Normally the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) lives the peaceful solitary life of a tantric Buddhist monk. He chants, eats, drinks, and even has sex in slow, purposeful, meditative moderation. But if you rub him up the wrong way by overcrowding him and touching the back of his thigh too many times, he and his cronies—all former monks in the monastery—will renounce this life of cooperative loving kindness. They’ll exchange their soft green robes for a black and yellow uniform and turn into one of the nastiest, greediest, most obnoxious gangs on earth: a plague of locusts.
In humans this switch from nice to nasty is a gradual process. It comes from losing confidence that our descendants will have the resources they need to survive. If another tribe is doing better than us—even if it’s our own fault we aren’t doing so well—we feel scared our descendants won’t have enough; if they are doing worse than us, they feel scared their descendants won’t have enough. Sometimes we’ll attack them and other times they’ll attack us. The cost of war is so great, though, that we would have evolved a much better way to build confidence, like we did with farming, if the spiritual leaders hadn’t taught us that waging a war against evil, greed, cruelty, hate, and jealousy is the highest duty. Because of this, as we evolved we came to think of war as a fight against evil instead of a way to obtain the resources we need to build confidence. But what you think is evil depends on the stories you hold in your ancestral memory. If you go back far enough you’ll see that sometimes your ancestors were right and sometimes they were wrong. If we want to heal the world of war, we need to find ways to build confidence in the collective consciousness so that we don’t turn into locusts in the first place.
Deborah June Goemans The Amaranth Bloom