The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Why Do Men Like War Stories?

Two recent scenarios had me pondering this question.

Scenario 1: Recently I attended a Readers and Writers Festival and bumped into a man I know. I asked him what talk he was going to attend next. He told me he was going to a talk given by a prominent Australian male author who had just published his most recent book, about a Vietnam War battle in which Australian forces had participated. This author has found a niche in which he has now published a number of books about battles involving Australian forces in many parts of the world. My colleague said he was going to go because he “was conscripted” during the Vietnam War, although he had not been sent to Vietnam. Beside him, his partner gave me a look that seemed to suggest, “Men!?” I watched the queue for the talk to form outside the venue and noted that around 80% or more were men.

Scenario 2: A couple of months earlier I was at a regular men’s group meeting at which the visiting speakers were a man and a woman from a reducing men’s violence programme. After their presentation and as soon as they had left the room, one of the men in our group bemoaned what he perceived as the programme being one that blamed men for domestic and family violence, whereas, he asserted, women were also capable of violence in domestic situations. Although the man in Scenario 1 is also a member of this men’s group, it was another man complaining here.

The first of these two scenarios raised the question for me: why do men like war stories?

The second scenario may help to provide an answer.

Let me explain.

There is a mystique around war, an almost romanticised narrative of heroism, glory, and bravery attached to war. Men seem more attracted to this potpourri of ideals than do women.

How can we account for this fascination with war stories? There are at least four possibilities. 1. Is it genetic (or epigenetic)? 2. Does evolution play a role? 3. Is it cultural? 4. What about our psycho-social development?

Is there a gene for violence that is more likely to attach to the Y chromosome? The research and evidence for this appears imprecise and ambiguous. Could it be epigenetic rather than genetic? Again, the evidence is mixed, although there are indications that our environment and our behaviour are closely correlated with “turning on” certain genes – like a switch.

Perhaps there is an evolutionary factor at play? Our closest cousins in the Hominidae family – chimpanzees and bonobos – provide us with an answer both for and against. Both these apes continue to live in Central Africa, with chimpanzees habiting a bigger range than their evolutionary cousins. Chimpanzees can be quite aggressive and violent, whereas bonobos show a definite pacifist disposition. Interestingly, chimpanzee bands are ruled by males, and bonobos by the females.

Did we (especially men,) then, follow an evolutionary path that closely resembled that of chimpanzees and shunned that of the more egalitarian and nonviolent bonobos? If evolution is a determining factor, is the path the bonobos took still open to us?

What about culture? Skirmishes between small groups or tribes seem to have taken place within many cultures of the world. However, large-scale warfare appears to have arisen only once societies began to grow in size and become more complex. Indeed, the title of ‘most aggressive warring culture’ can arguably be placed upon the collective heads of the Yamnaya people who strode out of the Pontic-Caspian Steppe (in eastern Europe) and rampaged throughout Europe, reaching as far as the Iberian peninsular and the British Isles around 5,000 to 4,000 years ago.1 Historically we might conclude that European culture has indeed promulgated warfare more often than other cultures, via the colonisation process that began in the 15th century.

Another possibility is one raised only recently within the eco-psychology movement. It has to do with our human development journey from birth to death. Many psychologists, sociologists, educators, and others have attempted to map out this developmental journey. One of the maps that makes the most intuitive sense is that suggested by Bill Plotkin.2 Plotkin draws on the natural world for inspiration and posits an 8-stage journey. Sadly, westernised cultures, collectively as well as individually, according to Plotkin, are mostly stuck in a patho-adolescent version of Stage 3. This unhealthy version of late adolescence is characterised by egocentrism, narcissism, greed, insecurity, continuing violence, materialism, addictiveness, and little capacity for empathy.

I have posed these four possibilities as questions, with little attempt to provide answers. I will attempt to do that now, in considering Scenario 2.

The perpetration of violence in westernised societies is highly gendered. Men are far more likely to be the offenders in violent crimes. In the Australian State (New South Wales - NSW) in which I live 91% of those committing murder were men, 93% of crimes intended to cause injury were committed by men. In a staggering 98% of sexual assault cases the offender was a man.3

When we consider these statistics, it is hard to maintain a fiction that women perpetrate violence as well. Yes, they do, but look at the figures. Suppose you had been stabbed and losing blood from two stab wounds, 95% of your blood being lost from one stab wound, 5% from the other. Which stab wound would you prefer the paramedics to attend to first?

It is no different with the gendered question of violence. Men are the primary perpetrators. Programmes to address men’s violence must come first, especially in a society that pays little attention to funding preventative programmes.

When I hear a man claiming that men are continually being blamed for violence (and women presumably are equally culpable) then, it seems to me, there are two possibilities. Either, the man does not know the bigger picture and the data involved, or they are hiding and attempting to point the finger elsewhere.

Shifting blame and accusing others is an age-old tactic. It is a convenient veil to hide behind. Alas, when we hide away (either ourselves or, in this case, a matter of concern) it becomes difficult to ask questions, and even more difficult to find answers, and nigh on impossible to institute solutions.

So, my plea to men who like war stories is this. Ask yourself why you do so? Then, ask even more probing questions, such as: where in our culture has this fascination come from? What purpose, if any, does it serve?


1.  accessed 14 June 2023

2. Plotkin, Bill, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008

3. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), accessed 14 June 2023

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