There is nothing wrong with aggression. In fact, it is quite necessary for our existence. The outward thrust of creativity and desire is what creates and sustains this world. It is only when aggressive behavior is expressed without compassion that imbalance occurs.
In many of the more economically developed areas of our globe, there are a variety of socially acceptable and socially endorsed activities that provide outlets for aggression. The sports and business arenas are the most prevalent and successful examples of fields in which individuals – young and old – can compete with one another physically, intellectually, and emotionally. In fact, many occupations of otherwise non-aggressive people provide the occasional opportunity for aggression without an escalation to outright conflict.
So stable, economically developed societies give citizens ample opportunity to display and express aggression which is directed toward constructive (or at least non-destructive) activities: athletics, scholastics, outdoor adventure, hobbies, politics, business, and even kids playing in the neighborhood. There is an atmosphere, at least in peaceful regions of the world, in which there are more than enough outlets for creative, aggressive behavior.
This is not the case in all parts of the world, nor is it true throughout all parts of the most stable regions. There are countless communities in which there are few, if any, such outlets. Little or no organization of sports or clubs or scholastic activities exists, and the business climate in these areas is often dominated by powerful manipulators who lack respect for law and compassion for human life. Such an atmosphere pervades throughout many parts of the world. Much energy is expended toward competitive survival, and there is little room for compassion.
You may feel great compassion for family members, loved ones; but there is little room for it when you need to have something to show for your aggressive behavior – money or food for the table, clothes for the children. In these cases, individuals (particularly young people) must direct their quite natural aggressive energy toward activities related to their survival, rather than sports or hobbies or other creative and/or competitive pursuits.
One can find examples throughout history of civilizations or societies which, at least for a time, developed social structures and organizations which provided outlets for this creative or aggressive or competitive energy. The Greeks evolved a social environment in which young people (the free ones, at least) were encouraged to pursue a number of endeavors including athletic competition, artistic expression, and rhetoric. The atmosphere was one in which an individual could grow up focusing his attention and efforts upon developing athletic or artistic or intellectual or political skills and abilities. This atmosphere later blossomed into an age of heightened expression, and we’ve been enamored with their achievements ever since.
At the heart of the Greek explosion was a climate of beliefs about the individual – his potential, his opportunities. This was expressed collectively in the form of new social structures which strove to accommodate the importance and contribution of the individual. Such social structures are, of course, in place in some areas of the world today.
Societies which lack such social structures are often plagued by the challenges inherent in an atmosphere lacking constructive outlets for aggression. In general, it is helpful to remember that aggression will always exist. It is part of who and what we are. It is necessary.
And history has shown us that societies which are able to harness such aggressive tendencies and direct them toward constructive and rewarding endeavors experience the joy of watching, as the Greeks did, their society blossom with the fruits of appreciated and celebrated aggression.
We are now in a position to do this on a scale never seen before, and I am personally looking forward to observing and participating in it. Our ongoing challenge is to recognize aggression as an important part of who we are, and to aggressively seek creative and satisfying and rewarding outlets for it.
And for those areas of the world that lack such outlets, perhaps it is time to divert more of our attention and energy to the establishment of the structures and organizations that will provide such outlets. Perhaps it is time to make such endeavors a priority, rather than an afterthought.
Perhaps the key to a stable and peaceful and exciting society lies not in the availability of jobs or resources but in the availability of constructive and rewarding outlets for our natural aggression and creativity. Perhaps THAT is the engine than powers a dynamic and stable society.
The Greeks seemed to have figured that out, at least for a time.