|The Role of Anger in the Consciousness Development of Peace Activists:
Where Physiology and History Intersect
What is the nature of the judgmental calculus that occurs in the mind of the dominant male who punishes the young monkey who ventures near a trap? And how did the dominant male learn and internalize the rules he enforces? Shall we speak of it as an incipient superego? And, even if we call it that, have we really explained it? What is the process of internalization by which the dominant male or the mother incorporates the rules of behavior that they learned as infants and then en- forces them upon the next generation? These are the questions raised by Imanishi back in 1957-and which remain unanswered to the present day.
In human children, the process of internalization may be observed directly at a certain stage of development. We have seen it in videotape sequences of children's fighting in a day-care situation (Burbank, 1980). One child becomes angry at another, often because of a perceived injustice, such as the other child playing with a toy that he claims as his 'own'. One can often see the angry child turn to an adult or call for an adult to correct the injustice and enlist support. And, even if the angry child takes the matter into his own hands and goes to strike or restrain the opponent, we see that just at the moment of striking, the angry child glances over his shoulder to see if the adult caretaker is watching. In analyzing the situation thoroughly, we find that every episode of anger is triangular, involving the angry child, the target child and the adult whose presence is depended upon as the final arbiter of the dispute.
This triangular structure of aggression is not unique to human children. The studies on Japanese macaques, replicated in Puerto Rico and in free-ranging colonies in the United States, have found that the dominance hierarchy of young primates develops as a reflection of the hierarchy of the mothers, because it is the mothers' intervention in disputes which determines their outcome.
There is much that we do not understand about the ontogeny of punishing behavior. We do know that there is no simple equation by which one can predict that the more a child is punished, the more such a child will become a punishing parent. Instead, the process is far more complex. Freud (1930), for example, summed up the results of psychoanalytic work with the conclusion that 'experience has shown that the severity which a child's superego develops in no way corresponds to the severity of the treatment it has itself experienced". With this in mind, it is not surprising that the most exhaustive study of the early socialization of American student activists failed to find any aspect of the punishment they received from their parents that could be used to explain their later activism. Instead, the authors (Block, Haan and Smith, 1969), found that the parents of activists prepared them' to lead responsible, autonomous lives. ..in accordance with inner-directed goals and values rather than externally defined roles'.
To summarize the argument of this paper, we may chart a series of transformations that have occurred during the course of evolution which have enabled the offense behavior common to all mammals to serve-among its many functions-a special function in human history. The first transformation involves a new set of motivating stimuli for offense which consists of certain actions of the target, rather than more enduring attributes of that animal. Second, and still at the level of primate evolution, there is a process of internalization by which the young animal learns which actions are to be punished, and by which the adults guide their own punishing anger. Third, at the level of human society, there develops the ability to conceptualize institutions and social systems and to respond to their actions with punishment and anger, just as one might respond to the immoral actions of another individual. And, finally, there is the ability to incorporate this moral outrage into a complex pattern of consciousness development, including action, affiliation and analysis by which individuals become powerful forces in history.
Note: This paper was presented at the International Society of Political Psychology in 1985.