In previous articles I have written about some of the evil demons of human nature like greed, envy, tribalism and rivalry. If you thought we couldn’t get any worse than that, I will remind you we are also ‘uber’ predators, by far the most powerful and destructive predators on earth.
Predation in nature is natural. In nature, predators kill and eat their prey, their motivation to hunt and eat is limited by their appetite. This type of predation is therefore self-regulating, albeit unconsciously. Whilst there are exceptions, animals generally don’t hunt if they are full. Some animals will do what is known as ‘surplus killing’ and cache food for later, others, like grizzly bears, will fatten themselves up so that they can survive in leaner months.
Some types of animals have been known to hunt for practice. Nevertheless, in nature predation is sustainable overall because of homeostasis. If there are too many predators, the number of prey will decrease. As prey numbers decrease there isn’t enough food for the predators and so their numbers will decrease as well. Less predators will cause prey numbers to rebound and increase. This is a type of natural feed-back loop. It means that in the short term populations will fluctuate somewhat, but over the long term they are roughly stable.
Overall, humans are not self-regulating. Humanity as a whole has an insatiable appetite, and we don’t just prey on food, we prey on anything and everything. As well as the hunting and eating of food, the verb ‘to prey’ also means to exploit, raid, victimise, harm and destroy. Humans have exploited, often harmed, and in some cases destroyed, every type of resource, ecosystem, and even other people – and we are getting worse.
Hunters and collectors
Humans are omnivores, and the range of foods we eat is extraordinary. This is significantly boosted by our ability to process and cook food – which makes a lot of inedible resources edible.
Humans evolved as social hunters, hunting in packs like wolves. Humans have hunted many species of animals to extinction, such as the moa, dodo, woolly mammoth, and Passenger pigeon. Through our exploitation of natural resources like forests and wetlands we continue to extinguish many other species without actually hunting them for food.
As well as food, there are clothes, bedding, shelter and a variety of other goods made from animals. There are far more uses for plants too. For instance, whilst we don’t eat trees, we certainly exploit them for fuel and as a material for building and for making goods. If the trees are regrown there is no loss or harm; but throughout history that hasn’t been the case, humans have cut down trees considerably more than we have grown them back.
As well as exploiting the land for cultivating food and biological materials we mine for a variety of technical materials and for fossil energy resources.
A system of predators
Also, people prey on other people. The elephant in the room, or should I say the grizzly bear, is capitalism. The capitalist system is essentially predatory, where some people exploit other people for their personal gain. To make money from money is the essence of modern predation. Money is the power predators use to prey on others. They don’t even have to come into contact with their prey.
Nearly all rich people got rich by taking advantage of others. The rich have no problem conning and using people – and we allow them to do it. Indeed, plenty of people actually admire these predator-parasites and are jealous of them.
Psychopaths are considered the worst, most heinous predators. They will prey mercilessly on other people without compunction. The worst psychopaths will rape, torture and kill and think they have done nothing wrong. They don’t have a moral sense. However, not all psychopaths are violent. Overall, about one percent of the general population has psychopathic (predatory) tendencies. It may not surprise you to know that amongst corporate CEOs the figure is about three percent, perhaps higher. In the corporate world predation is normal business practice. Most people will have heard of corporate raiders and hostile takeovers in the news, or portrayed in movies. Larger businesses gobble up smaller ones all the time.
Obviously, predation is natural to satiate natural needs e.g. food and in nature is generally sustainable. Most human predation is unnatural, and goes far beyond what is sustainable.
To some extent, everyone has the predator in them. However, like all animals humans are also prey. It is our vulnerability that often causes us to be protectively covetous and immoderate. Also, if as individuals, our main focus is on getting-taking-having, and not giving and creating, we are being destructive. This is a key point: any predation (consumption) that goes beyond the satiation of natural needs (i.e. enough food) is entropic. There is no governor on our predatory ability; we are out of self-control. We are insatiable predators – there couldn’t be anything worse.
We can’t go backwards, humans have evolved too far to be able to be simply animals again. Our human bed is made so to speak. The answer is to evolve further. How can we turn exploitation into generosity, and viciousness into graciousness?
In the wild, a herd of elephants can turn on a pride of lions, and caribou can turn on a pack of wolves. Predators tend to prey on the weak and vulnerable in nature; and they do it in society as well. To become more human means firstly to be less predatory and secondly to stand up against the predator in others.
How to stop predators and exploitation
It is not moral to take advantage of other people. How much progress would there have been if the human predators just left the human prey alone? A lot more I would wager because predators hold people back from being themselves. It is also not moral to let yourself be taken advantage of.
Human predators are insecure and are dependent on exploiting others to feel secure. They are driven by lust for power and that is their weakness, their Achilles heel. Just don’t give them power. They can’t take it, you have to give it to them. I’m talking about capitalist-financial predators not psychopath-sexual predators. No capitalist is holding a knife to your throat.
I suspect the people who are predators aren’t going to change but if we want to take away their power and stop being exploited what can we do?
- As consumers we must not give them power over us. The huge majority are corporate ‘back seat’ predators anyway. It is very hard to look at someone face to face and blatantly ‘use’ them. On a day to day basis this means buying locally from local artisan and craft producers and providers, not an anonymous multinational corporation.
- Be self-sufficient as much as possible. To help family, friends and neighbours do the same is mutual self-sufficiency.
- Also, don’t work for someone else if you can possibly avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, work for a small locally owned business. If you can’t do that right away, try to do it as soon as possible.
- Don’t be a predator yourself. Give as much as you take. Be generous to friends, family and others in your community.
- Be a good parent – loving and kind. Try to be reasonable and authoritative – not authoritarian. We should teach our children to be complete and independent people – as much as they can be.
- Predators should never be leaders, they are the ones known as tyrants, don’t vote for them, work for them or do what they tell you. Disobeying is often the moral thing to do.
It is probably not possible for many people to do all of the above but anything you can do will help you stay out of the trap to live another day, and therefore be true to yourself.