We humans are apex predators. What we lack in razor-sharp claws and elongated canines we more than compensate for in the use of opposable thumbs, comparatively large brains and the ability to work in teams. In any hand-to-paw conflict, we might struggle to emerge with victory. But if we bring our wits to bear – even to the bear – we drive the strongest beast to epic disadvantage. We study behaviors, learn patterns and plot advantage against weakness. A predictable creature is one that we can overcome.
What of the uncertainty of the wounded or trapped animal? What comes when flight options are limited, and fight seems the only option? What can we expect when there is nothing left to lose? When our careful study of the opponent is abruptly upended by erratic and unusually aggressive behavior, we fall from apex to nadir in an instant. Happily, for most of us, anyway, the risk of encountering a grizzly bear in the wild remains unlikely. So, our alleviated danger in the natural world is replaced by an elevated one in the made environment. If we humans are the most dangerous animals and a wounded animal is the most dangerous sort of animal, then how do we manage the wounded human?
Surely, there is metaphor here at work. If we find a bleeding passerby, let’s call a doctor! Those most concerning are not the physically bruised but the emotionally, financially, or romantically suffering. How do we circumnavigate a road-rage driver, the underperforming employee that is about to lose their job, the deadbeat about to lose custody, or the recently scorned paramour? Can we hold on to the advantages of civilization when some of us believe ourselves harmed by the rest? Is our injury driving us to a point where others no longer can identify our good nature?