Killer Apes and Mental Illness: the Sons of Abel Versus the Sons of Cain
There are millions of people kept in prison because their behavior is seen as threatening to social order and safety-- and yet the primates that threaten the most lives, even show blatant disregard for innnocent bystanders, are not only free to roam the streets, but lionized by their peers. Because Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ayman al-Zawahiri are seen as enacting the wishes of a group, they surround themselves with armed guards and issue orders that will murder or maim thousands of people who never voted for them, never met them, and wouldn't like them if they did.
Like it or not, we have to share a planet with these gangsters and have to find a way to remove them from power without turning into one of them. If human's outer appearance matched their internal demons, the problem would take care of itself in a few generations: no sane person would want to have sex with them, and the species would die out. But the killer chimps among us are breeding as rapidly as the peaceful bonobos, and the chimps don't mind cooking the books by killing a few thousand bonobos to make the world safer for their bloodthirsty kind. It may be time to talk about the genetic elephant in the room: why are some of us Abel, happy in our own garden, and too many of us worshippers of Cain?
If we can agree that the brain and the nervous system are electro-chemical, that our perception of reality-- and our response to it-- depends on a certain balance of dopamine, serotonin and all their building blocks... And within a given population, there are bound to be variations of that chemical balance in individuals, making (to borrow the ancient personality types) this one choleric, that one sanguine, this one melancholic and occasionally choleric. And just as variations in the pancreas or the thyroid gland can cause life-threatening illness, imbalance outside the normal range in brain chemistry can bring on mania, depression, delusions and hallucinations of the five senses. We've known since at least World War One that not just physical trauma, but repeated emotional trauma can carve channels in the mind that induce post traumatic stress disorder, multiple personalities, and many other illnesses. It may be that the tragedies of schizophrenia and autism might be traced back to a virus.
If all this is so, might there be an unpleasant secret hidden in plain sight: that within a given population, there will be highly organized indiduals who seek power over others and then use that power to wage war on neighboring tribes? That just as humanity wars tribe against tribe, there is an undeclared war in every community between the sons of Cain and the children of Abel?
There are horrible ironies in this relationship. A peace-loving but curious primate named Einstein followed a line of inquiry that made it possible for a desperate, threatened group of his peers to deliver a terrible weapon into the hands of the killer apes. Archimedes of Syracus was killed by a Roman soldier while lost in thought over a problem he had drawn in the sand. Marcellus, the Roman general in charge of the expedition, had given direct orders that Archimedes was not to be harmed-- but as many a commander has learned since then, you can't turn a thousand soldiers loose in a foreign country without a few bad apples and some collateral damage.
The peaceful ape can be provoked to violence, just as any animal can. Many a Cincinnatus has been called from his plow to fight savagely for hearth and home, but then-- the reason the name Cinncinatus is immortal-- when the threat is over, the peace-lover returns to his plow and turns his back on any temptation to power. But the goodwill of a thousand citizen soldiers can be undone in a second by a few rapists, torturers and murderers and the commanders who enable them.
How does a peace-loving soul contain-- or, terribly, eradicate-- his violent brother and his friends? If we were still a small band living in the trees, it would be evident that the violent mobs are scratching each other to death, and endangering our peace-loving children. The political question of the 20th century will look to Mandela and Havel and other martyrs who survived to wield power themselves. We must rescue hostages to fortune, take the dangerous toys away from the violent boys, and discourage our daughters from joining in and breeding with them.