You are probably familiar with the claim that human beings are the most cruel creatures on the earth. But, given an objective analysis of the nature and universe, could this cliché possibly be misleading? Observations in the nature and animal world show that the human beings are not alone in performing cruelty on purpose. Furthermore, we are almost sure that outer universe is not that innocent either; galaxies, stars, planets and asteroids are in an incessant struggle to pull and swallow anything weaker. Under such circumstances, what precisely makes us human beings to feel we are the cruelest?
We lie, we cheat, we steal. We kill and we take pleasure in it. We kill for sport, for food, for sex. And the compexity of our minds has brought complexity to our cruelty, in the form of war, murder, serial killers, terrorism and rape. Human beings are often considered the most dangerous beast of all, and it can be argued that we are. We have centuries of written history to attest to that, to exemplify how far we can go in the name of religion, country and ideology. However, we are also capable of the kindest acts ever witnessed, often under the same harsh and cruel circumstances we ourselves created.
The world is a cruel place, and we were born and evolved in it. Human beings have had to adapt to a cruel and vicious world in order to survive, and in the early years of our species, it was survival of the fittest. We have now come to a glorious time when it is possible for us to protect and defend our most vulnerable: the children, the elderly, the ill, the weak. But it wasn’t always so. And some of that cutthroat capacity remains in our nature, tools we needed for much, much longer than not. The necessity to identify with a group, the hability to put away self preservation for the safety of the group (the family, the country, the species), the fight or flight response that is responsible both for our anxiety and for our amazing performance.
In nature we encounter, even nowadays, an array of examples to the cruelty of the animal kindgom from whence we came. Predators hunt to survive, to feed their offspring and continue their species. Lions fight to conquer a domain and kill the previous champion’s cubs in order to force the lionesses into heat. Is the lion cruel in doing so, or is he ensuring the endurance of the species by guaranteeing that the resources of the group are fed into the strongest possible cubs? Can this be considered cruel when it is vital for the lion to have his own cubs? Of course it is cruel in our eyes, but we as a species have the resources to raise our own children, adopt other people’s children, and even create orphanages for the ones less fortunate. Can the lion create an orphanage?
Even nature itself, with no conscience and by design, can be seen as cruel by us sentient beings. The planet keeps attacking itself and its own species, through earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. It spits lava and destroys entire cities, it forms tsunamis and swallows hundreds of lives, it even pulls planes from the skies and ships from the surface of the ocean without us understand exactly how. And we don’t respect it in turn, polluting the air, water and earth to fulfil our tremendous needs. The universe itself is a cruel place and, if we stop to think about the loneliness of foating around on a blue marble at the mercy of a star we have named the Sun (even tough there are millions of stars like it), of passing asteroids and of nearby galaxies that can develop damning black holes, even our tiny cruelty towards each other will seem utterly irrelevant.
Human beings had to become predators to survive and protect their offspring. And through technology, we became the most dangerous predator of all, capable of taking on the toughest species. Killing for food and for sport, we are the most feared creature in the animal kindgom and most wild animals will not venture into our habitats. We all know what happens when they do. On the other hand, no other animalmakes it a point to actively protect other species.
Very seldom do we see a wild animal protecting another of a different kind. This is such an atypical behaviour, that videos of a predator such as a tiger protecting a cub that they should by nature be eating, become viral. Yes, this does prove that the tiger is capable of feeling, of empathy, of guilt. But it also mirrors a behaviour human beings have been having for centuries: that of protecting, caring and even loving other species.
We take care of our pets, and love them like they are part of our families. We create laws to protect animals, build shelters for homeless pets and create recue zoos to save animals from the circuses. We are the origin of these problems but we also seek the solutions. Yes, human beings can be the most dangerous, most cruel animal in the world, but we can also be the kindest and most loving one. And the fact that we can look at our own species and identify acts of cruelty means we are developing a conscience which will allow us to keep evolving and making decisions to use the incredible resources we have harnessed to make the world a better place.
There is still a long way to go in changing the world, but the destination is not everything. Right now, we are living though a fast transition period where we celebrate kindness, tolerance and love. History shows us the drastic progress we have achieved through the last few centuries. That is a good reference for the future. The world is actively becoming a better place, gradually, and the journey must be taken. Change doesn’t happen in a day. To be solid, change must be deep and embedded in the way we see the world. And that only comes with time and patience.
The fact that we are progressing towards a kinder world goes to show that, deep down, when our survival needs are fulfilled, we are actually kind beings in nature and will use our power for good. Of course there are always bad apples in every species… and in every tree.
We have been doing a lot of things right. We may not be perfect…nothing is or ever will be. But we are actively trying and we are getting better each day. We are fighting to a kinder existence, one that is not only happy and safe for ourselves and our children, but also for every being on the planet. That is the most important contribution of all: doing our best and believing that human beings can indeed be the kindest creatures of all.