Empathy

This article on the psychology of hate in Salon illustrates the power of identification:
Interviews with U.S. soldiers in World War II found that only 15 to 20 percent were able to discharge their weapons at the enemy in close firefights. Even when they did shoot, soldiers found it hard to hit their human targets. In the U.S. Civil War, muskets were capable of hitting a pie plate at 70 yards and soldiers could typically reload anywhere from 4 to 5 times per minute. Theoretically, a regiment of 200 soldiers firing at a wall of enemy soldiers 100 feet wide should be able to kill 120 on the first volley. And yet the kill rate during the Civil War was closer to 1 to 2 men per minute, with the average distance of engagement being only 30 yards. Battles raged on for hours because the men just couldn’t bring themselves to kill one another once they could see the whites of their enemy’s eyes. Even General George Crook’s men had this difficulty. At Rosebud Creek on June 16, 1876, his men shot 25,000 musket balls but hit only 99 Native Americans, wounding just 1 person with every 252 shots. Modern armies now know that they have to overcome these empathic urges, so soldiers undergo relentless training that desensitizes them to close combat, so that they can do their jobs. Modern technology also allows armies to kill more easily because it enables killing at such a great physical distance. Much of the killing by U.S. soldiers now comes through the hands of drone pilots watching a screen from a trailer in Nevada
Posted in Peace

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