Human Nature in Media
Homo homini lupus is a Latin proverb meaning “A man is a wolf to another man”. The wolf as a creature is thought, in this example, to have qualities of being predatory, cruel, inhuman i.e. more like an animal than civilized. (Wikipedia)
Our human nature would be comparable to the nature of a dangerous wolf.
This statement has been debated over centuries. Seneca the Younger disagreed and saw something sacred in man. Erasmus commented yet stayed neutral. Sigmund Freud agreed with the proverb in his “Civilization and Its Discontents”, while acknowledging that man “wants to be loved”.
Western media and content today seem mostly and widely to agree with this statement, serving us a good share of negative stories, sometimes profoundly negative stories, stating our human nature is evil. “Westworld” being a good recent example. The good man is praised while being widely portrayed as the exception.
Our nature would be to compete, fight and destroy other men and life in general.
I strongly and deeply disagree. Even though the lack of love, security and acknowledgment in man can have devastating consequences for other men.
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I grew up with a fair share of obsession for the Shoah and the implementation of Nazi’s Final Solution during WWII.
My grandfather on my mother’s side was the only non-Jew in my family, yet he was an efficient and impactful member of the French Resistance, and saved what is left of my mother’s family.
Questioning myself on what would have been my reaction in the face of Nazism and French occupation during WWII, whether I would have been a sheep or a wolf, or even smarter than that like my grandfather, has been an obsession all my life.
I believe man has accumulated enough experience, especially in the 20th century, to have a clear opinion on what human nature really is. Especially in situations, such as wars or genocide, where man has received extreme training and brainwash to become an ultimate wolf.
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One example always strikes me.
The images of the Holocaust that immediately come to mind are the one of the concentration camps. This extermination process was merely the product of the systematization of the genocide committed by the Third Reich.
The reality of that genocide began not in the gas chambers but with four small groups of murderers known as the Einsatzgruppen. They operated in the territories captured by the German armies with the cooperation of German army units (Wehrmacht) and local militias.
By the spring of 1943, when the Germans began their retreat from Soviet territory, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered 1.25 million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Soviet nationals, including prisoners of war. The Einsatzgruppen massacres preceded the invention of the death camps and significantly influenced their development.
The Einsatzgruppen story offers insight into a fundamental Holocaust question of what made it possible for men, some of them ordinary men, to kill so many people so ruthlessly. And I strongly believe that the history of these groups reveals something about human nature.
From 1938, in contemplation of the coming assault upon the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen were created as military units, but not to fight as soldiers. They were organized for murder and qualified as Masters of Death. They were men passed on gratefully by their home regiments because they were considered too wild. Lovingly chosen, fanatically trained from an early age as many of them were former members of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), most had served in the SS, the Gestapo or the Criminal Police (Kriminalpolizei).
They were to learn to be obedient, dutiful, disciplined, and self-sacrificing. These virtues were to be emphasized and continually reinforced so they would become willing and faithful followers of Nazi doctrine.
The commanders of the Einsatzgruppen and the commanders of the Sonderkommando and Einsatzkommandos (sub-units of the Einsatzgruppen) were chosen by Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer-SS, and Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Main Office themselves. They were ardent Nazis and infallible leaders.
Wolves among wolves. They were the living embodiment of the Nazi doctrine, the masters of the German race. They were asked for the political reputation record of their parents, brothers and sisters, the record of their ancestry as far back as 1750.
They were the representation of the genetic and empiric perfection for the tasks that they were chosen to fulfill.
Along their route, in all the places through which they passed, they murdered masses of people — Jews, Gypsies, Communist activists, and prisoners of war. All ages, babies included. One of their greatest achievements: on September 29 and 30, 1941, they perpetrated the mass slaughter of 34,000 Kiev Jews, all civilians, at Babi Yar. In 2 days. With machine guns. Lots of them agonized in ravines, abandoned quarries, mines, antitank ditches, or huge trenches that had been dug for this purpose, and were later buried alive.
Dear wolves, you want more details:
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The killing by shooting, especially of women and children, had a devastating effect on many of the Einsatzgruppen member’s mental state, which even heavy drinking of hard liquor (of which they were given a generous supply) could not suppress. A few committed suicide and some asked for transfer to other units. Local men were recruited to do the job that still had to be supervised.
Easing the burden on the shooters became the obsession, and gave birth to the Final Solution as we know it: the death camps. With the gassing facilities and the crematoriums, the industrialization, delegation, and depersonalization of death were optimized to protect the mind of the executioners.
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Is Man a wolf to man? Truly? Is it human nature? I strongly disagree.
Thomas Hobbes drew upon the proverb in his “De Cive”: “To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities.” Hobbes was describing the tendency of people to act fairly and generously toward other people in the same society and the tendency of societies to act deceptively and violently toward other societies.
In times of social media, societies need to be guided by men. Not by media operators and content that sell us a despicable and detrimental image of ourselves, making us lose hope in humanity. Making us identify to super heroes instead of empowering us as humans.
I blame the “Hollywoodization” of content, including most advertising and news. I blame all the media players who try to copy that model, in China and beyond, without questioning it deeply as it impacts and influences our civilization every day.
Whatever Western media expose you to. Whatever the fossil fuel industries and the militaro industrial complex aspire to… 1 in 5 veterans of the Irak and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. 200,000 veterans go homeless every night. 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
The human nature is to feel, share and spread love.