Chapter 21

Sports, Gestalt, and the Warrior Ethos Gone Wry

The following are direct quotes from earlier referrenced sources or new sources, but the majority of statements are in italic added.

Why are sports so popular?  Why is football so popular? Do they reflect the tribal hunter/gatherer teamwork mentality, their raison d’etre, all for one and one for all? Is that the warrior ethos that made Homo sapiens the dominant species on the planet? Teamwork in sports, and the phrase “take one for the team” is the same as the teamwork mentality of members of the tribe gathering food, hunting prey, or battling in war.

Excerpt from: The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Karl Marlantes - Marine lieutenant and platoon leader

Karl Marlantes:

And we had started walking up and got a third of the way up the hill and then they unleashed on us. We were in the middle of this horrible sandwich.

Narrator:

The marines took what cover they could. Marlantis realized that if they continued up the slope, they would face machine gun fire, but if they stayed where they were, mortar shells would surely find them.

Karl Marlantes:

And then I stood up and went up the hill, and I thought I was all by myself.  And I was running at that point because I wanted to cover the ground as fast as I could, and I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye, and I rolled to the ground to come up with my rifle to shoot the person, and it was a kid from my platoon, and I looked behind him and there were more kids, they had all come behind me.  It felt to me like I was there for a week, but I was probably by myself for 4 seconds, 5 seconds, the entire platoon just stood up and up they came. It remains to me a moment that is almost inexpressible, of the heart that these kids had, and then we just hit those bunkers.

Narrator:

The marines cleared the bunkers one by one.  For his bravery, Marlantes was awarded the Navy Cross.

Karl Marlantes:

Combat is like crack cocaine, it’s an enormous high, but has enormous cost.  Any sane person would never do crack.  Combat is like that, you’re scared, you’re terrified, you’re miserable, but then the fighting starts. And suddenly everything is at stake, your life, your friends lives, it’s almost transcendent, you’re no longer a person, you lose that sense, you’re just the platoon, and platoons can’t be beat.  And not to mention there’s a savage joy in overcoming your enemy, just a savage joy.  And I think that we make a big mistake if we say oh no, war is hell, we all know the war is hell story, it is, but, there’s an enormously exhilarating part of it.

That’s the warrior ethos, “you’re no longer a person, you lose that sense, you’re just the platoon.”  It’s in our genes. 

 

As stated in The Tribe and Modern Society (Chapter 11), these Homo sapiens must have outfought, outhunted and outbred everyone else.  This genetically evolved and selected Warrior Ethos, perhaps prominent at the exit of Homo sapiens from Africa 70,000 years ago, lead to the dominance of this human species and the extinction of others. These are the hominids that modern humans are descended from, and it may well be because of this teamwork based tribal mentality and the Warrior Ethos. Are sports so popular because of this teamwork mentality and warrior ethos that set us on the path of dominating the human species and is genetically encoded in ourselves? The answer may very well be yes.

 

Here are a few of the ancient methods of cooperative hunting of game. Persistence hunting is when human hunters who are slower than their prey, run after, chase and track their prey until it is exhausted. Humans have the capacity to sweat, which cools the body, whereas the prey the humans are tracking do not, and they eventually fall to the ground from  heat exhaustion, at which point the hunters come in for the kill. Ambush hunting is when a large group of hunters ambush prey, overwhelm it in numbers, and kill the prey.  Ambushing can also be done by one group forcing prey into a limited or confined area, where another group is waiting to ambush them and kill them. Or when a large group ambush prey and force it off a cliff. Stone walls now on the bottom of Lake Huron were built by paleo-Indians to hunt the massive herds of caribou that migrated along a ridge 9,000 years ago. More than 60 stone hunting blinds were found that could have been used by family groups, and two stone lines that form a lane that ends in a corral. Using this structure would have required large, seasonal gatherings of hunters. “It was a much more complex, much more organized, multi-part hunting structure. These tactics all require teamwork and intricate cooperation to be successful, and may have contributed to the success of Homo sapiens over other competing hominid species like Homo heidelbergensis, neanderthals, florescensis and naledi and even its own ancestor Homo erectus. This hunting would be taking place while the gatherers were collecting fruit, vegetables, nuts, greens, shell fish, bird eggs and whatever else that was edible, and return to the camp to share what they’ve collected with the tribe, another example of the tribal ethos and an early reflection of the upcoming altruistic warrior ethos.

 

Recall the four tenets of the warrior ethos:

 

Place the mission first

Never accept defeat

Never quit

Never leave a fallen comrade

 

The tenets also imply a commitment to an organization, to a group whatever size is necessary to execute a mission successfully, insofar as the mission is the raison d’etre for the organization or group.  The most intricate cooperation in the military takes place in war, where the warrior ethos is critical in the function of all the parts; from the single individual, to a team, to a squad, to the platoon or company, to a larger operational unit, to Generals and all the way up to the Army as a whole. With hundreds of different military tactics in warfare, such as general tactics, small unit, offensive, and defensive tactics, and the classic military maneuvers of warfare, each of these tactics and maneuvers and the larger military mission requires an extraordinary amount of organization and teamwork to be successful, it requires the warrior ethos.

 

Have you ever considered why they’re called organs?  Each of your organs, heart, liver, lungs, stomach, brain, etc… are necessary for you to live, that’s why they’re called vital organs. When all those organs are functioning in unison in the human body, you are alive, you are conscious, your conscious existence is greater then the sum of your individual organs - that is Gestalt. And that’s the root meaning of organization, a social organization that contains vital organs for it to function.  Those organs in the Army as mentioned above are the single individual, on a team, in a squad, to the platoon or company, to a larger operational unit, all the way up to the Army as a whole. Those organs are the same as mentioned for the tribe, the individual, the gathering group, the hunting group, other members and groups in the tribe, tribal leaders, and the tribe as a whole. At this point I must admit, I live in New England, and am a Patriots fan, and the following will be in reference to that football team. In football, those organs are the same as in the army and the tribe: individuals, in different positions, including coaches and support staff, functioning as a team on offense, defense and special teams, and the team as a whole. And each of these teams as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, each player acting individually would not be as powerful as acting in unison as a team – that’s Gestalt.

 

The Patriots have been a dominant force in the NFL since 2002, making the playoffs in 15 of those 17 seasons, one year being 10-6 and not making it, and winning 6 Superbowls. They have been a dominant force in the NFL for 17 years.  Why is that? Bill Belichick answered this question when he said, “Do your job!” Bill Belichick is the brain running the organization, and each player and groups of players are organs doing their job, they are functioning as team, and doing so much better than other NFL teams. The Patriots are doing what Homo sapiens did 70,000 years ago: Homo sapiens must outfought and outhunted all other hominid species.  This genetically evolved and selected Warrior Ethos, perhaps prominent at the exit of Homo sapiens from Africa 70,000 years ago, lead to the dominance of this human species and the extinction of others as mentioned above. These are the hominids that modern humans are descended from, and it may well be because of the Warrior Ethos. And that’s why sports are so popular today, our ancient Warrior Ethos – it’s in our evolutionary genes. Congratulations to the New England Patriots and fans for winning Super Bowl XIII.

 

Read the following statements by Arther Ferrill regarding this question in The Second Oldest Profession – When humans first learned how to write they already had wars – and warriors – to write about, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Autumn 1990. Volume 3, Number 1:

Was prehistoric man aggressive at all, or did he live in an idyllic, peaceful environment, as some believe? Was organized warfare the creation of civilized man, a fiendish by-product of the emergence of civilization in the Ancient Near East? If prehistoric man did wage war, what weapons did he use? Did he fight in organized formations?  Or were his conflicts merely skirmishes of the sort that occur among some modern primitive societies? These and many other questions have often been raised, and some authorities still regard them as open and unresolved, yet archaeological discoveries in the twentieth century now make it possible to sharply focus several controversies.

Until quite recently anthropologists and prehistorians usually ignored the importance of war in human culture. Because they tended to be pacifists or because they were interested in other aspects of human culture, they often even denied that early man and modern primitive man were warlike. Within the last generation there has been a dramatic change, now at least some anthropologists are beginning to realize that war is a nearly universal social activity and that patterns of military organization within prehistoric and primitive societies are as important as the political, economic and religious systems they developed.

There is no longer any question that prehistoric man behaved aggressively. This fact is attested to by the discovery of prehistoric fortifications, weapons, cave paintings, and skeletal remains. Whether this aggressive behavior was biologically instinctive or culturally induced remains a matter of controversy, but by the end of prehistoric times man was a fighter, capable of waging organized warfare of the sort seen in later historical societies. The earliest civilizations along the Nile and in the Mesopotamian valley around 3000 BC witnessed a burst of warfare, intensified by the increased power of the new states to marshal troops and pay the high costs of fighting. But organized warfare was not new; it had been practiced for millennia in prehistoric times. When man first learned how to write, he already had wars to write about.

Just what is war?  The emphasis in any definition of war must be on organization. When General Sherman said that war is hell, he was not offering a definition. War is teamwork. It requires learning and can be practiced efficiently only after intensive training, usually accompanied by firm, sometimes savage, discipline. It is potentially dangerous, more so than hunting and much more so than political, religious, and economic activities (except when they lead to civil war and rebellion).

War is rarely a constant condition.  Even so, in some historic societies (ancient Sparta and Rome, for example) the need for defence (or aggression) was so great that most males were required to stand at constant readiness for war. Although Sparta and Rome are extreme examples, most societies, undoubtedly including prehistoric ones, had some institutionalized patterns of preparing for military action even during periods of relative peace.

 

And read the following statement by Lawrence Keeley, War before Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1996, p174
http://evolution-of-man.info/human.htm regarding such:

The facts recovered by ethnographers and archaeologists indicate unequivocally that primitive and prehistoric warfare was just as terrible and effective as the historic and civilized version. War is hell whether it is fought with wooden spears or napalm. Peaceful pre-state societies were very rare; warfare between them was very frequent, and most adult men in such groups saw combat repeatedly in a lifetime. As we have seen (in the American Colonies), the very deadly ambushes, raids and surprise attacks on settlements (by native American Indians) were the forms of combat preferred by tribal warriors to the less deadly, but much more complicated battles so important in civilized warfare. In fact, primitive warfare was much more deadly than that conducted between civilized states because of the greater frequency of combat and the more merciless way it was conducted.

 

As stated above, peaceful pre-state societies were very rare; warfare between them was very frequent, and most adult men in such groups saw combat repeatedly in a lifetime, which may be reflected now by the popularity of sports and sports fan(atic)s. With this popularity and fanaticism in sports reflected today as the warrior ethos and the tribe - all for one, one for all - it seems quite probable that war played a significant part in the extinction of other hominid species and the rise and dominance of Homo sapiens. How else could one species conquer the world? Could a sports game now between two arch rivals reflect the adrenalin of 2 different Paleolithic tribes of different species, lets say Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens, fighting in battle to the death for survival? Homo sapiens must have outfought, outhunted, and outbred all other hominid species.  This genetically evolved and selected Warrior Ethos, perhaps prominent at the exit of Homo sapiens from Africa 70,000 years ago, lead to the dominance of this human species and the extinction of others.

 

Are the malignant social cancers referred to earlier a result of this genetic warrior ethos as possibly described by the historians above? Is this warrior ethos the means by which Homo sapiens left Africa 70,000 years ago and conquered the world to the extinction of other hominid species?  Does this warrior ethos explain as Ferrill said: “There is no longer any question that prehistoric man behaved aggressively. This fact is attested to by the discovery of prehistoric fortifications, weapons, cave paintings, and skeletal remains. Whether this aggressive behavior was biologically instinctive or culturally induced remains a matter of controversy, but by the end of prehistoric times man was a fighter, capable of waging organized warfare of the sort seen in later historical societies. The earliest civilizations along the Nile and in the Mesopotamian valley around 3000 BC witnessed a burst of warfare, intensified by the increased power of the new states to marshal troops and pay the high costs of fighting. But organized warfare was not new; it had been practiced for millennia in prehistoric times. When man first learned how to write, he already had wars to write about.”

And as Keeley said: “Peaceful pre-state societies were very rare; warfare between them was very frequent, and most adult men in such groups saw combat repeatedly in a lifetime.” After the extinction of all other hominid species, did Homo sapiens continue with this warrior ethos, but not on other hominid species, they were all gone, but on other Homo sapiens tribes in their vicinity? At the advent of civilization, did this genetically predisposed ethos expressed itself? Again Ferrell, regarding the Fertile Crescent Tribes: “The earliest civilizations along the Nile and in the Mesopotamian valley witnessed a burst of warfare, intensified by the increased power of the new states to marshal troops and pay the high costs of fighting.” Are such tribes still present today and reflected in the tobacco tribe, the opioid pharmaceutical tribe and the fossil fuel tribe? It appears after having conquered all other hominid species, some Homo sapiens tribes and this genetic warrior ethos are now killing their own while making billions of dollars with their deceit. This is the warrior ethos gone wry. Perhaps a functional moral democracy based on truth could address this issue.

 

So it appears that we may have an evolutionarily selected genetic tribal mentality. Does this predisposed tribal mentality transfer itself to politics?  Is it possible that the two political parties represent two tribes battling with each other for survival?  Is this why you should never talk about politics, which often leads to highly heated sometimes fanatical argumentative discussions? Which brings in the argumentative theory mentioned earlier? The answers may very well be yes.

 

Argumentative theory, aided by the earlier evolved cognitive and confirmation biases previously mentioned, may have been the precursors to this tribal mentality and warrior ethos, and often times becomes the dominant expression in a political discussion as reflected in our currently very polarized society. Argumentative theory of reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Argumentative theory was designed by evolution to help win arguments. That's why it’s called The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning. So, as Mercier and Sperber stated in their article proposing Argumentative Theory, “The evidence reviewed here shows not only that this reasoning falls quite short of reliably delivering rational beliefs and rational decisions. It may even be, in a variety of cases, detrimental to rationality. Argumentative reasoning can lead to poor outcomes, not because humans are bad at it, but because they systematically strive for arguments that justify their beliefs or their actions”, regardless of fact and truth.  This explains the confirmation bias. Facts and truth don’t matter, winning the argument, winning the battle, does. This is reflected today in our legal system.  The lawyer for the plaintiff will present information in such a way as to maximize the probability that the jury will decide the defendant guilty. The lawyer for the defendant will present information in such a way as to maximize the probability that the jury will decide the defendant is not guilty, each not necessarily generating the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That’s not their job, truth is irrelevant, they’re paid to argue in favor of their client, using confirmation bias and the argumentative theory of reasoning.  The word tribe has been used recently in the news to describe our current political layout, saying 40% of the population supporting Trump are devoted Right, and 40% are devoted Left, and each are using cognitive and confirmation bias and argumentative theory to support their views. Apparently only 20% of the population may have a more centrist realistic political perspective, the other 80% are genetically, confirmationally and argumentatively biased to the Left and Right.

 

Let’s take a long evolutionary view to see why this may be the case. Homo erectus migrated out of Africa 2 million years ago – there was no competition, no other Paleolithic humans or Homo species. They may have used the basic mammalian approach to survival, a cognitive bias -  don’t annihilate your competition, just make a territorial power statement. If it works, fine, if not, just move on to where there is no competition. So Homo erectus could have used this approach to migrate and settle all of Eurasia over the next 1.7 million years, also evolving into other human species. Over the last 300,000 years Homo sapiens was evolving still in Africa, and 70,000 years ago that species left Africa with its tribal and warrior ethos to conquer the world.  Homo sapiens couldn’t migrate to an area with no competition, Homo erectus and other species had already done that and human species were now settled throughout Eurasia. Homo sapiens had to fight and conquer the already present species – and how did they do that?  Their (and now our) genetically predisposed hard-wired warrior ethos. Homo sapiens then outfought, outhunted and outbred other species to become the dominant human species to the extinction of others. Homo erectus and others did not have this warrior ethos and went extinct.

 

So is it this Homo sapiens warrior ethos and sense of belonging to a tribe that now overcomes our neuroreality? There was only one Tribe that was able to dominate the world with its warrior ethos, now this warrior ethos and sense of belonging to a tribe overcomes reason and logic. That tribal instinct then creates different tribes within the whole country, the two main political tribes we have now are the Right and the Left, with sub tribes within each: alt-right, moderate right, moderate left, ultra-liberal. The alt-right is now capitalizing on this instinct, as are the fossil fuel and tobacco industries along with the Koch brothers and Big Money. Big Money threatened to stop funding the Republican Party if they didn’t pass the Tax Reform Bill at the end of 2017 that provides a massive tax cut for the super-rich, and blows up the deficit even higher. Where’s our neuroreality as a Nation to let this happen?

 

Which brings science to mind, science is the study and understanding of the real world based on fact and truth. According to human evolution, confirmation bias, argumentative theory and reflected in our legal system as all described above, fact and truth are not necessarily the most import aspects of human evolution and human existence. So read the next Chapter on Fantasyland for further discussion of this issue.