Previously, we discussed the definition of predator love and discussed how it may be defined in general as the objectification and use of things or people as a means of gratifying one’s own hunger, longings, and desires. In doing so it was found that such love, even though no word or expression tends to exist, is quite common and is expressed in the way that we love things that we purchase, use, or consume. We also noted that even though humankind as a whole is an intensely predatory species, we also tend to feel a sense of discomfort about our predation, which is likely one reason why we do not have terms that draw attention to that which we find most unpleasant to think about, much less deal with. Having discussed that in general and broad terms, let us now move on to the the question of why predator love is asymmetrical and why this matters. As one might guess, this is not a particularly pleasant matter to deal with, so while this conversation will avoid any particularly salacious matters, it may be unpleasant reading material all the same.
Many of the types of love that human beings (and others) have is reciprocal. We have storge (natural affection) for those who are affectionate and kind towards us. We are friends with people (phileo) who are friendly towards us. We engage in romantic relationships (eros) with people who are attracted to us, if such people happen to exist. These are the ordinary loves that human beings recognize and regularly engage in. They are conditioned mainly on reciprocity from other people who are like-minded. In this same way we tend to love our pets, who are loving and affectionate with us and whose ways we enjoy, and who in consequence we treat with kindness and fondness in return. It should be noted, though, that predator love is like agape love in being non-reciprocal. Our agape love is a self-sacrificial love that gives charitably and unconditionally without expectation, and indeed that lack of expected reciprocity is what makes it agape rather than phileo or storge in nature. It is the sort of love that can only be given by higher beings who have enough love within themselves to love others unconditionally. Predator love is not reciprocal but in the entire opposite way, in that it does not consider the feelings of the other parties involved at all. To be sure, this is all well and good when it comes to shoes and what is on one’s dinner plate, but when one is dealing with human beings or even animals, this lack of reciprocity is clearly a problem. A predator values only what his (or her) prey can provide to them and meet their needs, and the emotional life of that prey is irrelevant except that it may be a vulnerability that can be exploited.
Indeed, it is the relentless objectification of others as objects of desire and/or objects of contempt, whether they be prey or rivals/enemies, that marks predator love for what it is. An object is something that has no meaning except for the pleasure and enjoyment that it provides to the one who possesses that object. When we view something that has a deep and vibrant emotional life as being a mere receptacle for our longings and desires, we do great violence to it. And, it should be noted, this violence is entirely asymmetrical in nature. For the predator, predation is not personal. A man seeking his dinner may find it a matter of indifference or mere personal whim whether he eats steak, lamb, fish, chicken, or even tofu should he be driven to such extreme straits. But the choice of his meal is deeply personal for the animal who gives its life to gratify that hunger. For the prey, victimization is personal because they are personally attacked and feel all the horror of having been used and abused in such a fashion. If the prey survives, it will be with a heavy cost in terms of fears and anxieties and a lack of trust in a world that has proven itself to be intensely dangerous and hostile. The predator does not feel this loss, and does not care what costs are inflicted to the victim. Indeed, the predator only thinks of prey to the extent that one thinks of a meal that satisfied hunger for a little while before one had to eat another meal once again. A restaurant or store may be good enough to go to repeatedly, but one does not feel emotionally attached to one’s food or value the opinion of one’s clothing.
Nor do these exhaust the asymmetries that relate to predator love. We must never forget that humanity, no matter how monstrously we may behave, are justifying beings who feel it necessary to feel good about ourselves and to think at least somewhat highly of ourselves if we are to function effectively as human beings. The predator, then, will justify predation on a variety of grounds. We may appeal to the more predatory aspects of our nature and say that we are simply being what we are. The universality of predator love and the immense diversity of what human beings prey upon suggests that there are indeed predatory aspects of nature that unite us despite the immense diversity of ways that predation is driven. We do not judge all predators equally, as the person who preys upon shoes and clothing to put in a closet may be the subject of humor and the person who preys upon books as a means of hungering and thirsting for knowledge and insight may well and justly be praised, but the predation on illicit drugs or on animals or humans is likely to be viewed with justifiable horror. But all predators, be they intellectuals or retail therapy shoppers or more unsavory types, will seek to justify their own predation because we understand ourselves and the motivations that drive us to prey on something. If those justifications fall on deaf ears, as they often should, it is because there is a stark asymmetry in the way that we understand ourselves as opposed to the way we understand others. This gap between our insight into our own nature and our insight into others is responsible for the way that we can objectify and prey upon that which has the same nature as ourselves without remorse or pity. If the worth and dignity of our prey was in our minds and hearts all the time, we could not bear to prey upon it at all, because we would feel suffering ourselves when we inflicted it upon others.
But just as the lack of symmetry between our self-regard and our understanding of others leads us to be predators, it also enables us to be hypocrites. Let us see how this is so when we conduct a thought experiment of people in a prison. Presumably, almost everyone who is in a prison is there for a good reason. Political prisoners are there because their conduct or their rhetoric was offensive and viewed as abusive to those in power. Most others are there for various acts of abuse. People may abuse substances and be convicted of drug or alcohol offenses. Others may abuse property and be imprisoned for various types of fraud or theft. Still others may abuse people with various types of violence. But all of them will be there because they have preyed upon something, even if it is merely upon the fears and vulnerabilities of insecure and wicked rulers. But the universality of our predation upon things and other beings does not give us a sense of empathy towards others. We simultaneously justify ourselves while also condemning others, failing to provide a clear and fair standard by which we may judge equitably. It is that asymmetry that allows us to think well of ourselves while thinking poorly of others, but precisely that asymmetry of pride and self-regard while failing to judge others justly is what allows us to be the predators we are in the first place. We could not think so highly of ourselves if we were not as blind to the more blameworthy aspects of our nature as we were harsh and unmerciful to the flaws and foibles of others. Everything about our status as predatory beings, including the lack of empathy and understanding we have of the predatory nature of ourselves, is asymmetrical in nature, with the end result that we feel deeply our own suffering and can live content without being by the suffering that are all around us. And that asymmetry unites us all as being the same sort of beings in fact, no matter how little our feelings may reflect those facts.