Sunday, June 13, 2021

On Medium: Animals Can Be Scoundrels Too

Read on for a satirical article about why we can’t take credit for all the world’s villainy.


  1. It seems actually pretty Well documented to me, that at least some animals are capable of both cruelty (and certainly vengefulness) and kindness and a degree of compassion.

    And of course, in no way do all animals have the sort of brutal, sadistic dominance hierarchy that you mention frequently.

    Wolves certainly do not (not outside captivity, where they organize in prison gangs).

    There also seems to be increasing (though of course still highly debated) evidence for wild animals purposely seeking out humans to get help when they are wounded or sick.

    So, some wild animals may actually be capable of realizing that we are (sometimes) able to help and do things for them that they themselves can't do, and that some of us will, sometimes.

    Are we perhaps gods to them, capricious gods who can be cruel and destructive, but also merciful, when it strikes our fancy to be?

    1. I've seen some YouTube videos of animals seeking help from humans. (For some reason the algorithm sends them my way.)

      Not all animals are social, but my understanding is that the social animals organize their groups around a dominance hierarchy or a pecking order. They're not necessarily sadistic or brutal, but resources aren't shared equally in the group. Preference is given to the dominant members who dominate not necessarily by physical size but by Machiavellian mastery of relationships. The alpha might be a social butterfly.

      Are you saying wolves don't have dominance hierarchies? They hunt in cooperative packs, but I believe they have pecking orders. Of course, I'm not an expert ethologist.

  2. A wolf pack is kinda the idealized traditional family that conservatives CLAIM to glorify.

    Well, not entirely, the mother and father are equals, and they they let their children do whatever they want most of the time, even following their lead.

    Yes, very much non violent, very relaxed, very, well, loving.

    And very loyal, including taking care of the sick and wounded.

    The parents do have a sort of authority, but they basically only ever really make use of it when they hunt large prey, or the family is under attack.

    They spend most of their time playing and cuddling.

    Many behaviors are quite flexible, sometimes the parents eat first, but often enough they don't.

    They always work very hard to make sure everyone gets plenty though.

    Hoarding or bullying and depriving a member of the group of food (like it is known to happen with chimpanzees) is basically unknown with wolves in the wild.

    There are a number of factors contributing to wolf packs being among the most peaceful and harmonious of animal communities.

    Of one, wolves are monogamous, they don't have to defend harems.

    Depending on the availability of food the Pack either consists of the parents and their kids, with the older kids moving into a territory of their own as they come off age, after having taken care of their younger siblings for a good while.

    Or, if good is plentiful, multigenerational packs, with the "sons and daughters in law" being fully adopted into the pack, everyone alternating between happily mingling and cuktivating their close bonds, and spending time in their own family units before the next big game hunt.

    They are a tightly knit, solidarious family on one hand, but they also allow for plenty of breathing space, with next to nothing actual control exercized from above.

    And they don't take well to it being enforced in the exceedingly rare cases when it is.

    Well, in decades of fieldwork scientists apparently only really found one dominant female who actually dominated the way people tend to imagine it.

    She brutalized her pack, especially her sister, whose young she killed several times, completely anomalous behavior.

    The pack turned on her collectively and killed her dead, as she tried to attack her sister's pups one last time.

    The surviving sister became the new matriarch, an incomparably better one, and adopted the pups of her dead, murderous sister as her own.

    It was a huge deal among wolf biologists.

    1. That's interesting because it suggests an analogy between wolf packs and Paleolithic, nomadic hunter-gatherer clans. In both cases, nomadism imposes a kind of practical socialism. There's no hoarding because the group isn't sedentary so there's nowhere to store the private possessions. And every member has to play an important role in the group's survival, because the group is small and nothing should be wasted. These factors make the group egalitarian rather than excessively hierarchical.