In On Aggression, Lorenz states that fighting is based upon emotional reaction to surroundings, and that it is “emotionally defined and driven” and “does not exist in the absence of emotion”. We know that in most combats made in self-defence that an attack is made with heightened emotional content from at least one of the fighters.


We can begin by considering that natural conflict is based upon emotional effect of contention and cannot exist without a certain impetus to begin the process. There is always an initial external prompt, enforced by internal frustration to escalate to physical fighting. But we must isolate and identify the emotions involved within fighting.  The most obvious emotion which dictates the escalation of conflict to physical fighting is aggression.


Lorenz considered that Militant Enthusiasm (i.e. aggression) was the driving force behind all man’s mastery of the world around him. He believed that;


“Without the concentrated dedication of militant enthusiasm neither art nor science, nor indeed any of the great endeavours of humanity would ever have come into existence. Whether enthusiasm is made to serve these endeavours, or whether man’s most powerful motivating instinct makes him go to war in some abjectly silly cause, depends almost entirely on the conditioning and/or imprinting he has undergone during certain susceptible periods of his life. There is reasonable hope that our moral responsibility may gain control over the primeval drive, but our only hope of it ever doing so rests on the humble recognition of the fact that militant enthusiasm is an instinctive response with a phylogenetically determined releasing mechanism, and that the only point at which intelligent and responsible supervision can get control is in the conditioning of the response to an object which proves to be a genuine value under the scrutiny of the categorical question”.


Support for the instinctive drive argument came with experimentation with animals. Cullen (1961) demonstrated that aggression is innate within animals by separating 2 male sticklebacks from their siblings (so that no aggressive behaviour could be “learned”) as a test case for instinctive aggression. These two sticklebacks shared an equal amount of aggressive tendency with those who had been raised with other sticklebacks. Similarly, Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1963) conducted the same isolation experiment with Norwegian grey rats which also demonstrated (as Eibl-Eibesfeldt reported) a normal threat and fighting behaviour.


Hence, the reasoning that aggression was innate (rather than developed from sequential experiences eliciting an aggressive response) gained greater relevance. So if the propensity for aggression is inbuilt within the organism, then the role of the environment is in providing the “key stimulus” for the release of that drive. Koehler (1968) described that these Releasers fit the innate aggressive mechanisms like keys fit locks and therefore their modification is rigid. In lower vertebrates, this mechanism is clear, and cannot be disputed as many observational experiments have proven that a key stimulus directly releases a Fixed Action Pattern. Manufacturing these key stimuli in lower vertebrates allowed Marler (1956), Noble (1936), Noble & Bradley (1933) and ter Pelkwijke & Tinbergen (1937) to further observe and prove that certain key stimuli (such as the colour of a chaffinch’s chest, or the display of a stickleback’s throat) provoked a Fixed Action behaviour.

Conversely, after the provocation of aggressive response, nature has also imbued within animals certain rituals which seek to counter the release of aggression. Counter-releasers, or behaviours which counter aggression by provoking an inhibition response have developed some very abstract behaviours. Perhaps one of the oddest was one such observation by Lorenz of young rails that, at the onset of violence had been shown to reveal a bald patch on the back of the head which instantly pacified the aggressor. Lorenz further considered that counter-releasers are often the opposite of the releasers; for example a fight between fish might be provoked when on the fighters change to aggressive colours, move and act abruptly and attempt to look at large as possible by presenting their sides to each other. Inhibiting behaviours, or counter-releasers to end the fight can be successful by removing any of these, i.e. by turning pale, acting slow, submissive and seeming as small as possible.


Given the level of investigation of these forms of releaser and counter-releaser amongst animals, it was inevitable that comparisons would be made by socio-biologists and ethologists between animals and humans. Morris (1968), for example, supplied a somewhat odd teaching for the pacification of a police officer who has been provoked by a violation of traffic regulations. He suggests that we should act submissively in words and body posture so as to make it clear that there is no need to raise the disagreement to anything physical. He also recommends that we should get out of, and leave the vicinity of, our car lest it create any territorial rivalry. This absurd reasoning, as Zillman suggests, might be the theoretician’s idiosyncrasy rather than based upon any objective truth. Zillman continues to mention in his critique that no such inhibitory mechanisms can be traced within human beings, since we cannot expect that a sudden raising of our hands in submission or a bow in humiliation should inhibit an attacker from inflicting his gratuitous attacks upon us. Even (as has been proven to be the case) giving a mugger your mobile phone and wallet cannot inhibit him from still stabbing a knife into your stomach!


Lorenz’s conception of Aggression was based upon the fact that it was a basic “drive”, of a kind which was defined by Zillman as:


“…a noninstinctive motivational force that is induced by depriving the organism of life-supporting entities or conditions, and that grows in strength with the severity of such deprivation” (Zillman, 1983a, p. 76).


Lorenz was particularly insistent that aggression is instinctive and spontaneous, as much as any of the higher vertebrates. Wilson (1978) criticised the orthodox model of aggression based upon a “drive of aggression”. He said:


Like so many other forms of behaviour and “instinct”, aggression in any given species is actually an ill-defined array of different responses with separate control in the nervous system. No fewer than seven categories can be distinguished: the defence and conquest of territory, the assertion of dominance within well-organised groups, sexual aggression, acts of hostility by which weaning is terminated, aggression against prey, defensive counter-attacks against predators, and moralistic and disciplinary aggression used to enforce the rules of society. (Wilson 1978, pp. 101-102)


So we effectively may witness two somewhat conflicting theories regarding aggression. The first is the Lorenz drive-discharge Model, and the second is the more recent Socio-biological Conditional Strategy model. One anthropologist named Richard Sipes (as recorded in Wilson, 1978, pp. 105) offered an example which is commonly used to support the Conditional Strategy model, or at the very least disprove the Drive-Discharge model to some extent. Using the Drive-Discharge model, we might predict that if a human society has an adequate pressure-release of its Militant Enthusiasm, we can assume that there will be a decrease in the substitute behaviours one also finds in society. Substitutes come in many forms albeit Combat Sports, Indirect aggression by means of Sports Competition, rituals and militant dances etc; and where we find a discharge in substitutes, we might also expect to find a lowered participation in actual warlike pursuits. To investigate this hypothesis, Sipes carried out a study of ten warlike peoples around the world, and he compared them to ten pacific societies (who were not warlike). Contrary to the prediction we might expect using the Drive-Discharge Model, Sipes discovered that the former had much higher levels of Militant Enthusiasm than that found in the less militant pacific societies. This meant that the Drive-Discharge model did not satisfactorily predict the outcome of aggression as a Drive requiring a Discharge.


Another anthropologist named William Durham (1976) also made a study of human societies to support the Conditional Strategy Model. His study was made of an Amazonian tribe famed for their practice of head-hunting. The tribe was known as the Mundurucu who were also known to speak of other tribes of humans in the same terms, and the same tone, as they described the prey they hunted. A substantial amount of time and effort was devoted to hunting, and the males of the tribe were particular experts at it. Due to the pressures of competition for resources with neighbouring tribes, the Mundurucu gradually set about exterminating the surrounding tribes in order to gain greater and greater monopoly upon the Amazon’s resources. Durham reasoned that it was a process of Natural Selection, of the tribe securing it’s dominance by means of a policy of self-preservation. It is not, therefore the product of an inherent “drive”, but rather the response of a tribe to a natural environment and the pressures placed upon them by direct competition with other tribes. In order to qualify these findings, Wilson aptly summed them up as a Cultural evolution of aggression which he stated was guided:


“…by the following three forces: (1) genetic predisposition toward learning some kind of communal aggression; (2) the necessities imposed by the environment in which the society finds itself; and (3) the previous history of the group, which biases it toward the adoption of one cultural innovation as opposed to another.” (Wilson 1978, p. 114)


Cultural Aggression was best summed up by Archer in Male Violence (1994). He summed up the Culture of Aggression as a set of Warrior Values. These are a set of Machismo and masculine traits commonly associated with being a Warrior. These values can be traced amongst many human cultures where a warrior caste was present. The four core values he described (which cannot be reduced to the others) were: Physical Courage, Endurance, Strength & Skill and Honour.


The value of Physical Courage must have been essential for any human engaging in the grotesquery of warfare. The ability to meet with the event of war with an unflinching and firm mind-set even in the face of superior forces or the risk of serious wounds and death would have been essential attributes of the warrior. A psychological assessment of the traditional warrior would have proven a heavy reliance upon indomitable spirit and unwavering mental strength – as well as resilience to warfare. Such psychological traits may be found supported and developed in many Combative Systems from the Fudoshin of Karate-jutsu and Japanese martial arts influenced by Zen Buddhism, to the European Knightly values of Prouese in Chivalry.


Endurance is a similar trait found in a warrior caste, and therefore in subsequent Martial Arts Systems. The ability of the fighter to endure extremes of pain, discomfort, temperature, hunger, fatigue etc were bulwarks of bushido and chivalry. The training of the fighters hands and limbs, the existence of the Iron-body phenomenon in Chinese Hoplologisms and the training of mental and physical resilience for Unrestricted fighting further evidence the importance of the value of endurance to the warrior. Without a mental resilience, a substantial psychological deterioration has been proven to take effect after prolonged exposure to warfare (S. Marshall 1946; Ingraham and Manning 1980). Due to these pressures, most warriors (in contrast to the kind of blood-lust heard in the media) operate in a state of shocked dissociation (S. Marshall 1946; Holmes 1985).


Coherent use of strength by means of application of skill; the difference between frenzied attack and fighting of an artform is what defined the warrior. He surpassed fighting as a phenomenon by establishing sometimes complex systems designed to apply to fighting, and with which he was able to assert his nobility over the vulgar ad common fighters of his period. The warrior was often an upper-class bourgeoisie who had time to devote to warfare, in contrast to peasants whose chief interest was in supporting his community by means of working the land. Strength & skill in fighting were therefore very much prized values to warriors, in as much as skills in tilling the land would have been prized amongst farmers. He must have been strong enough, fit enough and agile enough to exert his Force upon another human being, whilst understanding the Function of his actions by means of coherent application of Tactics and Strategy.


Honour was also an important element of warrior mentality. The brothers in arms, the “men of honour” who were united in the pressures and harsh realities of their profession made them realise the importance of trustworthiness and loyalty. Being loyal to his comrades, placing the importance upon his fellows, and “never leaving a man behind” were all part of being an honourable warrior. He was true to his word, and would not resort to the use of cheating or underhand tactics to gain advantage. In many ways, the warrior values are what became disseminated into the mind-set of non-militant males; and the establishment of the concept of “Gentlemen”. The role of the warrior was to protect the weak, the poor, to respect women, to defend the down-trodden and religious faith. Due to the high position in which Honour asserted itself within the warrior, it was an incredible insult to have his Honour offended by the spiteful words of another. For this reason, if the honour of a clan or troop was derided, then a swift retributive action was taken, regardless of risk. This, in some ways, may be applied to the kind of retribution sought by the Americans after Pearl Harbour. It is arguable that it was honour that was at stake when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.


It was Wilson (1985) who suggested that warfare is often made easier when an enemy is de-humanised. He asserted that the division (in the psychology of a warrior) of Kin and Family on one side and the Enemy on the other as a vital world-view required of even early warriors. We can reason therefore that fighting and militant enthusiasm exists for a reason and this reason can never be supplanted or eradicated. Mankind has to get control of militant enthusiasm in order to direct it, (as Lorenz hoped) so man “can get control…in the conditioning of the response to an object which proves to be a genuine value”.

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