Further Thoughts ‘On Aggression 2’ – Weapons, Technology and the Naked Ape


Lorenz writes:

Though occasionally in territorial or rival fights, by some mishap a horn may penetrate an eye or a tooth an artery, we have never found that the aim of aggression was the extermination of fellow members of the species…

However, it must be admitted that a slight deviation from nature, a coincidence that put a knife into one’s hand at the critical moment, might turn [simple aggression] into manslaughter.

His point appears to be that all of nature exhibits aggressive behaviour; the problem with humankind is that we have evolved technologies to aid that aggression: weapons that allow an angry moment to turn into a killing. [The book was first published in 1963, and I wonder the extent to which it influenced the opening of Kubrick’s 2001 (released in 1968) where an ape suddenly picks up and wields a discarded bone as a weapon against another group.]

Technology is, of course, able to be used both positively and negatively. I was speaking to a good friend yesterday who works in the strategy unit of the Home Office. One of their ‘big ideas’ in their thinking on crime reduction is the introduction of tiny tracking devices into all products over a certain value, the idea being that the ability to locate them would deter their theft. [This is how the US military tracked all their equipment in the Gulf War]

Reflecting on the previous post about the crazy blind alley that western civilization appears to be careering down, I wonder if life is just getting too complex. Tackling crime by implementing a global satellite tracking network of all our expensive devices… Aren’t we running out of control a little?

Last night also saw the artist Spencer Tunick complete his ‘Naked City’ installation live on BBC3 with 1000 or so Geordies getting their kit off and arranging themselves over the River Tyne. The pundits struggled to make much coherent sense of it, but I was struck by the testimonies of the people involved saying how life-affirming and peaceful it had all been.

Stripped of all our weapons and technologies, our clothes that we use to hide behind as well as cover our bodies with, our valuables and devices that we hold to so dear, we find ourselves naked, rather more similar to everyone else than we thought, and perhaps stripped too of the aggression and stress that our cities build up in us.

Shame Vaux never did do that ‘naked worship’ service… Greenbelt anyone?