It’s possible to argue that some wars are just and necessary. I’m not here to argue for or against that premise. I’m not here to talk about specific isolated events of war and violence. I’m here to talk about the fate of a culture of war and violence. I’m talking about cultures that pride themselves on war violence- that see fighting as their glory, their legacy, and their ‘greatness’.
The first and most obvious example that comes to my mind is the Roman Empire. They were the conquerors, the warriors, the iron-clad rulers of the world. That was their national identity. One of their most popular sporting events was men, women, and animals fighting to the death. While there were many things that contributed to the end of the Roman Empire, I think glorified and institutionalized violence was an important factor.
Destruction of life is a very unstable foundation on which to build a way of life.
Star Trek, being a product of the 1960s, when violence and war were a cause of great societal contention, has many convincing fictional societies doomed to fail on account of their warmongering.
Speaking of ancient Rome, the episode “Bread and Circuses” features a civilization similar to the Roman Empire on an alternate earth. This planet, with its corrupt leaders, assassinations, and death games, seems to be headed down the same path as its ancient earth counterpart, (albeit a little more slowly). Their only hope for survival may be the peace-loving sun worshipers. Wait, make that Son worshipers.
On one of the evidently numerous earth-replica planets in the galaxy, Kirk and… Spocko find a civilization based around a book on Chicago mobsters of the 1920s accidentally left behind by an earth crew 100 years before. Everyone lives in constant fear of their neighbors and drive-by shootings and turf wars are frequent. This violent behavior is so ingrained in the people of the culture that Kirk and Spock must use fear of retaliation by the Federation to get the bosses to make peace and avoid further bloodshed.
Later, in “Patterns of Force”, the Enterprise crew comes across a planet where a Starfleet historian acted on one of the worst ideas ever in human history. He built up a society following the pattern of Nazi Germany, thinking it would create order. It did so, at the expense of lives, conscience, and any sort of empathy for people from the neighboring planet, Zaeon.
Advice for anyone starting a civilization: don’t do that. I thought it would be common sense, but I guess not.
Another civilization that is dangerously close to imploding on itself is Capella IV from “Friday’s Child”. They are so monarchical and warlike that their tradition requires the murder of the wife and unborn child of a previous ruler when a new ruler comes to power. Their future hangs in the balance when they have to decide whether to make a treaty with the warlike Klingons or the peace-loving Federation.
Finally, consider the Terran Empire of the mirror universe in “Mirror, Mirror”. Even Beard Spock, an officer in their fleet recognizes that their reign of terror is destined to fail very shortly. So, Kirk takes his incredibly long minute-and- a-half to encourage Beard Spock, and all of us, to rebel against a society of violence.
We don’t live in ancient Rome, or the mirror universe, or on the 1920s gangster planet, but there are places where violence has a foothold in our culture. Maybe, if we become aware of it, we can have those hard, mind-changing discussions instead of mindlessly consuming movies, news reports, political speeches, and ideology that glorify violence.