Barbara Enrenreich proposes that wars, like ritual sacrifice, are celebratory practices that reconstruct the transition of the human animal from prey to predator. It may be that human violence is the residual memory of the repressed experience of having been prey, our original place in the food chain. Through socialization and cooperation, primitive bands were able to survive the attacks of predators. Notwithstanding, the weakest, slowest, and defenseless were given up for the good of the entire primitive clan. As soon as the youngest and healthiest members were able to flee, the beasts had a feast, devouring those left behind. This awoke a sense of danger and terror that engendered the consciousness of death. Sociability was a first step toward survival, giving rise to feelings of solidarity and community cooperation. The experience of being prey is before that of being hunter. It was only the manufacture of tools and their manipulation that permitted humans to hunt other animals for food and in self-defense. In this way they also sharpened domesticating practices. The dog, for example, was mastered primarily as an animal for the hunt. It is probable, however, that humans first engaged in scavenging, which gave rise to carnivorous practice. With the working and polishing of stone—the fabrication of tools and weapons for hunting—human beings derailed the course of nature and converted themselves into predators. This originated warlike thinking, and at the same time lay the foundation of the instrumental, evolving development of reasoning. In this process, carnivorous animals were viewed as deities, represented many times in prehistoric cave paintings and symbolic rites. This representation is tied to the practice of sacrifice, which, for example, the ancient Greeks transformed into hecatombs.
Wars are nothing more than bellicose rites of human sacrifice carried out in the name of “political fathers” who have designed the standardizing and stupefying megamachine. Wars re-enact the horror of being prey and stimulate the adrenaline rush of fight or flight; meanwhile, they also heighten the conquering spirit of the predator. In modern societies, antidepressants have suppressed adrenaline, repressing the capacity to experience risk and subsuming instinct in self-repressive and stressful frustration. The megamachine cretinizes the population, which becomes a group of superfluous individuals easily manipulated by nationalistic slogans, derived perhaps from a socializing and pristine original sentiment. Militarism drives soldiers to a modern hecatomb, whose only effect is terror. In the face of this terror, climbing trees to defend them from clearcutting, liberating animals from their cages, letting deer graze peacefully, organizing communal meals, hugging friends, etc., are acts of love that thwart the logic of the hunted and hunter. War is the material and symbolic re-enactment of the transition to predation, and it crystallizes in the “terrorist” reliving of horror. The utmost respect for all living creatures is the only possible ethic that can oppose depredating aggression. Survival is not sustained in the art of killing, or in politics, or in war. On the contrary, responsible cooperation and community are essential for human and planetary coexistence. Predation, terror and war are the sanguine trident of instrumental reason, and its self-rationalizing logic is the foolishness that annihilates consciousness and steeps the imagination in fear. In order to amplify the consciousness to the detriment of genetic determinism, it is necessary to banish the paradigm of prey-predator. Opposing war is a first step.