As you start to read sci-fi one of the tropes that you see fairly often is that humans are a very violent people. Not to say this view is wholly unfounded of course. You can even tell some good stories with it.
Even in fiction where it is not specifically a part of the plot we are not seen as peaceful.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand where it comes from, our history is not exactly blood free. That however does not mean that there are no other ways to tell a story.
Everyone else is worse
This is my favorite reversal of the trope. What if we get out into the galaxy and find that we are peaceful compared to everyone else? Maybe even so much so that they can’t evolve past a certain point because of it.
Image if we find a race of aliens who are all on a hair trigger to fight to the death? They are unable to trust anyone who is not family? What if we saw that this limited their civilization. They could never have cities that go beyond a certain number of people or projects of more then a certain size.
Should we help? What if we could change them? Should we?
As a less extreme example (for a given value of extreme), we encounter other races and in every case the history is the same. They would spread out through their planet and form nations. One nation would conquer the rest, form a brutal dictatorship and rule with an iron fist. And we see that this kind of control is need to keep them together and to keep the murder rate under control. If someone tried to form a kinder government it would fail because of the realities of their psychologies.
When this culture goes out into space it would just repeat itself. Colonies would either be wholly controlled or at war with the mother world. Any aliens they encounter would be seen as a threat and diplomacy would not even be considered.
Compared to everyone else humans would seem sedate and almost insanely calm.
Now given the above, what if humans were generally at peace and had been for decades. Because we can work together well our technology and manufacturing quickly surpassed theirs.
What would you do? Could you really see them as equals? Would you try and help them? If so how? Remember we are talking about something that is biologically emergent, not a societal choice. While it might be the easy choice to go around them, what if we could not? We might have to go to war with them, not because we want to but because that is the only way they can interact with outsiders.
If we win what could we do? We could wipe them out, or we could stay and monitor them forever. We might have to do this for all of them if we wanted to stay safe from raiding parties.
How would that change us?
Our nature is necessary
I have read a few books over the years where we were seen as overly violent, but it was necessary or a useful trait. This was mostly because something needed killing. I think however that we can do better then that. One of the major driving forces of our civilization is ambition, a desire to better yourself and your group (be that family, city, or nation). If you are not willing to be confrontational then there may be no ambition. How far would we have gotten if everyone was more afraid of making waves then of anything else? After all, there is a reason that societies that value individuality tend to develop technological breakthroughs faster.
What if in the future we alter ourselves to be docile and non-violent. We might free ourselves of war at the cost of all society and technology development.