Sunday, January 3, 2016

Of Wolves and Men

A wolf pack on the move.

The photograph above has been circulating on social media in recent weeks. It purports to show a wolf pack, wherein the old, sick, and weak set the pace for the group from the front, the young and strong make up the center, and the dominant male watches over everything from the rear. Some of my “liberal” friends have commented favorably on this social structure. One even remarked that it’s “how we should act …”

While the picture is beautiful and illustrates how different social groups can survive, I find it deeply ironic that compassionate “liberals” would recommend it as a model for human society. Let’s look at the wolf pack more closely to see why.

The old, sick, and weak are placed in the vanguard of the pack. This may let them set the pace, but it also puts them at the greatest risk for attack by hostile wolves or other predators. Should an attack come, then the stronger members of the pack have the option to flee safely or to counterattack the distracted enemy.

When the pack makes a kill, the wolves usually feed by rank. The dominant pair eat their fill, followed by the lower ranks. The old, sick, and weak get whatever scraps are left when the stronger wolves are done. As a result, they may grow weaker still.

Rivals for dominance within the pack are often expelled or killed. Outcasts face great difficulty surviving on their own—much greater difficulty than a single, able-bodied human would face. If these lone wolves manage to survive but can’t eventually start their own packs, the may turn to poaching and other desperate pursuits, making them the criminals of the wolf world.

Wolf packs are also highly territorial. When they meet, there is usually hostility. In other words, the primary relationship between different wolf populations is warfare. These conflicts are one of the main causes of death among wolves, accounting for over half of all fatalities in some cases.

And when the old, sick, and weak wolves can no longer walk, they will ultimately be abandoned by the pack to die in isolation and suffering. In lean times, they may even be killed and eaten by their own pack mates.

When our old, sick, and weak can no longer move, we will carry them—sometimes to a fault. Human groups can be just as competitive as rival wolf packs, but we thrive through cooperative competition (at least within free markets). We try to shelter our outcasts and to protect our defenseless. Despite our self-ascribed penchant for violence, the trend for advancing human civilizations has been the pursuit of peaceful relations between nations.

Our principal failure, at least in the enlightened portion of human society, is not a lack of compassion. It is misplaced and misdirected compassion. We have allowed the hand extended in help to be used to pull all of us down. We have failed to properly understand social problems, and we have repeatedly failed to learn the lessons of history.

Ironically, wolf society is exactly the harsh, dog-eat-dog paradigm that so many “liberals” falsely accuse “conservatives” and libertarians of desiring. Those of us on the political right (nominally or otherwise) who advocate for individual freedom, personal responsibility, and equality of opportunity do so because of our compassion for others and because of our desire to reduce human suffering. We want to see the weak grow stronger, the disadvantaged become prosperous, and the downtrodden regain dignity. Through no ill intent of its ideological proponents, the left would expand poverty, helplessness, and subjugation as a cause and consequence of its pursuit and application of political power.

And when the leftists finally succeed, human society may indeed begin to resemble the brutal reality of the wolf pack once again.

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