A FaceBook friend asked me a quesiton. All Americans are watching the protests and even rioting around the country to express rage over the killing by police of an unarmed black man, George Floyd. I had pointed out that the rioters were overwhelmingly men, and that war was a male behavior. My friend noted that many women were encouraging the rioters, and he wondered how what he was seeing related to a mother bear protecting her young. That seeming contradiction, women being opposed to war yet encouraging rioting, is a good question, and here is how I answered it.
I wrote, You’ve hit on one of several issues that makes it so hard to understand gender differences with respect to aggression. Namely, that women’s strong aversion to the use of physical aggression doesn’t mean that women’s can’t use aggression. In the time during which natural selection was shaping human psychological proclivities, we lived in small groups. Physical fighting within the group would potentially endanger the life of a woman or her children. Women were selected to avoid/try to prevent disagreements rising to the level of serious/dangerous physical conflicts that might kill them or their offspring. If you will, I have described this as the evolution of a strong preference in women for social stability.
This affects many choices women make that affect families and communities. BUT, and it is a big but, women were also selected to be fierce defenders of their children, and by extension their communities. The result is that women are, as a group, far more strongly opposed to major social unrest and especially violent unrest in their communities than men are. In general, it will be the men who will make up group of violent rioters, and women who are particularly bold will get involved in trying to calm the waters….keep the protest peaceful. Few women will be setting fires, although they may be looting. Again, women are not more moral than men.
And with respect to war itself, women, in general, will vote in greater majorities to avoid going to war than the men of the community. BUT, and it is a relevant "but" that contributes to the difficulty of understanding the fundamental gender difference, if women feel their community where they are raising children is under imminent threat of invasion or other great harm, women will fight! They will fight fiercely…like a mother bear protecting her children. In fact, I’ve been told by men who have fought alongside women that women can often be vicious fighters. And we can all be sure that very many women in communities where their grown children are being killed and many of their young men especially feel always under threat of death at the hands of the police...many of those women may feel that the only way to bring attention to this longstanding disastrous condition IS to riot.
So there you have it. With respect to war, if you want lasting peace you need to have women in leadership to temper the more volatile impulses of men. But you need not fear that women are not patriots who will urge the men to fight in defense of community….will even send their sons and daughters to fight. You just have to seriously convince them that a war is the only way. That negotiation and compromise is absolutely not possible. Sorry to be so long, but as I say, this gender relationship to physical aggression is a very complex issue.
Liberal Democracy is in historical perspective a very new idea about how human societies should be governed. It's roots lie in the European Enlightenment and it incorporates human rights values. A liberal democracy is characterized by such things as free speech, free press, independant judiciary, freedom of assembly, separation of church and state, election of leaders by citizens: liberty and justice for all. And in liberal democracies those who want to make war can only do so with the consent of the governed. As long a men alone make the choice to make war or not, history will continue to be made up of war after war as male priorities for domination and control play out at the community, state, or national level. Only if women govern equally with men as they would in a fully mature liberal democracy, allowing the female expression of concern for social stability and the welfare of community and children to temper male urges for domination, can we hope to establish a global peace.
For many millennia the ruling philosophy, actually the ruling reality, has been patriarchies. Societies where a single man or elite groups of men have made all decisions about public affairs. The world we see around us is still the result of millennia of all-male governing. A titanic battle between Patriarchy and Liberal Democracy characterizes the current global status with respect to how we will structure our societies as we move into the future, and this is illustrated in miniature at this moment by the action of the Chinese patriarchy to finally take over control of Hong Kong, a small piece of democracy that has been a thorn in its side.
Many of the slowly maturing liberal democracies of the world are dealing with authoritarian-inclined men (nationalistic), enemies of the values of liberal democracy. To end war, liberal democracy must win this titanic struggle. For that reason, Spread Liberal Democracy is one of the nine AFWW cornerstones. https://www.nytimes.com/…/as…/china-hong-kong-crackdown.html
Comedian Bill Maher was the first public figure familiar to me who several months ago raised the possibility, which he thought was a probability, that if Donald Trump won the 2020 election he would claim that it was rigged and thus not legitimate and he would refuse to leave the White House. Last night on his TV show in a conversation with activist Michael Moore, Maher made a new important observation. The White House is in Washington D.C. The police in D.C. are mostly African-American, a population overwhelmingly opposed to Trump. Also, Trump has trashed the FBI, which is headquartered in D.C..
Presumably those would be the people required to enforce his leaving the White House. The point being that they would not be at all reluctant to remove him.
Michael Moore added that he and presumably Bill Maher himself and Americans by the millions would converge on Washington to remove Trump from the People’s house should he try to remain in it. Moore, a boy born in Flint Michigan and raised by a dad who was an automotive assembly-line worker, made another point. He said that all those gun-toting guys you see on TV, “I went to school with them,” and that what they want to do is “make war with Bambi.” I think he meant by that that the guns are for show. Their actions are the result of insecurity. They are a way to plump up there feeling of masculinity, and if push comes to shove, in the face of overwhelming crowd size opposing them, they would not fight. He said, “Don’t be afraid of them.”
I don’t know if Maher’s worries are on the money. I hope that for the sake of the Nation, and the people of Earth for that matter, that Trump does lose the election and he willingly leaves so that massive disruption, and maybe some serious injuries are avoided.
I’ve been told that there is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Boy, we are there!
Partisans on the political right are correct when they say liberals on the left were out to get Donald Trump from the very beginning. That they hated Donald Trump. Actually, that’s not precisely correct. Hate isn’t the right word. It’s more correct to say that they were appalled and profoundly alarmed from the moment the popular vote—the will of the people—was ignored by partisan members of the Electoral College and Donald Trump ascended to the most powerful office in the world.
It is true that while observing his actions over time some, maybe even many, have come to hate him. But initially students of history, and specifically the history of how democracies can be lost to an authoritarian as happened to German democracy under Hitler, knew from Donald Trump’s already known biography—e.g., his several bankruptcies, his failures to pay workers, his view of women as tools for his use or pleasure—that he was utterly, possibly dangerously, unsuited to possess the great power of the US Presidency.
But I, like many others, consoled myself with the thought “how much harm can he do in only four years?” It’s been a traumatic journey, and we now know the answer. The carnage has been massive: to the rule of law, to human rights, to the environment, and now because of his venality and incompetence and the incompetence of the cronies he selected to run his administration, the nation has suffered an historic tragedy.
The Obama administration, having experienced and dealt with several public health crises including the H1N1 outbreak, sought to prepare the future president for a global pandemic. They crafted a pandemic playbook which they passed on to the new White House. Donald Trump allowed his National Security Advisor, John Bolton, to discard it. Why? It could have guided an early response to prepare for the disaster headed for the Nation. So much lost time could have been avoided resulting in so much less damage. I believe it was because Trump, a man consumed by spite, made clear to all he appointed that he would be pleased when anything enacted or established by his predecessor was deleted or dismembered. Most of them, apparently including John Bolton, have been happy to oblige.
As of today, over one million of Donald Trump’s citizens have been infected with the Covid-19 virus. We are approaching eighty thousand human deaths with more to come. Eighty thousands deaths by suffocation, alone without family beside them. That is what can be done in even less than four years. And we must wait over another eight months of wreckage before we inaugurate a new president.
Should Donald Trump somehow win, or steal, the next election, well………..
I’m writing this in the hope that it will come to the attention of Melinda Gates, who is uniquely situated to lead a movement led by women across the globe that is the best hope of mankind to secure a global peace.
Why Melinda Gates? Any great social change movement needs a leader at its center who can convey the vision of the goal to be achieved to others and make the movement a reality; a Mohandas Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg. Having just finished reading her book The Moment of Lift, it’s clear to me that Melinda Gates is uniquely qualified to be that catalyzing woman.
The world is in the clutches of a global pandemic. Life has changed forever. Perhaps it can change again for the much better. I believe it can. I’m an evolutionary biologist and behaviorist and I’ve spent a lifetime studying the behavior of men and women. For close to 20 years I’ve studied and written about the relationship of men and women to war as the answer to the possibility of ending war. [My essays and books on the subject are available on two websites - www.afww.org and www.judithhand.net.] In short, I’ve concluded that there is no biological reason why we couldn’t end war, and that the empowerment and leadership of women in equal partnership with men will be pivotal to making that wish a reality, should we decide to pursue the goal.
If we have the ability to end the tragedy of war if we choose, the question becomes how. Over the last few months a number of thoughts and ideas have been at the center of my attention, all of which relate to questions of war and peace. I will list some of those thoughts here and describe them as succinctly as possible.
#WFGP. This acronym stands for “Women For Global Peace.” I’m also a novelist and I’m in the midst of writing a novel. As fate or coincidence would have it, it’s about a post-catastrophic pandemic future in 2045 in which women are working to secure a global peace treaty. They have named their movement Women For Global Peace, and the energizing center of WFGP is the female Secretary General of the United Nations. What our real world needs, what the children of the future need, is a champion such as Melinda Gates who can garner the recognition and resources needed to make the goal of securing a world peace not just a dream but a reality.
At this time in America in response to the pandemic, we have been ordered to stay at home. Only people deemed to perform essential activities are to be out and about. All nonessential activities are to cease until the pandemic is under control or ended. A few days ago a Facebook friend posted the provocative phrase: War Is A Nonessential Activity. Yes, indeed! I thought. War is a nonessential activity.
Lord knows we don’t need it. In fact, we’re going to need the resources we put into war to rebuild the global economy after this pandemic is ended and to fight the even more dire onrushing tragedies of global warming. I had earlier read a Facebook post about Saudi Arabia and Yemen agreeing to a cease-fire in their particular nasty little war because they had more important concerns on their mind. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if they just never restarted that war but found a way to peacefully resolve their conflicts so they could direct their resources elsewhere. I also know there are enough empowered and wealthy and resourceful women around the world to energize millions upon millions of people to support the making of an enforceable global peace treaty. If only there was a leadership capable of mobilizing a global movement to do so! In fashioning our “new normal“ after the pandemic, why not include a powerful movement to establish global peace for the children of the future. Why not take this bitter lemon and make a magnificent lemon meringue pie.
Which brings me again to Melinda Gates. Mrs. Gates, I invite you to explore my work, especially as it relates to women and war. Perhaps the best place to start would be the small book on my personal website, War and Sex and Human Destiny. After reading it you could meditate on it and perhaps pray on the idea and consult with your close friends as you describe in The Moment of Lift. And of course, I’ve been thinking for many years about how such a movement would look and could work. I’ve proposed in several places an aspirational action plan for doing so. I would be profoundly happy to speak with you about any of this. And allow me to express my gratitude to you and to your husband for all the wonderful work you and he and the Gates Foundation are doing around the world. Be Well. And with profound respect, Judith Hand
Here are traits that qualify Melinda Gates, that in fact make her uniquely qualified, to inspire and if she chooses, to lead:
Above all, her book The Moment of Lift reveals her to be a caring and compassionate human being with the wisdom to see that making war is a nonessential activity, and that ending war would be one of the greatest positive turning points in all of human history. Something worth the dedication of her time, creativity, and resources.
You Can Also Follow Me on Facebook
If you'd like to read my take on current affairs, or get a sense of what amuses me or I find educational or beautiful, do a search and follow me, Judith Hand, on Facebook.
Dr. Judith Hand writes historical fiction, contemporary action/adventure, and screenplays. Hand earned her Ph.D. in biology from UCLA. Her studies included animal behavior and primatology. After completing a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellowship at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., she returned to UCLA as a research associate and lecturer. Her undergraduate major was in cultural anthropology. She worked as a technician in neurophysiology laboratories at UCLA and the Max Planck Institute, in Munich, Germany. As a student of animal communication, she has written scientific papers on the subject of social conflict resolution.
Astronomy image credit: NASA: Full Hemisphere Views of Earth at Night.