1) 2.5 million years ago – evolution of the first hominids: able to walk upright and make tools.
2) 200,000 years ago – evolution of the homo sapiens: bigger brains and better ability for making tools; social organization and the cultural adaptation to different kinds of environments.
3) 12,000 years ago – due to the impact of climate change and the scarcity of food, some communities evolve from being hunters and collectors to being herdsmen.
4) 6,000 years ago – New techniques of irrigation and drainage, allowing for intensive agriculture based on the use of the plough.
The emergence of the first communities practising husbandry and agriculture was a result of necessity rather than mere wilful choice, and they were responses to needs created by environmental realities (first of all, the Ice Age and later because of desertification in the Middle East and North African regions where the Earth’s warming brought about extensive desertification).
Sedentary society in the early Neolithic era was classless and communal, in which the nuclear family did not exist.[i] As such, it can be affirmed that he first steps toward civilisation were a divergence from a basic form of communism. But why did that divergence from social harmony take place?
The production of an abundance of food that agriculture provided caused a rapid population growth. However, this same population had to be maintained, and agriculture in the Neolithic era was still precarious. Plagues, droughts and other natural disasters had tragic results for many Neolithic communities. Also, populations kept increasing even though arable land was scarce. Over farming created sterile land: exploration was needed to find fertile spots where the community could be replanted, and different social groups began to find themselves with conflicts of interest. “Poverty and property, scarcity and abundance were the primary causes of the first wars.”[ii]
The earliest archaeological indication of violent conflict dates back 7,500 years, and it was in the 6th Millennium BCE that groups emerged that began to identify themselves with a certain area and dominate that area for their own. As such, the year that the mythological Cain killed his brother Able should symbolically be set in the Neolithic era, at around 5,500 BCE.
But for war to occur, there needs to be the kind of complexity in a society that can fashion armies (soldiers and arms for those soldiers). We don’t have any evidence of armies before the creation of civilisations. The earliest pictographs of armies have been dated at 3,500 BCE, from the kingdom of Kish,[iii] at the beginning of the Bronze Age. Historically, in the evolution of western societies, war is a consequence of civilisation.
But civilisation alone is not a reason for the creation of warfare: these first wars were made possible not be mere cultural organisation, but by a mixture of complexity, necessity and manipulation. Needs existed where scarcity was the norm and abundance was something that others had; or where one’s own abundance was threatened by the scarcity suffered by one’s neighbours. We have nothing while they have so much, or we have so much and they want to take it from us. But this condition alone is probably not enough to drive two communities into an armed combat in which, a priori, a large number of individuals will be killed. There has to be powerful psychological motives to ignore the natural possibilities of sharing and/or exchange and sink into the extremism of violence and combat.
War could not happen between communities until the communities themselves had developed an imaginary identity around themselves. The identity of the tribe: the ones who dance a common dance around the same totem.
The tribal identity is a mini-nationalism which used a primitive form of national-history, based on the imaginary stories of the totem myths, in order to define themselves as a group. Without this controlled separation through the creation of identity, it would be impossible to organise a force of warriors designed specifically for the killing of other humans, members of the same species; people who should have been tied to one another through human empathy toward their common species.
Societies created their own identities, and the process of socialisation-through-identities was an anti-humanising process designed to create people who feel different to other people in order to create anti-human humans with the potential for making enormous sacrifices for the community (and the king) in its struggles against other communities. It was the creation of these social identities which lay the foundation for the possibilities of all wars. It was also a preliminary step toward the forming of the class divisions in society that we suffer from today. Our anti-human identities are now the greatest misfortune we suffer today, for they are the progenitors of all our other misfortunes. They are deeply embedded in our System, and their omnipresence and seeming omnipotence makes any ideas of real systemic reform seem futile. Nevertheless, at least we know what needs to be extirpated from the System to make it work for humanity. Rolling back 6,000 years of anti-human history may seem like a daunting task, but it is the only choice we have now if we want to make humanity human again.
[i] Neil Faulkner, DE LOS NEANDERTALES A LOS NEOLIBERALES, p. 27
[ii] Ibid, p.29