The first part of human history was dominated by nomads. People known as hunter-gathers, these people lived off the land, they migrated on a whim, and they moved wherever their food moved. They knew nothing of borders or governments, they had no imperial ambitions, they only knew survival. Early humans understood that their survival depended on their numbers. Strangely enough, it was these numbers that gave way to borders and governments- because once early human numbers started to swell; they had to have cohesion within their group to prevent chaos from thwarting their survival. Once early humans began to understand agriculture, land became paramount, nomadic life ceased, and this began a time of greed that persists to this day. In the essay These Dead Guys Jimmy Durham, a Native American, speaks of his anger towards America and the men who acquired (stole) the country from his ancestors. Durham asked these questions: “Why wouldn’t I hate this country? Because you are a nice person? Because it makes you feel bad for me to hate this country? You want me to be properly indignant about “injustices” and still be on the side of you” (Durham 175). Native Americans, once a proud free people who worshipped the land, not because they could exploit it, but because they believed it gave them life yet destroyed by white settlers. Durham says: “Don’t ask a white man to walk a mile in your moccasins because he’ll steal them and the mile too” (175). Native Americans, despite their attempts to assimilate were decimated for nothing more than greed. One would think that mass murder, rape, and theft would render humility, but as history shows us this is not the case. In fact, mass extermination seems to be a hallmark of mankind. In Bruno Bettelheim’s essay The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank, he blames the mass extermination (Hitler’s final solution to the Jewish problem) of Jewish people on the Jews themselves. “Thus it was easier for them [Jews] to make themselves believe that complete compliance with even the most outrageously debilitating and degrading Nazi orders might offer a chance for survival”(Bettelheim 81). The fact is, humans do not wake up in the morning and expect to be murdered. It is obvious that mass extermination, rape, and theft are inherently built into the human psyche. Although we would like to believe that our human brethren are selfless, caring, and nurturing creatures, this is far from the truth. The sad truth is humans are the most destructive creatures to ever walk the earth.
There are those who will say all humans are not like this; they will say refined religious humans believe in the sanctity of life. History, however, tells a different story. When World War II ended, the German populace claimed no knowledge of the concentration camps. Are we to believe this? Should we believe they did not notice their neighbors being rounded up like animals and carted off to die? Or did their human instinct of humility give way to tyranny? During the extermination of Native Americans, whites were eager to rid the land, so they could build plantations for slaves to slave. These were all religious people, and history tells us that religion tends to take a backseat to tyranny. While Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” his administration was funding tyranny in Nicaragua. All the while, claiming America to be a great Christian nation. America was not alone. The Soviet Union in August 1961, completely disregarded the God given freedom of movement for half a continent simply by building a wall. The Wall, as it had come to be known in the West, was not only built to keep people out, but also to keep people in. In Brian Ladd’s essay Berlin Walls he writes,
“Traditionally, a wall has an inside and an outside; it protects the people on one side from those on the other. But which was the outside of the wall that encircled West Berlin? Who was being walled in, and who kept out? West Berlin physically surrounded by the wall, felt they were the ones penned in. But so did most East Germans” (Brian Ladd 343).
The Berlin Wall exemplified the brutality of man. The Berlin Wall made the probability of all out nuclear war seem feasible, and in the balance swung human life. Not one human life, but the entire human species. Both countries, while blaming the other claimed that, in order to guarantee its own survival they needed the tools to destroy it. During this time, people prayed that nuclear war never came, but at the same time rooted for their country’s superiority. They were cheering the prospect of their nation’s ability to exterminate their enemies. This is the character of man.
No one should dispute the violent character of man, but people will. People can, but history is a great recorder. Jimmie Durham says “The fact of the U.S. is destructive” (175). We can be sure that people in the minority worldwide harbor these same feelings because of the destruction they have seen. However, those very same people in a minority group, given the chance would be just as destructive. That is just the nature of the beast. Humans are wasteful, and we now possess enough destructive power to wipe out every living thing on the planet. No other species had this ability. It may seem like a noble solution, but it is no different from the destruction of the Native Americans, building a wall to subjugate the people, the holocaust, or the enslavement of an entire race.