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Human Wolves

Marko Mirceski,   ·   14 minute read

inspired by a talk on the subway

This is a fascinating idea, to be quite honest. Exploring the idea that humanity tends to devour itself has always been quite interesting, and now I get to write about it. The inspiration came to me after I talked to an 84-year-old gentleman in the subway, and we exchanged some philosophical views.

Mind you, the conversation did not directly touch this topic, but it gave me ample reason to say the following quote in german:

„Der Mensch ist dem Menschen ein Wolf.“

Of Men and Wolves

“Men can be wolves to other men.”1

A statement that stuck with me, far before I even came to think about the topic at hand. Simple, yet so complex. Short, but with the might to tell a thousand stories. So unseemly, yet talking with the pain of countless betrayals, of mistreatments, broken contracts, dreams, families, the disenfranchisement of so many. Few quotes managed to stick with me quite like this one.

And the reason for that is simple to find, but hard to understand.

It is a sad fact of the human existence that we have to deal with betrayal. It is a state of being so heinous and disgusting to our complex understanding of social structures, that on the highest levels, we equate it to crimes like rape and mass murder. But why do we do this? Why are betrayal and treason so painful to us humans, that we choose to equate them to the violation of one’s autonomy, and the forceful termination of another human beings life?

The idea that betrayal and treason are this bad stems from quite a few places. Things like social norms, our own survival instincts, Human emotions, the formation of relationships and their decline, among others, heavily contribute to our understanding of how a breach of trust affects us, our psyche, and our surroundings, to an extent.

But human wolves don’t just fall into the category of traitors, friends turned enemies, or others of that same makeup. Classifiable amongst them are so many more, sometimes affectionally described as “vultures”, picking off and devouring anything that might be left of the downtrodden and lost. And yet, even after winning, the wolves surrond you, wearing sheep’s coats, trying to get you to become chummy with them, until they rob you blind.

Let us elaborate further upon this interesting dynamic…

Dog Eat Dog

This dynamic, that needs our exploring, encompasses a world where dogs eat dogs. Alas, the dogs are we. We are devouring each other. On battlefields, in war rooms, in the great halls of politics, on the streets… even our own homes. Not even the internet, our great companion, which seems, even through our daily interactions, so untouchable, has been spared from being sullied by the blood we spill in the pursuit of victory.

It begs the question why I now describe bloodshed when the topic is the uncivilized preying upon our own kin to further one’s own goals. The answer is simple: In our animalistic minds, no victory is accomplished without spilling the blood of one’s enemy. Oh, and enemies they are. Once we taste blood there is no turning back.

“But what about civilization? We humans are much more advanced than the animals you claim us to be!” For that, I only have to ask: Are we? Are we really this civilized, that we can cooperate, use our intelligence, spare the weak and help each other? On an individual level, I’d agree. Strongly, at that. But in the grand scheme of things, as a species? NOT AT ALL.

A quick look through human history will give you all you need to know. Wars[1][2], extinction[3][4], crimes of all sorts that make the stomach churn and your eyes tear [5][6][7]. So tell me: Where is this advanced, civilized and supposedly intelligent species when it comes to annihilating itself? Is this the civil discourse? The thing that lifts us up from “animalistic behavior”? Is this our Legacy to the universe?

Because if that is indeed the case, then even at our most advanced, our most intelligent, we are still animals. And there’d be no point in arguing otherwhise.

Our Best Selves

And yet, there is this paradox occurence, where our outwardly displayed “best selves” are inconceivably advanced and civilized, showing minimal signs of the animal within. This makes the situation even more confusing, because of the point made beforehand. Yet it begs the following questions: Why paradox? Shouldn’t this change everything? How can the previous point still stand after such a claim? But even for this there is a plausible explanation. And it is not as outlandish as my little tirade from before might make it out to be.

Simply put, there is this idea. A rather compelling and sensible idea. Humans are social creatures.2

And as social creatures, we tend to band together. If we weren’t, then we’d have faced extinction as a species a long time ago. And as with everything, our survival was a group effort, and I’m not even talking about reproduction. I’m talking about the very simple fact that there is strength in numbers. In the end, this matters because our whole way of life, all of our social and cultural constructs, everything we are made out to be, depends on us staying in at least a loose group structure.

But to really show our best selves, we need to look inwards. Not to nations, or alliances, or anything of that sort. We need to look to the oldest and most sacred bond a human being can possess. The bond of family. From the earliest ages, humans tend to look out for each other. As a species with an absurd lifespan compared to most animals3, we also tend to have an absurdly long maturing phase, as our time to adulthood takes somewhere between 18 to 25 years from the day we are born. The point I want to make here is that our species shows it’s best traits in raising it’s own, or in general, in caring for other humans. Now, at first that might sound like an absolute garbage statement, given that we wage war on each other, try to often destroy what other people have built, and even sometimes try to erase the mere existence of something we don’t like, wiping it from the face of the earth like it was some mistake, not even supposed to be there at all.

Of course, with a track record like this, how can we even claim that we are anywhere near good? Given this type of behavior, I’d say it’s an awful look for us humans. And that is absolutely correct. We are far from a good species, and some might claim we’re irredeemable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still do good. And helping each other, going against this destructiveness, that is what constitutes our best selves. This is the makeup of what gives this awful species of featherless bipeds a silver lining. Then again, we need to accept that there is a lot we need to work on.

First of all, we are very conceited in our own beliefs. A human can’t be wrong. “Think about it, we’re the most intelligent species on this planet! Of course we are superior!” And that might be correct if we were as cohesive as we’d need to be to actually advance in our development. But everything falls apart the moment there is one human perceived to be superior compared to another.

Envious Eyes and Prideful Stance

If looks could kill, this “superior” person (perceived, of course), would have died ten times over, and still counting. As it stands, there can’t be someone else that posesses more than you yourself do. Think about it: Was there ever someone that had something that you wanted so bad, you ended up loathing that person for it? Your answers might vary from person to person, but in most cases there is at least one instance where that answer is “yes”. But why is that?

The answer is simple: Envy.

Envy (from the Latin “invidia”; “envy”, combined from “in” + “vide¯o”; “to gaze after something”), is best defined as a feeling of discontent or resentment at the possessions or good fortune of another person, stemming from a deep and intrinsic longing for these fortunes for oneself. Or to put it into a different perspective: “you despise someone because that someone has something that you want, but don’t posess.” So instead on working to get said something, an envious person focusses their energy on loathing the other person.

But what keeps that person from using their energy in a useful manner (i.e. actually working for said desires)? That’s an even simpler question to answer.

We’re of course talking about pride.

And no, not the event where people senselessly celebrate their mere existence. I mean the cardinal sin of having an extremely inflated ego, not being able to see past conflicts, failure and your own conceitedness. The inabillity to ask for help when in obvious need, that metaphorical “high horse” everyone tells you to come down from, which promptly is absolutely denied and/or ignored.

Pride tends to feed on the ego of a person, their own self-perception. How they see the world, and more importantly: Where they perceive their own place in said world. And envy? Envy is most often used as a justification of why they are not at said perceived place.

There are a lot of things that can be derived from these emotions. Conspiracies, simple perceived attacks, even a theory of a possible murder attempt. These theories can easily come to mind for an envious and prideful person, but on a world stage, surrounded by Wolves? They just don’t work. The justifications, of course. The theories, on the other hand? Common place in global politics.

And these wolves can go nuclear if you look at them the wrong way.


At this point I feel tempted to remind you that we can wipe ourselves out a hundred times over if we wanted to. But we haven’t done that yet. Now, why might that be?

Is it Envy over the other guy having the bigger bomb, luring us into building bigger bombs instead of using the ones already at our disposal? Or is it pride, over potentially losing our “superior way of life”, if we actually use them. Or number three: just plain fear over this invention of ours, as is often presented with artificial intelligence in movies?

If I were to bet, it would be fear. We created something so powerful yet so destructive, that we fear it as a whole. We quite literally made our own tools of extinction, our own meteorite4, so to speak. And knowing what happened to the dinosaurs, we naturally are afraid.

Only that our meteorite is a thousand times worse.

And that we have created it. Our own hands. Our own minds. The key to wiping out humanity, if nature doesn’t do the job first.

Nuclear weapons have this tendency of even making the most ferocious wolves fear for their wellbeing. So much so, that there are agreements in place to prevent the total mutual annihilation of humanity through said weapons. Are we still building them? Of course we are. But we are most definitely not using them. That, for now at least, lets us breathe a sigh of relief.

Another fascinating thing is how almost everyone agrees on this one fact of life.

Pack of Wolves

The idea we should also agree upon, in my opinion at least: If we are to act as wolves, we should at least act as a pack. Not as individual beasts tearing each other apart. But rather, as a group, working towards a common goal.

Now, whatever that common goal ends up being is not of the greatest importance. But what is important is the sense of community, to give each and every human a feeling of belonging. Not to cast them out because of their standing, the color of their skin, their wealth, disabilities, their feelings, or any other reason to discriminate. This might sound a tad bit idealistic at first, but hear me out.

In wolf packs, even the eldest are protected and cared for. Compared to us humans, who in recent times have lost all respect for our elders5. What does this say about us?

Simple. Social creatures that have forgotten their ways, and have become vain, egotistical hyper-individualists, who only care about what positives can be bestowed upon themselves as individuals. Gone are the days where people voluntarily worked for the good of each other. Gone are the days where morality and common sense reigned supreme. Gone are the days, where our children could safely play outside, hurt themselves, then continue playing. Gone are the days, where we respected one another.


I wanted to end this on a positive note. To talk about the goods that came from humanity. But the more I ended up thinking, the more I ended up writing, the more miserable the thought of humanity itself became. It saddens me to my core that this is the case. It saddens me that I even felt I had to address this topic in the first place. But if not I, who else? And is there any hope left?

“Is life even worth living,” some might ask…

And to stand with unwavering honsety before you, I say: I don’t know anymore.

This is not to say that I am questioning my own will to live6. Rather, it is a statement which stands as a testiment to my definitive lack of an answer to this specific question. The will to live, the evaluation of life itself, and the possibility of it being worthwhile, is a very sensitive and complex subject. Some might not want to talk about it. And that is alright! But now, for a moment, to a different topic.

I remember a different time. A time where you could play outside with almost no worries, a time where people didn’t just look out for themselves. A time, where people were generally polite to each other, and where people actually cared. Now, at the age of 22, I realize that times have changed significantly, and I subconsciously chose not to change with them. I don’t see the joys of hyper-individualistic success stories. I don’t see joy in them, because to me, they are lonely. I don’t see the advantages of only looking out for yourself. I don’t see them, because they imply you are the only one that matters. You are not. The world, our Earth[8][9], will turn, make its grand and awe-inspiring journey around our livegiver, the sun[10], no matter if you stand upon it or not.

You may ask yourself now: “Why are you talking about this? This is an article about bad people, not about old-timey views and sob stories!” And that hypothetical person saying this is completely and absolutely right. Yet, this is the conclusion of this absurdly long text. And I wanted to give you some context about why I put in so much work.

I have spent the better part of the last 1½ weeks, spending at least 2 hours every day, working on this text. Even while sick in bed with a cold, the sheer will to complete this (and while on a rage and caffeine-fueled bender) compelled me to write, even without the energy.

I still won’t think that this text will have turned out the way I wanted it to. For this is one of my biggest flaws. Then again, I have spent so much time and energy on one article alone, it feels almost nonsensical at this point. And to be honest, I might be done for the next 2 to 3 months or so. Who knows?

But to finalize this, I want to say thank you. To everyone.

Further Reading





  1. This is obviously a slight alteration of the original proverb. A more direct translation from the original Latin could be “Man is wolf to man.” ↩︎

  2. And anyone claiming otherwhise can go FUCK THEMSELVES, because we definitely are. ↩︎

  3. Which would only be correct if we measured the timespan of aging as an absolute of its own, regardless of any biological factors. If biological factors were accounted for, which in actuality they usually are, the given statement is incorrect. ↩︎

  4. Reference to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago ↩︎

  5. Especially in the west, where we treat our elders as relics from the past, akin to exhibits from a museum. Compare this to eastern cultures, where the age and experience of a person has a much larger weighing in social structures. To put it bluntly: Most of us are entitled, “know-it-all” brats. ↩︎

  6. Which I have ample experience with, but that is not the point. ↩︎