• Friday, April 10th, 2009

Rabbi Jesus said, Like sun and rain, have no enemies.

I imagine Green Jesus today holding up bonobo primates, who live in the wild on the west bank of the Congo River in Africa, as models for us in peacemaking They do no practice violence within their species or against other species. If we want a peaceful world, without an incredible amount of ecological destruction caused by war, we need to imitate the bonobo, 98 percent of whose DNA overlaps with ours.

Warfare involves incalculable ecological destruction. In Vietnam, the United States sprayed Agent Orange, with the deadly carcinogen dioxin in it, on forests. Agent Orange defoliated large portions of Quang Tri and Tay Ninh provinces, turning them into moonscapes. Vietnam veterans, in the areas of the spraying, developed unusually high rates of skin cancer. Today the United States Navy uses sonar booms underwater in the Pacific, which disrupts echolocation communication among whales.

Field researchers have never seen a bonobo deliberately kill another. Embraces between and within genders and ages occurs daily to mediate aggression.

We can turn to the more than 90 percent of our 200,000 year homo sapiens history that involved no institutionalized warfare. During that 90 percent was there infanticide? Yes. Sporadic killings? Yes. But platoons and companies, whose primary duty has been to annihilate other platoons and companies on command? No. Institutional warfare, with standing armies, began about six thousand years ago in Central Asia and in the Middle East. If it was invented, it can be dis-invented, as has been the case with legal, personal slavery.

Today Human Primate Jesus says, “Consider the Bonobo.”

A male bonobo may briefly chase another male away from a female, but the assertion does not end in violence. Immediately after the “pretend” chase, the two males hug. A female may strike a juvenile, and the mother may lunge at the striker. The two females then immediately hug, to release anxiety and to affirm cooperation. That’s it. These close cousins of our species put to the lie that our violent genes make our species invent war and that war is natural.

Today we can invest some of the trillions of dollars spent year after year on worldwide military budgets to expand conflict management education and green community service. Cooperative social skills in nurturing human community, cultural anthropologists tell us, made our human species more ubiquitous that any other mammal species. A mother holds and caresses her baby for years. Friendly gestures like smiles, handshakes, back patting, and hugs build trust. Social dancing, drumming, singing, and telling stories around the campfire link hearts and minds. We need training in interpersonal and intercultural listening, in conflict management, in experiential community education. We especially need community service in an international Green Corps program.

Today the Rabbi says, “Consider the Bonobo.”

Bonobos, our cousins, are hospitable in daily interaction. Females are on the same footing as males. Female elders act in concert to end male power displays. When stress arises in gathering and eating food, in jealousy, and in meeting another Bonobo community, bonobos express free and consensual embrace. Juveniles cavort imaginatively, and play a game like blindman’s bluff.

Bonobos follow the admonition of Jesus to have no enemies much better than humans.

Category: Ecology
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