“All’s fair in love and war”

“People kill because it’s the right thing to do” was the title of one of the topics arose from Edge.com’s survey of science in 2015. The article was written by James J. O’Donnell, a classics scholar, the author of The Ruin of the Roman Empire.  In turn, he refers to another book, Virtuous Violence, by anthropologists Tage Rai and Alan Fiske, who bring forward arguments from their scientific studies — presumably, that killing can be justified.

And I would agree when considering early man. The fact is that hunter-gatherer tribes don’t go to war gratuitously.  Why should they?  Lives might be lost — besides, it’s an energy draining activity anyway.  Both aren’t conducive to the healthy survival of such a group which usually, like all species, living on a margin of 2% or 3% energy from day to day or month to month.  If, however, they’re desperately short of food and need to invade another tribe’s territory — or if another tribe is invading theirs for the sake of the food — then “All’s fair in love and war”.

Let me re-casr the old saying in modern terms: “All is fair in love and (justified) war”  And for love more than for war, too. Man’s predecessors would have died out millions of years ago — and man would never have existed — unless, to avoid genetic diseases caused by too much in-breeding –the incest taboo — the post-pubescent girls of one tribe instinctively leave their parents’ tribe for another one when they’re ready for motherhood. Tribes must have met quite frequently — albeit warily and at arm’s distance perhaps —  if the girls of one tribe were to have sight of the bachelor males of another tribe often enough to decide which male they wanted as their partner and to fall in love with him.

“Fall in love”?  Surely that’s a modern phenomenon. Not at all.  In former times, unless a beautiful young woman knew precisely whom she would go to for protection, then she’d otherwise have had a bad time when crossing over.  She’d have assessed him very carefully beforehand, of course !

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