AGGRESSION: WINNER TAKES ALL

Peace is the absence of aggression. And aggression is very much a part of our lives. All of us.

Aggression is getting the better of other people. Improving one's lot in life at the expense of others. And that's something we all do. Every day. It's a part of our lives. We enjoy it. Or at least we enjoy it when we are the beneficiaries.

A simple example of an act of aggression is theft. You take somebody else's property thereby making yourself richer and the victim poorer. That is a simple crime, and it is recognized as such. There are many other acts of aggression, actions which make some wealthy at the expense of others which are perfectly legal, things we take as perfectly normal.

You find that a mere three years after you bought it, you can sell your house for considerably more than you paid for it, without having made any improvements or added any capital value whatsoever. That's Good. You are unaware of the implications, and would probably not be interested. In fact the profit you are making, and demanding from your buyer, is money for nothing, since you have added no value to justify that profit. But no matter. It's what we do. Everybody does it. But as house prices escalate it becomes increasingly difficult for young people to get a home of their own. And it means that more and more capital is tied up in mortgages. The real beneficiaries are the banks and mortgage companies, which probably own a substantial proportion of any developed country's real estate.

When towns and cities become more popular and as populations grow, landowners find that they can charge higher rents for the same piece of property without having to do anything to it whatsoever. Few if any appreciate that this economically and socially regressive. Prosperity is won through productivity – providing a better product or service at less cost to the customer. When urban real estate prices rise, that affects every business in town, offices, retailers, your favourite café. They all have to put their prices up, but without any increase in value. This is economically regressive. We become prosperous collectively when our society delivers better goods and services at less cost. When urban rents go up city-dwellers find themselves paying more money for the same value. And it's socially regressive too, impoverishing our lives instead of enriching them. Many of the really old-established cafés in the great cities of Europe, places which have existed and been a part of the community for several centuries and become household names, have been forced to close as rising real-estate values force them out of business. There just isn't the profit in a cup of coffee for the client who sits for an hour reading the newspaper off the rack, however socially enriching such a facility might be.

Or. You are an employee of a company. You're fairly happy in your job. No particular complaints. But the labour market is a bit tight, especially for your line of work. So you and your colleagues put in for a wage increase. You want more money for doing exactly the same amount of work. Meanwhile your employer has decided he'd like a bit more too, so he slides his prices up. He wants more money for the same product or service. And that's precisely what inflation is. Higher wages for the same work, higher prices for the same product or service. Extra money, with no extra value. So? It's what we do. Everybody does it. But inflation creates monetary instability, and other economic problems. So government and central bank put a stop to it in the only way they know how: by raising interest rates and creating a degree of recession and unemployment.

Peace is the absence of aggression. We do not have peace because we commit acts of aggression. Every day. Aggression is an integral part of the very fabric of our lives.

Aggression begins, if not earlier, in schools, where bullying and being bullied is a part of everyday life which teachers and supervisors do little or nothing to discourage. If we want peace it has to start early. Students need to learn, and teachers need to teach life's Number One most important lesson: be nice to one another. It makes good sense. Very good sense. Life is much more pleasant in the home, neighbourhood and workplace when people are nice to one another. And when you grow up and make your own business, you'll never sell your products to distributors if you barge into the boss's office, bang on his desk and shout obscenities. It's life's Number One Lesson, it makes good sense, and it is one of the essential building blocks of peace. But where is the school that teaches it?

We are aggressive one to another. We are aggressive to animals, exploiting them shamelessly, raising them in the most horrendous conditions for food, cutting them up alive as 'research', all permitted in the name of profit. Likewise we pollute the land with chemicals to increase yields and thus profit. Blame the farmers? How can we, when we choose regular as opposed to organic fruits and vegetables, when we buy eggs without bothering to check if they're 'free range'? If the customers want the products of polluted land and inhumanely treated birds and animals, producers will produce them.

So we push for higher wages, or higher prices, we rejoice when the price of our house goes up without our having done anything to it, we turn a blind eye to farming methods and the way animals are treated as long as we can get cheap food. In our personal relationships we happily impose our will on others, and get the better of them financially if we see the opportunity. We even support our governments when they make war – or we stand quietly by and do nothing. We tolerate aggression in the young – we even encourage it by buying them video games of which the object invariably is to kill as many people as possible. Hardly a movie appears on tv without the obligatory early warning about sex and violence. Blame the movie-makers – or ourselves as the customers who watch them?

In our holier moments we sanctimoniously pray for peace, as if peace were something from God like rain or sunshine. But it's no use whatsoever praying for peace. Peace is the absence of aggression. And it is we who create aggression, not God. When we no longer practice aggression towards one another, the animal kingdom and our environment, then we will have peace.

The Renunciation of Aggression

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