Reflecting the Mind of the
Vatican Since 1850

An Impossible Fraternity?
It has often been asked why violence is so ingrained in human nature. It is no accident that history, sacred and profane, begins with fratricide. A characteristic of human beings, sociality, is indispensable for living. An isolated person, unlike members of some other species, cannot survive for long without the input of fellow humans. The need to face the dangers and difficulties of life leads to the formation of groups, the most basic form of protection.

But while the group provides identity, it also tends to set itself against other groups, leading to rivalry and confrontation. The group itself can fragment for the same reasons. Interests, rivalries and power-seeking lead to conflict. Much of the Book of Genesis is devoted to sibling rivalry about preference and inheritance: each would like what they see in others. It is what René Girard has called “mimetic desire,” that is, a desire that does not arise from within oneself, but from what is displayed by another and to which one ends up conforming, abandoning (even if unconsciously) what was really desired. Think of the phenomena of fashion, of social attitudes and collective pressures on the individual: what characterizes them is the need to be appreciated and recognized by others.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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