Collective Inquiry Series – 01:

Recently I asked a question and put it out to my social network, which is a great way to gain diverse perspectives, and often yields some fantastic insights. So here are the results:



Serious question: Why do humans (in general) apparently have SO much energy and enthusiasm for destruction?

From games, to movies, to memes – from play, to creativity, and to war, there seems to be an underlying motivation, or at least an unintentional side effect, which destroys – for fun ??

The contributions are from various folks who are good with their material being shared – this post is about the content rather than the personalities, and all the following is a result of our collective inquiry

I’m not convinced it’s an appetite for destruction as much as it’s an overwhelming desire for growth and change which are brought about via violence. It’s built in at the cellular level. Birth ingrained the concept of struggle. I highly recommend you check out Stanislav Grof, M.D., Ph.D. Especially “The Holotropic Mind”

It’s the archetype of violence and it’s deeply embedded into the unconscious from the earliest moments.

So many possible ways to answer! One is that humans are just visiting Earth and needn’t be concerned. A second is that this life is merely prep for another, of another kind. A third is that we learned violent ways millions of years ago and cannot forget them. A fourth way for ‘my’ list is the volume of disagreements among people who believe in one of the first three ways.

I think that the answer is for feelings. it makes em feel bigger better powerful

The answer is in the way you pose the question. But leaving that aside, I learn’t soo much about that from reading James Hillman’s A Terrible Love for War. Here is a central que to answer your question, Hillman says, “War is first of all a psychological task….the first principle of psychological method holds that any phenomenon to be understood must be sympathetically imagined.” If you don’t start with that, you’ll never understand.

Suffocating expression, energy and essence has that effect on humans, which perpetuate that.

We all like to create effects, to see that our actions make things happen. It is just unfortunate that we’ve structured our society and our technology in such a way that destruction is so much easier than creation. Our constructions are ridiculously fragile. One little push in the right (wrong) place, and something really expensive and hard to recreate comes tumbling down, and you’re all over the news. Imagine if it were the other way around, if it were really easy to create things that are useful and desirable, and really hard to destroy stuff that is valuable. That could be accomplished in part by different kinds of technology (complex, redundant, self-healing, no single point of failure) and in part by societal organization and economics. Good things could be easy to create because many people would contribute things to them, and they could be hard to destroy because those same many people would be empowered to protect them. Different network structures could very well make it impossible and unrewarding to be a terrorist of any size.

Your quest (ion) is inside my question “what are people for.” With every other species on the planet, we have a story that turns the notion of “destruction” into “creative destruction.” We have a story of the wolf eating the elk, to save the rivers and the elk. We have the story of the beaver destroying a forest to create a meadow that makes the farmland for the village. We have the story of the fire that renews and restores the ecosystem, and the “plagues” that do the same.

To have an answer to “What are people for?” means we would find a similar story about humans.

 I think most people, on many different levels feel powerless. That feeling of powerlessness can lead to being destructive

Everything done here and there to make the world (for me distinct from the planet) a better place has, somewhere, somehow, an unintended opposite effect that at least some notice and/or bear. A sense of powerlessness grows apace. As indicated, destruction confers an easy power.

There is destruction and then there is creative destruction. In the cosmic scale, all destruction can be viewed as creative destruction. In the human scale, creative destruction is destruction in the context of a creative process—an essential element of the creative process, which requires the destruction of the old for the creation of the new. Destructive (not creative or not constructive) destruction is thus destruction without a creative context. The same creative energy and impulse becomes misdirected without a creative context. Psychologically there exist a number of factors some or all of which play into destructive human actions.

The major psychological factors:

(1) Self-hatred externally projected and directed. There exists in the human psyche a deep-seated frustration of not being (knowing/allowing to be) one’s real self under the weight of socially conditioned false self or not-self as which people compulsively try to live (up to) in order to be accepted by society and to prove their self-worth to society. This deep frustration comprises resentment against parents and society and self-hatred against one’s false selfhood. This frustration, this resentment, this self-hatred, expresses itself as destructive action either toward oneself or toward others or both.

(2) At the more primordial level, emotion is what motivates human evolution. There is nothing more emotionally arousing than the theater of violence and all that accompanies acts of violence. Until the humans become more evolved and the experience of beauty becomes the primary means for emotional arousal and evolutionary aspiration, the innate evolutionary impulse moves the humans to violence and destruction for emotional arousal. In the last 6000 years there have been 15000 wars and the trend continues. And yet, overall the degree of sheer brutality has decreased. If we want to decrease or eliminate violence and destruction from our society, we must allow our children to grow into their authentic self and expose them to the beauty of nature and culture from the beginning of their lives, while eliminating any trace of self-hatred from our own psyche by ourselves as adult human beings becoming and living our own authentic self.


I just remember Dostoyevski saying somewhere that the hardest he ever did was writing three pages without drama.

I also remember once, in a Hellinger-constellation standing in for (being, really) a man that was abusive violently to the entire family. From the inside it felt “comfortably numb.” He was not aware of his violence as violence, mostly. He actually loved his family dearly.

Such is some of the stuff this question is made of.  

Usually no perpetrator of evil (destruction) considers his action to be evil. His intention is to destroy or eliminate what he perceives to be evil. Hence evil originates in the desire to eliminate evil and destruction ensues.

I was thinking about the same thing as I tried to decode the wisdom of Game of thrones  Apparently much of the problem stems from distrust of others being peoples’ default position. I also think we are hard wired for hierarchy of social status (not necessarily power but status). It is extremely important for most people, much more than material possessions. This coupled with lack of self-esteem, disconnection from nature as a stabilising/healing influence, and distrust of other people leads to extreme sensitivity to perceived emotional hurt from others, self-hate and ultimately a desire to destroy in the name of personal justice.

(Admitted knee-jerk reaction) We are not hard wired for hierarchy of social status. Militarism has given us and enforced the hierarchy which serves as a too frequently referenced model.

  • <– this was one of my favourite talks on violence, as a disease that spreads through people’s actions

    F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “genius is the ability to put into effect what is in the mind, there is no other definition of it.” From this thought i extrapolated that there is the impulse of destructive as well as creative genius, the desire to see a concept fulfilled in reality whether the outcome is beneficial or otherwise. The fact that a destructive act usually requires less time and effort than a creative act favors the selection of destruction to satisfy the impulse of genius to achieve equilibrium of concept with action. It takes great patience to accomplish creation. Even in nature, a tree takes decades to achieve its full growth, but only moments in a windstorm to fall, and then slowly become the fertilizer for subsequent generations of trees.

    Taking F. Scott Fitzgerald’s definition of genius as the starting point, as you did, let us ask the question: What is it that a destructive genius has in mind as the final effect/product of his destruction? A creative genius has in mind a vision of his creation that will have a presence in reality, but a destructive genius, if there be one, can only have in mind a vision of his destruction that is nothingness which is absence. A vision of nothing is tantamount to no vision. Now can we call this a genius? If there may be a destructive genius, then his “genius” can only be applied to the way how the destruction is to be executed. That is to say, his “genius” is only strategic cleverness.

    1. Q: Why do men fight wars?
    A: Because the women are watching  and
    2. Because the foundational value memes of Spiral Dynamics are actually “lower”, there is less fragmentation inherent in their inhabitation than in more evolved value memes, in other words, red and blue can probably kill more efficiently than second tier because there will not be an cognitive dissonance or integral compassion “muddying the waters” that are about to become blood-soaked.
    It occurs to me that we arise into life as diffuse and unconscious, and then we coalesce into contracted and conscious, and some of us make it to the capacity for elegantly moving between contracted and diffuse while conscious, while fewer still become “unconsciously competent” at that elegance of movement in correlation to our ever-changing life conditions.
    So, that, to me, is the spectrum; where do we fall, upon it?

    Destruction of the (false)self may be the greatest challenge that an individual faces.The (false)self has over time, and perhaps life times, acquired and developed an uncannily insidious and clever deceptiveness in order to protect and guarantee its continued existence. It will use any means available to it, including triggering emotional reactions of a negative nature based on past experience. The (false) self also seeks and finds support from the collective (false)self. Whenever it happens to see a reflection of its own nature it exclaims, “not me” or “there but for the grace of God, I go”. Lacking anything authentic, it easily falls prey to ideologies, of one kind or another, which then provide justification for its tendency to judge and blame others, never looking in a mirror. – Authentic Peace, Love and Joy are the enemies of the (false)self. Though it can create an outer appearance of these, its true companions, fear and doubt, will sooner or later emerge. The fascination with violence is a result of the (false)self”s inability to experience authentic aliveness on a being level. Instead it has become dependent on a fear induced sense of a physical aliveness that comes along with a release of adrenaline. Because it is threat of imminent danger and fear of possible death that triggers this release, the (false)self uses fear as a means.Since wars and violence have death as companions, the relief that comes from an artificial unreal experience with violence, is a poor substitute for the feeling of aliveness that having come through a real experience with violence and potential death gives. That addiction to this artificially induced aliveness will result in a reduced ability to spontaneously and naturally experience the aliveness that , whether we see it or not, surrounds us always. Nature, music, art, good conversation/communication, a job well done, a helping hand, seeing the life in another and even no reason at all can contribute to a feeling of being alive.

    They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.”

    With respect to the criminal or corrupt mind, I wrote the following some time ago:

    Laziness and dishonesty is the twin vice that begets and breeds corruption. For the lazy, it is easier to take than to make, to steal than to earn, and to plagiarize than to create. Those who give in to laziness become inclined to take rather than to make, to steal rather than to earn, or to plagiarize rather than to create. They choose the illegitimate over the legitimate. They dishonestly justify to themselves and to others the legitimacy of the illegitimate. Their habitual dishonesty and deception corrupts their soul—self-dishonesty and self-deception even more than dishonesty and deception toward other people. This twin vice of laziness and dishonesty defines the essential character of the corrupt or the criminal mind. They may have influence, money, pride, and status but do not have real power, wealth, self-esteem, or happiness. For, however successful they may be, they are merely successful as parasites. The real power, wealth, self-esteem, and happiness is built, and the true reward and meaning of life enjoyed and known, only through you making, earning, and creating with honesty and integrity. This is the only way to truly nourish, unfold, and fulfill your soul.

    Eric Hoffer also says: “The real “haves” are they who can acquire freedom, self-confidence, and even riches without depriving others of them. They acquire all of these by developing and applying their potentialities. On the other hand, the real “have-nots” are they who cannot have aught except by depriving others of it. They can feel free only diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich by making others poor.”

    A “vision” that the lazy, dishonest, corrupt, or destructive mind has is categorically different from that which the dedicated, honest, creative, and constructive mind (of a genius) has, and to me the former is no different from no vision. The path of least resistance, while we can harness it, besides it being an explicatory principle, we cannot change it. However, we can all do something about our mindset, especially with our children whose minds are not yet set.

    Ayn Rand’s philosophy is insufficient and incomplete for creating her own heroes. The humans are not black or white or 100% heroes or 100% villains (like in Ayn Rand’s novels) but a continuum. Yes, it would indeed be great if the Pareto Principle applied to the “hero distribution” and 20% of the human population are heroic (in the sense you define the term). Real villains are actually rare (probably 2% to 4%) but we can see how much damage they have caused and are causing. Hence we can use the designation “evil genius” for them.

your thoughts?

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