statement on Violence confronts an active resistance in the mass media and related social institutions more than it confronts an inherent ignorance or 'psychological inertia' in ordinary people. The myth that war is part of human nature does not appear to be so much an inherent component of 'common sense' so much as it is the end result of a campaign of psychological propaganda that has been promulgated in the mass media in order to justify political policies of militarism. Several types of evidence support this hypothesis.
First, one can point to increasing publicity in recent decades in the mass media for the myth that war and violence are intrinsic to human nature. This publicity, which has often been documented (e.g. in Genoves, 1981; Leeds & Dusek, 1981), has increased at the same time that it has become increasingly obvious that the old political and economic justifications for war are no longer valid in the nuclear age.
Whatever one thinks of the scientific merit of the arguments presented in On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz, in the books of Robert Ardrey, and in the arguments of sociobiology by Edward O. Wilson and his supporters, one cannot deny that their net effect has been to support this myth. These books have received massive promotion, advertising, publicity and dissemination by sectors of the mass media and educational system that we have found to be most resistant to the message of the Seville Statement. For example, recently an article by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who claims that the Yanomamo of South America increase their biological fitness through warfare, received lead article status in Science magazine and was the basis for the article mentioned earlier in US News and World Report.
Another kind of evidence comes from our studies of the attitudes of college students. Students at Wesleyan, a private, prestigious Eastern university, are more likely to believe in the myths of the biological inevitability of violence than are students in nearby community colleges. It is my working hypothesis that the community college students are relying more on 'common sense', while the more highly educated students at Wesleyan may be reflecting greater exposure to the teachings of sociobiology and other arguments for biological determinism that are frequently employed at the university.
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