The mental sense of community and self-domestication made humans more friendly, trusting, and moral. Their social behavior started forming cultures and values. They were entering the courtyard but still had a long way to go to the edifice of civilization. And let’s not get carried away: As social, as reliable, and as virtuous as they had become, at no time in evolution was Homo sapiens a ‘Noble Savage’. The primitive human, inherently peaceful and free, living in harmony with nature, uncorrupted by civilization, lives only in Western philosophy, literature, and arts. And there still today, the Noble Savage is romanticized as an archetypal character – or parodied as a stereotype. Nevertheless, the persona made its way into political theory and was foundational for the concepts of natural law and the social contract. And with the movements against slavery and the transatlantic slave trade in France and Great Britain, the Noble Savage became African. The abolitionists used the character to prove that slavery violated the civilized notions of liberty and human rights and foretold that soon ‘a frizzy-haired African, with no other recommendation than his good sense and his virtues’, would join Parliament.
Anyway, in the Late Stone Age, human behavior within a community and between communities was, if not savage, then more likely violent. The use of force was very much a way of winning somebody over and getting what you wanted. Let’s not forget that the two primal drives of sex and survival are physical. They imply aggressive behavior, particularly of the men. To ensure that the men fulfil their role in human survival and procreation, their genetic endowment includes an important share of aggressiveness. For sheer survival you must eat. And as providers of their families, men have been hunting for millions of years. And yes, this implies aggression and violence. You have to kill and gut the prey before you can eat it. As protectors of their families and their community, men draw on their aggressiveness to put up a fight with any animal predator or human aggressor. It’s in their DNA.
For procreation, the onus of courtship lies with the man, and this is also an aggressive act. As suitor the man has to ‘chase after’ the woman, outplay his rivals and keep them at bay. And when it comes to the act of mating, radical feminists now argue that sexual penetration implied physical force by the man and was therefore a form of sexual violence. Let’s not forget where we are coming from. The chimpanzee is a most aggressive animal. In its species, male sexual aggression, sexual intimidation, and coercive sex abound. And there is no denying that sexual aggression and sexual violence are a social reality in most human societies, more so in some and less in others. But equaling human intercourse to male sexual violence is ideological nonsense. Sexual violence in its ultimate form is rape. And rape qualifies by the absence of consent and causing physical harm.
Today, the male hunting grounds are business, the economy, and politics. And in most activities you engage in there, you have to compete to prevail and make a living. It takes a bit of aggression to advertise your product for sale and to outperform your competitor. Competition is a civil form of aggression. And go to a Swiss bank to discuss a financial investment and the bank will propose to you at least one ‘more aggressive’ investment plan. It carries a high level of risk with the potential for high returns. My savings are invested in one of those. The investments of my wife Bilha are more conservative. And at the end of the year, we are both happy with the results.
All sports build on competition and thereby, aggression. And as communal activities and entertainment, the communities have regulated them. Mixed martial arts, also called ‘cage fighting’, is an extremely violent sport. Its spectators thrive on its brutality. But the violence is applied by consent of the opponents and there are some basic rules. Boxing implies less violence and there are more rules as to what you can and cannot do. These violent sports are mostly practiced and followed as spectators by men. Although lone women are breaking into their ranks. Football is becoming popular among women. But still over 95% of the world’s football is played by men. They not only bring more apt feet but also more aggression to the game. This makes their play more competitive and physical and, again for the mostly male spectators, more captivating. And the players have to control their aggression because when they become violent and kick the shin of the opponent instead of the ball, they get the red card and are sent off the pitch. Badminton is a sport without a hint of violence and is played by men and women almost equally in numbers. But man or woman, play badminton without aggression and you will lose.
There is a darker view of human aggressiveness according to which it makes people assert themselves at the cost of others, exploit them, use them sexually, cause them pain, humiliate and torture, and ultimately kill them. ‘Homo homini lupus’, man is a wolf to man. I know the proverb does not do justice to the wolf which is one of the most gregarious animals on Earth, the ancestor of man’s best and oldest friend, the dog, and our Blacky. And it denies the inherently social nature of Homo sapiens. Particularly toward the people within our own communities, we tend to be more fair, equitable, and just. But human life and history confirm that we have always had and continue to have these hideous faculties. Toward the people of other communities, we easily become partial, false, and aggressive. In my diplomatic work around Africa, I have seen various forms of this phenomenon. And in many cases, conflict, violence, and war were the results.
Not all is lost. As a natural predisposition, human aggression is inherently intertwined not only with survival and sexuality, but also with community. And as the physical instincts of survival and sexuality drive – mainly male – aggression and violence, the mental senses of community and morality work to contain and control them. Morality tells us that we should not use violence and kill to attain what we want. And the rules and controls of our communities will try to ensure that those who do, don’t get away with it. An act of violence is a misdeed and needs to be redeemed. On this principle, the biggest human community, the world community, has given James Bond the 007 ‘license to kill’. And since 1963, as the good guy, he is fighting those violent bad guys, in hyperbolic cities, on exotic beaches, in regal palaces and high-tech-laboratories, all around the world. If on your next vacation you want to go to one of the extravagant places Bond has passed, Kuoni, a Swiss travel agency, will take you there.
A large part of the 1969 ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was filmed in the Alpine scenery of the Bernese Oberland I oversee from my house in Ferenberg. And in one scene of the film, on an ice rink in Lauterbrunnen, I was a background actor. We were driven in a bus to Lauterbrunnen for a stock car race on ice – something I have never seen in the Swiss Alps because it doesn’t exist. Who cares. I was 18 years old, a fan of James Bond and now I got to be in one of his movies! We filled the stands around the rink and were served as much mulled wine as we could drink. When the wild car chase after Bond broke into the rink, we had to create some commotion. I took part for two nights and then in the film, I felt that the scene lasted for longer than those two nights taken together. In my humble opinion as a participating actor, it turned out to be one of the poorer Bond films. Two years later, James Bond went to Africa on his mission to save the world: South Africa, in 1971 still under Apartheid. Then came Egypt with the Nile, Luxor, and the Giza pyramids. An unnamed African country followed and then Uganda, Madagascar and in 2015, the Gara Medouar Crater in Morocco.
The film industry has long understood that aggression is a deep instinctive human drive. And taken together with human sexuality, as ‘sex and crime’, it sells like nothing else. The early Bond movies were labeled to contain ‘moderate violence’, sometimes ‘violence’; and ‘sex references’, sometimes ‘mild sex’. But in the 1980s, the sex and rock’n’roll of the 1960s and 70s went cold. The drugs stayed. Following the trend, James Bond went more or less asexual. Until 2002, when out of nowhere, a full ‘sex’ labelling appeared for ‘Die Another Day’. Since then, not even a warning of ‘sex references’. We are stuck in nonsexual times. Violence stays on. Not only in the Bond movies. Male violence against women remains a worldwide and sad reality. – But no, I do not believe that James Bond’s behavior towards women in the early films were sexist micro-aggressions. Nor ‘MeToo’-moments. Bond’s intimate encounters were always audibly consensual: ‘Oh, James!’.
As we know from ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, in 1996 James Bond was busy saving the world from a vicious media baron and a nefarious cyberterrorist conspiring with a corrupt Chinese general to provoke a nuclear war. So, when the United Nations in the same year decided to save Somalia from the warlords and the warlords from themselves, they turned to me. As the UN Coordinator for Somalia, I was asked to be the representative of the international community in the country and implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the programs of the UN’s specialized agencies – without a Somali government as counterpart. At that time, it was said that the international community was running Somalia. Diplomats and the media like to use the term ‘international community’ when the United Nations decide or more rarely, do something. But the UN is not really a community, it is only the organization of the world’s states for peace and security, and development. Yet, as the people of a community will do when they follow their innate sense of community and morality, the member states have given the UN the mandate to contain aggression among its members. And for the UN an act of aggression means the use of armed force by a State against another State. Homo homini lupus.
Somalia had not attacked one of her neighbors. But the UN can also take measures to maintain international peace and security. And that’s how the UN got into Somalia. Somalia is a clan society. A clan is a group of people united by kinship and descent, not necessarily a social unit, as a community would be. And after the government of Siad Barre was ousted, the clans started competing for the resources and the governance of the country. They became too aggressive and the competition between the clans became conflict, violence, and war. Homo homini lupus.
Because of the lineage of the clans, the conflicts reached into the ethnic Somali population of the neighboring countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Due to the absence of a Somali government, piracy around the Horn of Africa put in jeopardy the international shipping routes through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Dumping of toxic waste and fishing in the territorial waters of Somalia went out of control. Some clans were clear cutting the Juba valley for charcoal, others were printing US dollars, and yet others were smuggling whatever sold well in the neighboring countries. One clan exported the copper wires of the electric power system. Even if these are not acts of aggression, it is certainly behavior that can be characterized as aggressive. And it violated the national and international order and threatened international peace and security. Working in Somalia, I often found myself in a setting that would have made a great beginning for a James Bond movie. But the UN not having given me the license to kill, I couldn't save Somalia.