The Three Options

Efficient predators camouflage themselves. Not only the ideologies that mendaciously deny our predatory nature, but even the ideologies that on the surface appear to be resisting, controlling or moderating that predatory nature, may actually be serving the predatory interests of individuals or classes and assisting in the more complex predatory strategies. In fact, the most efficient form of predation may be memetic infection with such devious ideologies.

Once this is thoroughly understood, we may perceive that there exist three and only three options: adulation of, complicity with and defiance of our own predatory nature: in other words (1) cheerleading for human nature, which equals praise of intraspecies predation; (2) indirect strategies for intraspecies predation disingenuously dressed up as something else; and (3) outright opposition, root and branch, to our predatory human nature.

The first, Adulatory, position declares that it is moral to follow “nature”, the meaning of that term being carefully selected to suit oneself. Such cherry-picking generally takes the form of drawing attention to “Nature red in tooth and claw” at the expense of the equally-natural group altruism and cooperation, giving us as an extreme case the ideology of “might makes right” as championed by Thrasymachus onwards. Adulatory enthusiasm for our predatory nature begins with gourmandising, potlatch and “conspicuous consumption”. There is probably a biological basis of such behaviour in the need to accumulate fat reserves, which is not to say that the behaviour is functional. The macro equivalent of Mr. Creosote is all the theories of infinite growth, all the economic systems that must expand in order not to collapse, from the Antique slave-state through the Aztec human-sacrifice juggernaut to modern multinational capitalism.

While humanity as a whole preys on the biosphere as a whole, predation is also intra-species; the rich prey on the poor. Adulationists thus promote untrammelled intra-species predation, such as delights the American social-darwinists with their bottomless contempt for “losers”. The economic equivalent of carnivorous predation is “rent-seeking” behaviour, as indulged in by lawyers, corporations, governments and gangsters. MacNeill’s perspective on the interaction of microparasites (bugs) with macroparasites (states) is of interest here.

It is not that adulationists disagree with the answers so far given for how to prevent the enslavement of the weak by the strong, it is more that they don’t see why such enslavement should be considered a problem, as long as they are the ones handing it out and not the ones at the sharp end. In the history of the world there have been many whole peoples making their living entirely by predation — pirate nations by land and sea — and there is no reason to expect the phenomenon to disappear. The equivalent of a predator overtaxing his range is the current strip-mining of the planet, the decision to skin the sheep rather than shear them, about to be backed by a new high-tech dictatorship.

European science fiction writers may portray dystopian visions of the collapse of civilisation and reversion to savagery, but when American writers do the same, it usually reads like an eagerly-awaited utopia, a wish-fulfilment fantasy offering the wannabe sociopath a world in which he can escape the shackles of civilisation and prevail against all comers mano a mano (S.M. Stirling, I’m looking at you). The geeky SF reader never, of course, considers the more probable outcome that he will merely make a good dinner for some illiterate biker.

Posted on February 12, 2011 at 11:23 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, Defying The Demiurge

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