Stoya on Why Las Vegas and Megachurches Are the Pinnacle of Human Achievement
Male bowerbirds are like little avian architects. They build decorative structures as a display of genetic fitness or sexual desirability, then festoon them with whatever brightly colored bits they can scavenge up and deem visually pleasing. Sometimes they hunt down beetles and use them as artwork instead of eating them. The guy with the biggest, prettiest tower gets the most ladies, that then go off to hatch and raise the chicks on their own. They are nature’s confirmed bachelors. Bonobos have sex for fun. They’ve been known to use their tongues when they kiss. Female bonobos have sex with other females and males have sex with other males. They have been documented having orgies that look suspiciously like what you’d imagine goes on inside a swingers’ club but with slightly more body hair. They bang because they’re stressed and they bang because they’re bored. I’m simplifying for comedic effect, and if you want to know more I recommend you read Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind.
Humans are by no means the only animal that engage in behaviors which do nothing to directly contribute to the survival of the individual or species as a whole. However, we do seem to do it harder than any other creature. See, at some point humans figured out things like farming and ended up with a bunch of free time and extra resources. We took advantage of these things and used them to breed like rabbits, cover the earth, and pick fights with other tribes. We built villages and then cities. We developed technology, starting with simple tools and eventually building to things like computers and space ships.
So not too long ago I decided to get really into science fiction books because I hate leaving the house because there’s people out there, and they scare me, and it’s January in Chicago where I live. I cannot recommend enough that you avoid this entire genre, unless you enjoy the claustrophobic sensation of constant unavoidable impending doom. I just finished the Isaac Asimov Foundation series, and aside from getting his dick kicked in as a writer by any one word Frank Herbert ever threw down, it sucks. For a while it was really helping me because it’s one of those science fiction universes where human beings get off Earth and don’t go extinct, and that’s the only possibility for our collective future that makes me feel anything resembling hope for our entire species.
But then Asimov (spoiler alert) takes a left turn and says “so what” about it all, because even if humans spread out and populate the entire galaxy, we’d still just be sitting there twiddling our thumbs and killing each other for marginal advantages until infinity. So really the only interesting thing about the survival of the entire human race right now is the fact that we don’t know if we will or we won’t get our fucking acts together in time to get off this planet before we wreck it.
World Peace Update
Last week’s World Peace Update looked at the riots engulfing Slovenia, the trigger-happy Tunisian policemen who tried to blind the citizens of Siliana, and the looming possibility of Bashar al-Assad gassing what remains of his population to death with nerve agents. But Christmas is fast approaching, so the world should be gearing up to take a quick break from all the skull-crushing, right?
Not so fast, friends. While the Christmas cheer is gradually taking over my apartment and driving me mad every time I walk into any shop in central London, the loyalists in Belfast (yes, again), a few Bangladeshi politicians, and some Chilean pigs have been vying to take Scrooge’s crown as the biggest festive downer.
If you thought the spontaneous violence that took over Belfast last week (people got really angry at the prospect of flying the Union Jack at City Hall, remember?) was a one-off, then you were very wrong. Since last Monday, barricades have been set up sporadically across Belfast, followed by clashes between citizens and police, resulting in about 29 injured cops and 38 arrests. Friday saw the frenzy climaxing in a 200-strong crowd gathering near the city center to set up roadblocks and be chased by police. Cars were hijacked and set alight, causing the PSNI to deploy their water cannon to deal with the rioters.
However, the weekend was relatively quiet. I guess the loyalists needed to gather some strength before attacking that unmarked police car on Monday. (The policewoman inside the vehicle fortunately managed to escape unharmed.) The car in question was monitoring the office of Alliance Party MP Naomi Long, who, along with other Alliance members, has faced death threats for siding with left-wing party Sinn Fein in the vote to take down the flag. Politicians from both sides have been vocal about putting an end to the violence, but their calls have so far gone unheeded, with more protests set for the rest of the week. Merry fucking Christmas, Belfast.
This column has been running for 29 weeks, which is seemingly enough time to cover every single possible way people can fuck each other up. We’ve seen political parties being shut down, MTV parties being taken over by riots, strikes, revolutions, people fighting over soccer and fish… even milk being used as a weapon.
I figured I’d seen it all, but this week people from the city of Freirina, Chile fought over pig shit. Local residents fought police over the planned reopening of a pig processing plant (“processing” means systematic slaughter, btw) because of the smell that comes from hundreds of thousands of pigs wallowing in their own poop.
The government closed down the site in May after fears of a potential health risk but decided this week that all was safe now. Residents who didn’t want to be subjected to the smell once again came out in protest, blocked the roads, clashed with police, and launched raids against the plant’s guards with explosives. So I’m guessing the smell must be pretty bad.
World Peace Update
Israel and Hamas really kicked peace in the balls last week, with an impressive and rather one-sided attempt to flatten out the whole of the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, respectively. However, their style was eventually cramped by Egyptian President Morsi, who brokered a ceasefire soon after Hamas had planted a bomb on a bus in central Tel Aviv.
It was a happy moment for everyone: The world stopped hyperventilating, and a bunch of French eco-warriors, Egyptian autocrats, and Belgian milk farmers were allowed to get back to the important business of hurting other people and getting hurt themselves, giving me plenty of options to choose from for this week’s column. Could you imagine a world without violence? Sounds boring, right?
Are We Finally Heading Toward World Peace?
In the rasping, screamed words of Cro-Mags, “World peace can’t be done. It just can’t exist.” Then again, one of the band’s former members was arrested for stabbing two of the current members last summer, so they’re maybe not the best source to rely on when it comes to matters of peace.
I’ll tell you what kind of people normally are reliable, though: scientists. So when I heard that some of them from the University of Oslo and the Center for the Study of Civil War have been analyzing the history of internal conflicts across the globe to determine what the future holds for the human race—and concluded that things are set to get a lot more peaceful—I thought I should give them a call. Half because I was interested in how they decided that we’re all going to be a lot nicer to each other and half because I wanted to make sure they weren’t all idealistic hippies in lab coats.
I spoke to Håvard Hegre from the University of Oslo to find out how the world is going to get better.
VICE: Hi Håvard. Can you give me a quick rundown of your study?
Håvard Hegre: Yeah, it looks at factors associated with internal conflicts within countries—stuff like past conflicts, population size, poverty, and a few other things—and relates them to projections from the UN and the IRASA in Vienna to try and foresee the future of internal conflicts around the world. When we paired the statistics, we saw that conflicts will decrease steadily in the coming years. We predict a decrease from about 17 percent of countries involved in internal conflict to about seven percent.
That sounds good. Does that mean world peace is in the cards?
Well, that may be a bit optimistic. Previous studies have shown a massive decrease in violence in general, though. I do think that people will always use violence, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer in modern society compared to medieval society. But no, I don’t think that world peace is ever going to happen.
That’s a shame. I noticed that one of the factors you mentioned affecting conflict is oil—do you think that resources running out could spark a rise in violence?
It’s possible, yeah. One explanation of the decline is that warfare is becoming massively costly, destroying economic links between individuals, countries, and groups within societies. Engaging in conflict puts you at risk of severing those links and losing out on money. Oil is one of the things that’s still profitable enough to go to war over, but if an alternative is found, the economic benefits of fighting for it will be greatly decreased. I think natural resources are becoming less important over time, but it’s difficult to predict.