WHY IS THERE WAR?
by Serge Kahili King
People engage in war because they want to love or be loved. Although this may sound absurd at first, let's
give it a closer look, because if we can understand the motivation for war then we might be able to redirect
The most fundamental human need is to be accepted, and the most fundamental fear is to be rejected. The old
idea that survival comes first just doesn't hold up in the light of experience because it doesn't account
for those who risk their lives for others, even strangers, and for those who commit suicide. And the fear of
death is the fear of the ultimate rejection: by life itself.
Acceptance can be sought from oneself, one's environment (including people), or one's God, and many
different strategies are used to ensure acceptance. If these strategies are pursued without fear, including
fear-based anger, the result will be peace and cooperation. But as the fear of possible rejection increases,
so does the tendency to seek acceptance by control or submission. Then the result is emotional represion,
social suppression, and the use of violence to prove one's power or to make others accept one whether they
want to or not.
In the case of war, the leaders who make the major decisions set standards to judge behavior by the "other
side" as acceptable or unacceptable, motivated by their personal or group standards of self acceptance or
acceptance from those around them. And those who obey the orders to march off to death and destruction are
motivated by the desire to be accepted by doing "the right thing" or the fear of being rejected, and/or
punished, for not doing it. What's so sad is that the fundamental intention is so good.
The "glory" of war lies in the experience of incredible bravery, intense companionship, demonstrations of
skill, the overcoming of limitations, succesfully protecting one's country or loved ones, and the adulation
for the winners. Yet, until we find a better way to satisfy the need for acceptance and the desire for real
power, people will continue to go to war out of love.
Our great challenge, therefore, is not just to end war, but also to develop alternatives to war which still
provide the benefits that only very intense experiences can generate, as well as satisfying the need for
Copyright by Aloha International 2001