Dr. Robert Hare, the world’s foremost authority on psychopathy, has declared us to be “intraspecies predators.” This means, I believe, that we prey on our fellow human beings. We are, after all, members of the same (human) species, despite attempts of some people to relegate us to the realms of reptile and, in some cases, machine.
Of course, the human being, while great in some ways, can be so repellent that we are not all displeased by the fact that we have been ruled out of the club. Even so, a dispassionate look at the meaning of Hare’s charge and an examination of it’s truth or falsehood could place things in proper perspective.
Nature, itself, is predatory. Every species lives on another species. A “nicer” way of putting it would be to say that Nature is based on sacrifice. Mice are sacrificed for cats and eagles, etc. Even plants are sacrificed for some species that live on them. Almost all ingestion of food results in the death of the “sacrificed” being. The only exception I can see is the consumption of fruit which peacefully falls off the vine or tree, leaving it intact. But no species has ever managed to subside entirely on fruit.
It is safe, then, to say that predation is the condition of life (on our planet, at least). But what about those who prey on members of their own species? An article in The Week, by Chris Gayomali, claims there are seven species that eat their own. They are sand tiger sharks, who actually feed on their siblings while still embryos in the womb. Polar bears have been known to eat their young. Spiders are notorious for females devouring males. Hamsters eat their young if they need more protein. Especially interesting:
Copidosoma floridanum, a type of parasitoid wasp, has a disgusting way of reproducing. To breed, an adult wasp will seek out an unsuspecting caterpillar, paralyze it with her sting, and then inject one male egg and one female egg into the living body. Once inside, those eggs “clone” themselves until the still-alive caterpillar is teeming with hundreds of larvae. Strangely, about 50 of the females emerge with large jaws and no reproductive organs. Their sole purpose for living? To devour as many of their brothers as they can, since only a few males are needed to fertilize their sisters. Nature!
Chickens sometimes eat their shells and tiger salamanders also have a complicated way of eating each other. To these seven, I must add yet another. When I was a child, we had two goldfish. We went away for vacation and apparently didn’t leave them with enough food. When we returned, only one, the larger, was there. He must have eaten his smaller companion.
Of course, cannibalism isn’t the only kind of predation. Members of a single species will often fight each other for limited resources, including mates. We have a “nicer” word for it when people practice it: competition.
We have managed to tame some species to make slaves or pets of them, they are usually our food with people at the top of the food chain. According to The Psychopath Next Door, psychopaths see the rest of humanity as beneath us on the food chain. “They behave like predators. They are at the top of the food chain and the rest of us are just lunch. In the psychopath’s world view, they are cats and the rest of us mice.” It is doubtful that she is implying that we are all cannibals. By predatory, she means the same thing that is meant when anyone goes after a resource that others also covet. In other words, this is competition. Psychopaths may pursue our goals more ruthlessly than others but the bottom line is still the same. People are competing for the same limited goodies and we are mainly competing against other human beings. We exploit each other. Sure. But we don’t usually eat each other.
While the word, “competition” sounds pretty benign, it can be cruelly vicious. Whole populations of people have replaced other populations from land the more powerful culture wants for itself. Although American children are taught a sanitized version of our own history, it is in reality the history of slavery and genocide. Native Americans had an elaborate civilization going in North America. Far from the “savages” we have been taught to believe they were, Native American culture was in some ways more civilized than that of the invaders.
“Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war?… What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you will come in a friendly manner, and not with swords. and guns, as to invade an enemy.”
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
The atrocities of the settlers (now known as “the founding fathers”) against the indigenous people are well documented, including the infamous Trail of Tears. If psychopaths are guilty of treating other humans as “lunch,” what must we call this? Or does it not count when the aggressor is great in number and the winners?
This is only one example of predatory behavior performed en mass. The Holocaust against the Jews and other “inferior races” is probably the best known example of “man’s inhumanity to man,” probably because Germany lost the war and didn’t get to tell the story from the point of view of the torturers. But now, Jews, who should have known better, are doing to the Palestinians the same thing the Germans did to them. Mankind seems incapable of learning, just as incapable as psychopaths are said to be.