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Society and Civilization
Human Behavior

Why do people fight?


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April 17, 2015 9:59AM

Fighting is defined as a conflict between two parties with different views. One of the greatest gifts of humanity is the ability for us to be different. However, this is also one of our greatest flaws.

The human psyche is programmed to be different. This is why teachers, parents, and other adult figures often tell children to "be different". Yet, this causes problems. For years, psychologists and sociologists have been asking "why is this true?" This is also evident in animals. Even if they may be of the same type of animal (i.e. birds), different species will still fight with each other.

In our minds, we are born to think that we are correct in whatever we say or do. This is also colloquially known as "pride". Of course, no one can always be right about everything. Therefore, there will always be another contender. Naturally, our pride prevents us from admitting we are wrong, if indeed we are. As a result, conflicts arise as two people who believe or think differently about a subject cannot both be correct.

This leads us into an argument. The human mind is only capable of withstanding insults and attacks at our pride to a limit. When we are no longer able to hold it in, we lash out, believing wholeheartedly that we were wronged. In contrast, the "offender" would obviously think that they did nothing wrong, and that we lashed out for no reason. This again correlates to how the human mind is programmed to believe that we are always right and everyone else is wrong.

Heated arguments can sometimes lead into a fight. Similarly, heated fights can sometime evolve into a full-scale war.

In most cases, there is a right answer. Because there are over six billion people on Earth, and already nearing seven billion, there is bound to be at least one person who has the answer. It is up to them to resolve the conflict. In a perfect scenario, once this person presents their case, the conflict will be resolved. In reality, this would only be the case if the person with the answer is able to prove their case. Only with overbearing proof will the mind bow to a superior answer. This again correlates to the concept of "pride".

Now, how do pride and being different come together? Imagine a scenario in which there is no provable answer. A scenario in which people will believe in different things and think that what they believe is true and correct. Religion is one of the most perfect examples of this.

In contrast to what most people think, science and religion are actually completely unrelated. They do not always "battle" it out as most envision. Science is the study of facts and information. Religion is the study of the unknown or the unexplainable. Science rarely, if ever, dwells into things that cannot be proven, while religion does. This is why religion is such a large factor in the equation that relates why people have conflicts.

Think about what religion deals with. Gods and other deities. Creation and destruction. Heaven and Hell. What do these things all have in common? None of them can be proven. This is the part of religion that is untouchable by science: God (or gods), creation, and the afterlife cannot be proven nor disproven.

Think back to what pride is about: never being able to admit that oneself is wrong. Even if you verbally admit it, there will always be a thought in the back of your mind that says otherwise. This is the first factor in the equation.

Now think about being different. Greatest feat of humanity? Maybe. Substantial cause of conflicts? Undoubtedly. Now put religion and different in the same context. Is it possible for every single human to be of the same belief system? No. Everyone is born an atheist. That much is true. As a result, religion is a taught belief, particularly from parents. A hidden factor? Children. Children are all about changing. No matter how much a parent wishes their child to be just like them, it will most likely be impossible. The child will eventually grow to become more resistant to the parent's teachings, and as a result, the parent will continue to pressure the child into believing the same things.

Now this leads to another question. Why would this be? Why are children destined to be resistant from their parents? An indirect factor of conflict is the though of being free. Freedom is the most cherished value in the human mind. At the back of the child's mind is the need to be free. The need to not be told what to do. As a result, the parent's teachings are repelled and labeled as "bad". Now, the child will most likely not conform to the same belief after having unconsciously pushed itself away, essentially making the child different. Leading back to the original idea, we now have two essential factors: pride and being different. However, we are still missing one last factor.

The last part involved would be a subject that cannot be proven. As stated before, religion is a great example of this. However, opinion is as well. Who would want to settle for an answer from one person's point of view if they knew the question could never have a truly correct answer anyway? Now the equation is complete:

  • pride + different + subject that is unprovable = CONFLICT

Can this be prevented? Of course. Will it be prevented? Probably not. Psychologists have proven that only when presented with a common enemy, will people begin to unite and oppose the common enemy. Thus evolved the quote, "he who is the enemy of my enemy, is my friend." This can be shown with a variety of modern examples:

Take the United States for example, a country that is the symbol of unity and freedom. Is that what it truly is? At the time of the American Revolution, yes. The colonists disliked what the British government had imposed on them. They took matters into their own hands when they decided to present a universal front and rebel against the British.

Now, what used to be the British Empire and its colonies has now decreased to just the United States. Are there conflicts between the Americans? Yes. An example would be the American Civil War in which two parties with completely different views fought over their pride in what they did and a subject that cannot be proven: slavery. Slavery exists, that is as far as science can prove. Is slavery moral and should it be allowed? That is the question that remains unprovable, as the answer is a matter of personal opinion.

Either way, the South presented a universal front and opposed the North, which also presented a universal front. The physical conflict was resolved when the South surrendered. The North believed that the fight was over. But in the back of Southerners' mind, this may not be the case. Again, as in the American Revolution, the American Civil War divided a large entity into smaller portions, namely splitting the United States into the North and the South, just as the British Empire had been split into the British Empire and the rebelling colonies.

This can be divided even deeper. There is even conflict between states. As an example, Texas and California are major contenders at being the international port hub capital. Although it does not involve actual bloodshed, it is still considered to be a conflict.

Dividing it even smaller would be the rivalry between the two major cities of Texas: Houston and Dallas, which both aim to be the most important of the state. Dwelling even deeper could result in the discovery of conflicts between schools and neighborhoods.

In effect, yes, people can stop fighting if they were given a reason to unite together and present a universal front against a common enemy. The only way humankind could even come close to ceasing their own conflicts, is if an overwhelming force came out of nowhere and only targeted humans, for example: an extraterrestrial invasion. This is where pride will become a good thing. The pride instilled within us would urge everyone to unite and present a universal front that opposes the overwhelming force.

"Be proud of who you are. Don't blend with the crowd. Be different," parents and teachers say. This is very nice and all, but the question is: "to what extent?"

There is one other explanation.

People fight as a means of protecting themself from another person. They fight because they fear that if they love this other person, they will open themselves up to being attacked.

This brings up a question. Will the enemy attack an individual that tries to communicate a peaceful resolution? Three quotes come to mind.

"Someone who gives fear, feels fear himself."

"You can discover what your enemy fear most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."

"The things which we fear the most in life have already happened to us."

I say,

Love your enemy and he/she will love you.

In just the right way. ;)