WHATEVER man happens to be doing, he must have something to do it with and something to do it in. Should he wish to dig a ditch, he not only requires a good spade to dig with, but he must also have the proper ground to dig in. If he lacks the spade and has no adequate substitute for it, he cannot dig any more than if, given the spade, he should try to cut a hole in a solid ledge of rock which no such tool could penetrate. In matters of human relationships this commonplace truth is frequently overlooked.
Thus, if a man commits a capital crime, we merely state that he is an individual lacking in common moral sense, or in intellectual capacity. We seem to forget how many criminals are devoted to their wives or sweethearts, what ingenuity and intelligence they show in planning and executing their enterprises, and what a singular sense of honor and loyalty they frequently display in relation to many of their gang. It is evident that the attributes we ascribe to the criminal, apt as they may be, explain little and express only our own social disapproval and our desire to make him out different from what we ourselves are or want to be. We call him names, as it were, in order to register our protest. Yet, to be performed, crime — any crime from theft to murder — must have both the proper tool, which is the criminal, and the proper soil, which is society, in the sociological sense, propitious to the development of the crime.
Let us temporarily abandon all purely conceptual, evaluative thinking and merely observe the facts as they are. To be sure, such an attitude is a form of rising beyond good and evil, since it permits us a vantage point from which to observe the facts regardless of moral scruples and all too human protestations. It may at first appear to be tinged with a bit of Nietzschean philosophy. In actuality, however, it does not invite the abolition of the concept of crime, but merely suggests a temporary divorcement from it. If such a divorcement is achieved, then our attitude becomes scientific rather than Nietzschean and we can quietly watch a soldier killing his enemy, or a murderer slaughtering his victim, without, participating in the usual patriotic enthusiasm or civic indignation. If we could thus calmly view the gruesome scene, all that we should see is man killing man.
But have we a right, even in our fantasy, thus to disregard the altruistic, patriotic motivations of the soldier, and the egotistic, acquisitive motivations of the gangster, since the motive force that leads each to his respective actions is so different? Have we a scientific as well as a moral right? Yes, we have. For if we are to study the phenomenon of killing, alone, the motives are of no interest to us.
We know that there are altruistic and patriotic soldiers who are unable to kill, who develop severe attacks of mental illness and disintegrate psychologically in their effort to muster up the courage to kill. We also know that many rude, selfish, apparently heartless individuals neither steal nor kill. Evidently, in order to kill, one must have one’s natural aggression in some mysterious way adequately unhampered — uninhibited, as we say to-day. Once it is uninhibited, once it is unleashed, out it comes in full force, and it is the direction of this aggression that leads us to call it heroism or criminality, just as it is the direction of sunlight that makes the latter agreeable and welcome or injurious and intolerable to the eyes, or the direction of a poison that makes it a valuable adjunct to our life’s pleasure or an agent of death. The spray of lead arsenate on the trees ensures better fruit, but the same spray along the lining of our stomach is lethal. If our dog bites an intruder he is a faithful servant, but if he also bites our child he is a vicious animal to be shot.
Let us analyze still closer this biting propensity of the dog: if he bites only the intruder, we would call his aggression domesticated; but should he bite our child, we would call his aggression savage. While this purely descriptive definition is admittedly crude, it is nevertheless serviceable. Even our complex modern civilization follows this principle under various and not always obvious guises. For example, the aggression of our police officer or G-man is domesticated by virtue of the fact that he points his gun against the intruder — that is, the criminal. Should his aggression turn against one of his own men, however, he would naturally be regarded as a criminal.
When Trotzky’s aggression was directed against the enemies of Lenin and Stalin, it was considered heroic (domesticated for the greater glory of the revolution), but no sooner was it turned against Stalin than it became criminal. When Francesco Nitti directed his aggression against dictatorship he was considered a great liberal leader, but, once Mussolini was in power, he was regarded as a criminal. Hitler was the criminal of the questionable Bavarian Putsch; he became Der Führer when the same aggression was successfully unleashed from another point of vantage and in another direction.
We have, of course, oversimplified these considerations to illustrate the point in question. In reality the problem is not only more complex but also less subject to a clear-cut analysis than one might wish.
We have stated that the motives for one’s aggressive acts should be left out of consideration. This we judged morally permissible and scientifically indispensable, but is it psychologically possible? Even a cursory inward glance will convince the average man that it is impossible for him to exclude motives from the field of his considerations. He cannot exclude them — he is psychologically incapable of that mental tour de force which will at once maintain his subjective awareness that he is a good citizen, a member of human society in good standing, and his objective view of a detached observer, devoid of all moral scruples and human sensibilities, who can look at murder, manslaughter, mass destruction, or a legal execution without rebellion or approval, disgust or admiration. The great majority of philosophers, religious teachers, and scientists were never able to achieve that divorcement from social and ethical motives which is an absolute prerequisite for a proper understanding of human aggression.
Luther, far from understanding it, was rather a victim of his own aggression. When he did not throw ink pots at the devil, he vituperated against the Pope or instigated the burning of witches. Melanchthon was a great humanist, but he encouraged Calvin to burn Michael Servetus, who, good doctor and geographer, described the Holy Land as the barren country he saw rather than the Scriptural land of milk and honey. Jean Bodin was a great proponent of liberty and humanism, one of the great pioneers of free thought of sixteenth-century France, and yet history knows of very few lawyers who ‘won’ so many cases against witches, who was directly and indirectly responsible for so many thousands of executions at the stake. All these great personages, whose names are legion and whose contribution to human knowledge is immense, were unable to rid themselves of their so-called prejudices of the time. Among the great minds of mankind there are few if any examples of genuine detachment in matters concerning human relations and the social or ethical motives that prompted them.
This, perhaps, is the explanation for the fact that the problem of human aggression, of which we are at once the carriers and the victims, has not been adequately studied until our own time. The advancement in medical psychology — which we owe primarily to Sigmund Freud — was possible not because psychology turned its attention to the problem, but because medicine turned its interest toward the deeper psychology of man. This point cannot be emphasized too strongly. Medicine occupies a singular position in the scheme of human relations: of all fields and aspects of human endeavor, medicine alone does not concern itself with the judgment of man’s behavior and his ethical motives. Medicine studies and tries to heal the wound of a soldier or a thief, the fever of a king or a burglar, the delirium of a great teacher or a scoundrel — all are equally to be studied, combated, and healed. The doctor reaches this sense of detachment not because he is a superman, nor because he is made of different stuff than any other human, but because his social function is that of a healer and not of a servant of any social, religious, political, or philosophical creed. As long as this function is fulfilled, his conscience is clear regardless of his social and ethical allegiances. The blinding passions involved in such problems as ‘Jew or Gentile,’ ‘Communist or Capitalist,’ ‘Italian or Ethiopian,’ may very well occur in the doctor’s province as an individual, but they are outside his actual lifework. Society understands this and judges the doctor in the light of this understanding. Should an American teacher, philosopher, or economist go to Moscow to advise Stalin, he is likely to be judged or suspected of being a Communist; should a doctor go on a mission of health to Tokyo, Moscow, or Berlin, no one would suspect him of being an Imperialist, Communist, or Nazi.
It is obvious that to be clearly understood the problem of human aggression must be viewed through ‘ medical eyes.’ It is not surprising, therefore, to find that throughout the nineteenth century psychology failed to throw any definite light on the problem of human aggression, and that only within the past thirty and particularly the past fifteen years has human aggression been more fully understood. Throughout the nineteenth century, psychology strove to become an objective science — like physics or physiology — and so neglected the deeper reactions of man. In the course of the past few decades a medical — that is, a dispassionate and therapeutic — consideration of the psychological motives of man’s behavior was attempted, and with it came a deeper insight into human aggression. What can this new orientation in psychological science contribute to the problem before us?
Stated briefly and rather schematically, the primitive aggressive impulses of man are awakened at the moment he begins to be born. Still within the mother’s womb, man begins to poke, to kick, to hit, to strive, to will to be free. Let us watch for a moment the tiny baby writhe and squirm when it is hungry. The whole body of the little being is convulsed with impatience, no matter how helpless; with anger, no matter how inarticulate. Already the primitive, aggressive impulse — we do not speak here of any self-conscious, reasoned, and directed activity — is manifest. And from the moment of birth, on through the nursery, kindergarten, and classroom days, man carries within himself an ever-growing load of explosive drives and destructive impulses.
Soon, sooner than he learns to comprehend and assess it, man learns to hate. This feeling of hatred comes quite spontaneously, and is but an emotional registration, a signal that the wave of aggression is rising above the level of invisibility. In the nursery the small youngster builds little houses only in order to destroy them; he breaks the heads of dolls, pulls their bodies apart, smashes the bridges he himself has built with blocks of wood. In the playground he gets into scraps with his playmates, he fights, he protests, he flies into tantrums, and, as soon as he learns how, he curses. In a word, man himself offers ample evidence that, no matter how many peaceful and peace-loving characteristics he may develop as a full-grown citizen, he is born with a bundle of aggressive impulses which have to be harnessed and redirected if he is ever to become tolerant of and tolerable to his fellow men.
There was a time when we accepted the convenient fantasy that man was born a tabula rasa — smooth, neatly polished, unmarred by fingerprints of evil or stains of human past. This postulate, together with that of free will, caused untold trouble in human hearts and a great deal of bloodshed during such social crises as the Inquisition. It was this postulate that kept psychology in a state of speculative ignorance of man’s real nature and made it appear unnecessary to study the real nature of children. It was this circumstance that made Freud suggest that we should do better if, instead of speculating about the nature of the child, we observed the child directly. Nowadays every enlightened parent, nurse, and school-teacher can easily observe how truly ‘bad’ we are before we grow up and how our aggressive drives almost outweigh all the other ‘bad’ propensities with which nature has chosen to endow us. As a matter of fact, the practising psychiatrist — and more especially the psychiatrist who works with children — knows that almost every deprivation, every attempt to thwart a child’s wishes, arouses within that child an ever-increasing wave of hatred and aggression, which, however, he soon learns to hold in check for fear of punishment or disapproval (namely, loss of love).
But merely to hold hatred and aggression in check does not suffice. Human emotions, particularly those based on very primitive human-animal drives, cannot disappear any more than matter or energy can disappear. You can harness the flow of a river; unless an outlet for its waters is provided, the dam will break and the energy of the water will become wild — savage. If such an outlet is provided, the impact of the water may be used to grind wheat or to produce electricity, and the energy then becomes domesticated. You may, as an alternative, build a dam so high that the water, after striking it, will fall back and appear to change the direction of its flow. This simile is not merely a poetic parable. It is more realistic than one would at first suspect. Let us take, for instance, this last stratagem. Suppose that we erect an extremely high dam to control our river. The water strikes it, is turned back on itself, and its energy is lost in a useless whirl. The same process can be observed in man. At one time or another we all experience that state of helpless rage during which we will not, or cannot, give vent to our impulses. The psychological dam, whether we call it inhibition, self-control, or cowardice, happens to be too high. The accumulated aggression, or the overflow of it, is then turned against our own selves, and we bite our lips, we sink our nails into our hands, or, if we are a bit off the psychological balance, we hit ourselves as a child in a tantrum strikes its head against the wall or the floor.
This psychological mechanism for turning one’s aggression against one’s self is of utmost importance from both the individualistic and the sociological point of view. To the individual it is a useless domestication of his hostile impulses in the process of which he becomes the victim of his own drives. This is one of the most potent psychological trends underlying suicide. Very few victims of suicide fail to give evidence to the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst that they were laboring under the unconscious (dammed up) drive to commit murder — a drive which, turned on themselves, resulted in selfmurder. The ancient Greek and Roman laws and the Christian dogma since Saint Augustine reflected the truth of this psychological fact. The Romans called suicide a felony of one’s self (felo de se); Saint Augustine equated suicide and murder; and until the eighteenth century the English language knew no other word for suicide than ‘self-homicide.’
This same mechanism is the underlying factor in certain customs of primitive races (the Trobriand Islanders, for instance) and of such civilized races as the Japanese: a man who is deeply offended does not kill the offender, but himself. The offender, at whose door the suicidal act is laid, is either directly punished or looked upon with great disfavor by the community. There apparently custom decrees that the community alone has the right to attack actively an individual offender, while the offended may only attack himself. This is one of the most primitive methods of domesticating one’s aggression, and is injurious both to the individual and to society. Such domestication, when observed in our modern society, is decidedly of regressive nature. It is an abnormal left-over of the remote past and by right belongs to the field of abnormal psychology.
This, however, is not the only pathological form of domesticated aggression. Between the two extremes of biting one’s lips and committing suicide there is an uninterrupted series of various degrees of aggression turned in various degrees and manners on one’s own self. Many neurotic complaints, from stomach trouble and headache to severe disturbances in health without apparent organic reasons, are based in whole or in part on the same mechanism. Many profound derangements, commonly called insanity, develop on the same basis: severe depressions (so-called melancholias) with obsessive wishes to be dead; stupors during which, as our patients tell us afterward, the individual relives in fantasy his own birth and death. We may summarize this series of phenomena by saying that they represent the severe struggle (usually unconscious) within the individual of his own destructive impulses, which, if fully and adequately expressed, would destroy the world.
This leads us to a very paradoxical conclusion — namely, that aggression frequently presents one of the dominant factors in mental diseases, and yet the disease itself performs a socially useful function by neutralizing and rendering useless an individual who otherwise would be dangerous. Were this the only efficient method of warding off (domesticating) our primitive aggression, society would have a right to disqualify the profession of the psychiatrist as socially superfluous and to resign itself to the ultimate doom of seeing the whole world but a disintegrating colony for the mentally sick, who personally and jointly, mutually and reciprocally, passively and actively, would finally exterminate themselves.
There is more than a lurking suspicion that the lady who reluctantly accepts an invitation to attend a prize fight, who faints at the sight of blood or of a knockout, is not as kind and soft-hearted as her behavior would suggest. It is quite probable that, beneath her very feminine exterior, she is cruel and unable to ‘handle’ her own aggression. No sooner does she begin vicariously to take part in the slaughter in the ring than she faints — that is, she becomes stuporous, she ‘ dies away,’ or she knocks herself out. In other words, she turns her aggression on her own self. If she would learn to participate, with the rest of the onlookers, in the fight, in this symbolic murder, if she could learn to release her aggression in the spectacle, she would find her periodic fainting spells less frequent in this as well as in other instances and her stomach would not ‘turn’ on so many seemingly unwarranted occasions.
The rest of the crowd, the fight fans, enjoy the knockout because it affords them a singular outlet for their aggression. Their own murder impulses are domesticated through this vicarious and symbolic fight, which yet remains completely impersonal. All fight fans insist that these three conditions be fulfilled. They pay an entrance fee and come to the fight as though there were only love and peace within themselves, therefore the fight is external to them; the fight is also vicarious; and in registering a strong protest with shouts of ‘Stop it!’ as soon as one of the fighters shows serious signs of bleeding, fans require that the fight remain symbolic. Not so many years ago this last prerequisite was not absolutely necessary. The crowds of ancient Rome did not demand that the murder be symbolic, and to-day we do not insist on it when the victim is the bull and not the matador.
Many of our ‘bloody’ sports, and the majority of the less bloody, present the more direct domestication of our aggressions — a form of domestication in which the primitive goal of the aggression (murder, complete defeat) is only thinly disguised. One might say that in seeking — unconsciously, but none the less systematically and persistently— to gratify or assuage his hostile and destructive impulses within the confines of cultural admissibility man devised the institution of cruel sports, in which he retained for himself the pleasure of consciously participating in organized cruelty. In so far as the element of cruelty stands out more or less undisguised, we might call this type of domestication only partially complete. Obviously a complete domestication would require the denial of the element of cruelty and hate. Such a denial, if it be an honest and not a formal one, — a denial which makes the man himself believe that there is no hate, no cruelty, — is known in modern psychology as a reaction formation, or as a substitution by the opposite. It is a form of spontaneous, automatic rationalization, which, in perfectly good faith, gives one’s self and others a good reason for the ‘ real ’ reason.
We can see this reaction formation in the so-called sportsmanlike attitude of the gladiators of the bull ring, boxing ring, and many other sports. I once heard a matador relating his impressions of his own bull fight which I had attended. He spoke kindly of each of the three animals he killed; he related with what appeared to be real admiration stories of their intelligence, their tricks; he praised the valor of one, the cunning of the other, and he criticized the lack of fervor in the third. It seemed as if he genuinely loved the animals he killed, and he too thought he loved them. The same can be observed at almost any boxing ring, when, the decision announced, the boxers shake hands, smile at one another, and pat respective backs while the crowd applauds. At such a time there is not hate, there is only love; the broken nose and split lip are but insignificant incidents which are overlooked, which do not count, although they are what actually did count during the fight, as far as both boxers and crowd were concerned.
We thus approach more closely what we would, theoretically at least, call genuine domestication of aggression. Every instinctual impulse — and this is true of aggression also — has its source and its goal. Hence, as Freud pointed out, when such an impulse is inhibited or modified, it may be inhibited or modified as far as its source or its goal is concerned. Truly domesticated aggression, therefore, should be inhibited and modified in both these respects. It should be put to some less detrimental or directly beneficial use. The institution of bloody, even of rough sports only partly approaches this ideal. Within the frame of our civilization commercial competition would seem the nearest to this ideal. Men struggle for existence, compete with one another, buy as cheaply as possible, sell as dearly as possible, undersell as much as possible, eliminate (‘murder’ and ‘destroy’) competitors, enjoy their own success, organize trusts to combat trusts, and remain fully convinced, frequently not without reason, that the interests of the community are fully served. This brings us to the sociological implications of the varieties of human aggression.
Studies of the history of aggression in both neurotic and normal individuals are associated with the names of Freud and Karl Abraham. Some twenty-five years ago these men described two definite varieties of human aggression which are coexistent in man from his earliest childhood. First one and then the other might predominate and color the personality characteristics of individuals; both seek expression and gratification, and both are rooted in the infant’s earliest efforts to meet the world. The world unceasingly attempts to dictate its own terms, and the individual just as unceasingly attempts to reject those terms. Heretofore we mentioned chiefly the first variety of aggression: the destructive impulse and its modified forms imposed by man’s adaptation to his cultural demands. The second variety is milder in form. It is the need to control, to dominate, to master.
When the child builds his house out of blocks, admires it for a moment, then with gusto breaks it all up and starts rebuilding, he gratifies not only his destructive drives but also the need to master, to erect the building at will, whenever and wherever he wishes. It is not difficult to see that this drive for mastery is usually coupled with the drive to destroy. One alternately serves the other as support. This drive to master and control is the particular bane of parenthood, for in many parents, increasingly thwarted by the natural unruliness of the growing child, this need to control allies itself with the drive to destroy and expresses itself in the form of recurrent and more or less impulsive maltreatment of the child. Consequently, many children are punished rather because the parents have to punish them than because the child deserves the corporal chastisement. The frame of domesticity is frequently used to house very poorly domesticated aggression.
The need to control and to master is perhaps best domesticated in such pastimes as fishing. We may give full vent to our instincts of domination by outwitting and outmanœuvring a bass or a tuna fish. In big-game hunting we fulfill both our need to dominate and our need to destroy. Yet, despite the infinite variety of man’s methods of finding a more or less acceptable outlet for the forbidden impulse of destruction, there is still a force of aggression and hatred stored up within him which, cumulative in effect, must break through and disperse its energy or find its equilibrium, a thing purely individual adaptations fail to achieve.
Were the individual to rely only on himself for such periodic releases of pressure, every decent and peace-loving citizen would have to go through periodic attacks of destructive criminality or severe mental illness akin to the running amuck which we find among some primitive tribes. The bushman, for instance, suddenly becomes wild, breaks down everything in sight, occasionally kills a few people, or runs into the jungle to die. The civilized man differs from the bushman, not by virtue of his being less destructive than his primitive African brother, but in that his methods of running amuck are more devious and more masked. He uses his social life, his political and commercial channels, to express what is so primitive in him.
In democratic countries, political campaigning, with or without mudslinging, serves the purpose quite neatly. Violent strikes, lynchings, and riots are in the same biological and psychological category, although they spring from totally different social and economic ideologies. The sensationalism of the yellow press, with its constant reminder of murders, holdups, and tortures, is a like phenomenon. Wars and revolutions, regardless of their elaborated philosophical superstructures, belong to the same class of human reactions. So-called ‘ mass hysterias ’ serve the same end. The recent outbreak of concentrated tension in connection with the execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann is a case in point; it served as a channel through which untold human aggression and hatred were permitted to flow. Many of us, who were too civilized, were ashamed of the wild manner in which the public and the press reacted to the Lindbergh kidnapper, yet this manner was at the same time so civilized that it took care of much human aggression which might otherwise have proved dangerous to the community.
A study of the uncharted depth of the psychology of man’s alternating submissiveness and rebellion, of his alternating states of cruelty toward others and passive submission to the cruelty of others, would throw a great deal of light on many a sociological problem, but a discussion of this aspect of human reactions, no matter how essential to the understanding of how man ‘handles’ his aggressive drives, would lead us too far afield. Suffice it to say that our impulses appear to be cyclic in nature, and the proverbial calm before the storm has its homologue in man’s psyche.
During the period when human aggression goes through the process of accumulation and constant holding back, passivity, even submissiveness, dominates man’s attitude. Gradually, as the waves of accumulated drives begin to rise, a reaction formation sets in. At such times the word ‘peace’ is more frequently heard, more loudly spoken, more prominently displayed on the pages of our daily press than usual. Then, with a suddenness which is, of course, more imaginary than real, the storm sets in. Its force is inevitable, almost fatalistic. During such periods the drives to dominate and to be dominated make a peculiar alliance, and we see revolutions and dictatorships grow overnight. This is perhaps the psychological secret of the French Revolution. Starting with rebellion, it resolved itself first into liberty, equality, and fraternity under the tricolor, then into fervent missionary imperialism under the sceptre and boot of Napoleon. And since the World War the ever-greater centralization of governmental power from Moscow to Washington, the growth of such dictatorships as those of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler, manifest the same rhythm.
These aggressive, combative dictatorships are strong, not, as it would at first appear, by virtue of their cruel and oppressive domination of the masses, but because of their extreme expansive aggressiveness, their challenging hatred and propulsive readiness to kill others beyond their own borders. The masses may seem to be beaten down by the ruthless dictator, but they are actually vicarious participants in one great aggressive explosion which their ruler effects. Hence the great need felt by dictators for pageantry and boastful exhibition of force, for only in this way can the masses identify themselves with the ruler and his domineering cruelty. It is this identification that is the secret of the dictator’s strength. Obviously this psychological conception of the play of human forces on the large scale of human history by no means explains the complexity of the present-day world, nor does it pretend to do so. It merely points to the psychological matrix into which the design of history is set.
It is but natural that during such periods of extreme intensification of aggression the border line between the savage and the domesticated should frequently become well-nigh invisible, and that at such times the need to kill, which civilized man always struggles to domesticate, modify, or mask through symbolic and vicarious means, should come out of its repression, throw off its disguises, and become more evident in its full savage nudity. This is what actually can be observed at present, particularly under dictatorships of the brandished sword, the poison gases, and the loaded gun.
In spite of being dressed up in a flurry of various ideologies which are in reality but conscious, made-to-order motivations, this display of man’s most primitive drives manifests varying degrees of savagery and domestication. In Mussolini, for instance, the drive to master and control is dominant and is coupled with and supported by the destructive drive — obviously a more civilized (domesticated) form of aggression. Mussolini loves his peasants, with their fields and orchards. He loves, too, his vision of a bigger and better Italy, a bigger and better family dominated by a strong and benevolent but strict father, himself. Should any one of his political children grow into adulthood, that child must be reduced to the ranks — he must neither be seen nor be heard. A Grandi or a Balbo are ‘sent back to the nursery,’ for no one must ever equal or grow beyond the stern father. If, in order to achieve this family greatness, a few destructive shots are needed, the guns will boom. In Mussolini’s scheme of things, the latter appear an unavoidable necessity, not the primary drive. Mutatis mutandis, the same can be said of the dictatorship in Russia.
On the other hand, Hitlerism represents more directly the predominance of the destructive drives. The motive, or platform, is hatred, the abolition of actual or imaginary enemies, and seems to be the result of a persistent inner challenge to fight and to torture. All this is rationalized by a cloak of ascetic idealism and sentimentalized self-sacrifice, which is but a partial turning of one’s aggression on one’s self; but unless suicide is chosen as a way out, only absolute power can achieve this end. The instinctive drive to mastery and control then becomes the servant rather than the master of the destructive impulses. Hence the ‘ blood purges,’ the restoration of the almost mediæval pageantry of capital punishment, the motive of revenge and retaliation couched in terms of ruling the world. Hitlerism would seem, in short, a form of more primitive, less domesticated aggression.
We live in a practical world and are prone to give voice to practical queries. It would be only natural, therefore, that the question should be asked: In the light of the knowledge which is at present at the disposal of the medical psychologist, what possible remedies suggest themselves? Such a question betrays man’s fear of his own helplessness, and his compensatory but unalterable faith that he can remedy anything. The answer to the question, if we are to remain realistic, must perforce be unsatisfactory.
In the sphere of social and political expression we can control the ebb and flow of human aggression to the same extent that we can control solar eclipses or volcanic eruptions. The devastations of an eruption of Vesuvius can be cleared up, the ruins rebuilt, the villages restored, but the eruptions will come back some day. The medical man can treat the individual, but not the world. If he should attempt to treat the world he would soon find himself abandoning his calling to become a mystic, a visionary reformer who, like Alexis Carrel, confuses the experimental laboratory or the treatment room with the battlefield of the universe. The doctor treats those wounded in battle, — as Harvey Cushing well describes in his war journal, — but it is not in his province to prevent the battle. Volens nolens, he takes the latter as one of the fatal inevitabilities which provide him with material for his job. He does not seek to create this material; he would be glad to see its quantity reduced; but as long as it exists he accepts it and deals with it in accordance with the dictates of his science.