We humans are very good at ‘savage’. Not content with the physical kind – although there’s still more than enough of that around – we have gone on to develop emotional, social and financial savagery into fine arts.
I don’t know if cave men practised social savagery, but it’s certainly existed for far longer than I care to think: slavery, sweated labour, child labour, class suppression, racial suppression…War… There might have been a vague excuse for it once: we knew no better; believed that these divides and inequalities were the natural order of things. But we do know better now – or pretend we do. But we still go on exploiting each other with brutal insensitivity and as much vigour as we think we can get away with, without being called on it.
Financial savagery, now – we’re not even likely to be called on that. It’s fashionable. Admirable. Maul, suck dry, cheat, undermine, overwhelm… However you manage to end up with the financial prize is just fine as long as you win, and never mind the carnage or the collateral damage. If you even notice, given current levels of consuming self-interest.
But despite all this, in some ways emotional savagery is the cruellest of all. You can survive social and financial drubbings if your inner self is still intact: your soul, your heart, your ego, your self-belief – whatever you like to call it. Once that’s gone, you’re in real trouble. And it seems that destroying other people’s self-belief is the game du jour: get yourself to social media and poke as many sticks in as many eyes as you can possibly manage. Vent that spleen. Spread that bile.
The veneer of civilisation is depressingly thin.