Power Is One Thing, Cruelty Another. Willing Them, Human All The Way. Something Civilization Cannot Ignore Anymore.


 Questions: Nietzsche made the “Will To Power” famous. Is it enough to explain the Dark Side? I claim it’s not.

 Indeed, why is there a “Will To Power”? Is it because there is, in human minds, a natural state of tranquility, and power is not a low hanging fruit, but it has to be willed? People have to decide to acquire power, first?

 Why not a “Will To Love”? Then? Does not the fact that there is a need for a Will To Power, but no need for a Will To Love, show that Love is more primordial than Power?

 And is the “Will to Power” enough to explain all the vice found in history, or is there something even more terrible, something the great religions all guessed? Yes, there is! So roll over Nietzsche!

 And I say: What about The Will To Vice? (In French: Volonte’ de Nuire, which is actually better because more encompassing.) Power gives the ability to deploy force, thus to act. Vice is the desire to hurt. And, if there is such a thing as striving to inflict pain, why is vice so alluring?

 We have to dig deep in the psychobiology of the genus Homo to answer these questions.

 The meta-psychology of power and vice are actually born from the most practical considerations, evolutionary speaking: one can see them at work in many a place in the Middle Earth, where the two largest continents, Eurasia and Africa meet. All and any of the combatants fanatics and other occupiers will tell you that they fight for excellent reasons, and they are right. Such is the Will To Vice. Always right. Greed is good, and so is cruelty.

 Power and vice arise for reasons, thus causes, that one can understand, it turns out. They are even deeper than evolution, because they inflected it. Some are exposed below. The need to effective leadership, and to do what is necessary, ultimately rule, and animate those reasons. Understanding this will go a long way to steer civilization correctly. 

  I know people have little time. Those who want to cut to the chase, can avoid the preliminaries on the domination of cruelty in all religions, and the section on how the Will To Power grew in primates from evolutionary pressures. The meat of the essay are the sections HUMAN IS TO BE LOVED and WILL TO CRUELTY. 




 Viciousness is prominent in all the great religions. And not just to condemn it, but to advocate it: after all, if the gods do it, why not us? I am not just alluding to the Aztecs and their industrial cannibalism and the Incas, and their propensity to spill the blood of virgins on top of volcanoes. The Celts, and Carthage, which were most advanced civilizations, also practiced human sacrifices (even the Romans dabbed in them).

 Viciousness is fully obvious in the old Norse religion, or Hinduism, which were prone to burn young women alive on the slightest pretext. The old Babylonian religions made the universe into a giant arena for the fight between light and darkness, truth and lie, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman. Of course in the Abrahamic religion, the genocidal god is so much into his criminogenic and megalomaniac “jealousy”, that he wrote a few books to advertise them proudly. One of the Abrahamic sects even made a torture instrument of death its very symbol, and then called it love (OK, it worked. Charlemagne would point at the crushed Angles and Saxons and Hungarians…)

 Buddhism, although milder at first sight, does not escape the vice of vice. Buddhism is so obsessed by viciousness, that it throws the world out with the bath. Buddhism claims that nihilism (“nirvana”) is better than living in the world, by the world, for the world. Instead, to flee that horror, the world, it promotes detachment from it (but not so much detachment that its priests do not go begging in the streets !)  

 The mildest of the great religions may have been the Egyptian one, and may be that is why it lasted 4,000 years. But it is also why it found itself unable to resist enemies with more ferocious, extraverted gods, starting with the Libyans, the Achaemenids and finally the Christians, thoroughly rabid from god as they were.

 So can one safely say that old wisdom has fully integrated the Dark Side, the set of behaviors and knowledge associated withhell”?



 Maybe one should ask first where the expression “Dark Side“, as incarnated by the tenebrous Lord of the Underground, comes from? OK, it fully belongs to the Greek and Babylonian mythologies. The idea is at least 4,000 year old. But that does not explain what it is.

 In truth, it’s very simple, and that causal relationship reveals the hierarchy of emotions within Homo Sapiens. One speaks of the “Dark Side” because one does not like to look inside at what is lurking down there. A fortiori one does not like to talk about that Dark Side. 

 Why such reluctance? First, man is a social animal, and the social group holds together from love. It’s a bit like the nucleus of an atom held by the strong force. The strong force in human groups is love. It is needed, or there would not be a social group. (At a far distance, love does not reach anymore, thus huge social groups cannot be held by love, except if the state manufactures a form of love which carries far, and that is how nations hold together.)

 Understanding promotes love, whereas hiding one’s true brainwork promotes the opposite, misunderstanding, hence conflict. So what is in full sight is appeasing, whereas the ambush from the dark, just the opposite.

 Another reason to eschew the Dark Side is that, man is anywhere, and always, born out of love. [See the note on the errors of Christianism.]

 How does love come first? Simple. Nearly all and any baby, anywhere, and always, is loved, for quite a long period. Years. The first years, the ones during which one gets imprinted. Without enough love from enough people around the baby, the baby would certainly die. The same holds for young children. 

 Human children brought up by wolves prove the point. Certainly they would have been devoured, had some wolves not been overwhelmed by love (that wolves become more loving at some point during their massively fluctuating hormonal existence is a case in point; even in wolves, love can overwhelm all; human beings do not have such huge hormonal fluctuations and are more permanently loving).

 So love comes first. It is the base layer, emotionally. Vice comes first as a transgression (later it can become a habit, in individuals or a culture in countries, something some Germans try to mask by accusing Hitler of all the vices old style German culture infused him with).

 The Dark Side is thus condemned to be a second order effect. But, in some cases, it is the only ensemble of behaviors and knowledge that will provide with a solution (an obvious reference: the Bible, when the Chosen People comes onto the previous occupants of the Promised Land, and has to eradicate them, to occupy it in turn; this is the scheme reproduced throughout the (ex) British empire, allowing to eradicate indigenes from a godly portion of the Earth, hence the importance of the Bible throughout the Brutish thing).



 Nietzsche talked about the “Will to Power”. Why would this be? Why a “Will”? Does one talk about a “Will to Thirst”, a “Will to Hunger”? (OK, a “Will to Sex” exists among those who purchase aphrodisiacs, but that is a recent perversion, with no evolutionary meaning.)

 So is there a “Will to Love”? Most of the time, and more prominently, not at all. When love is there, it is overwhelming. One does NOT need to will it. A normal parent does not will to love her child. The parent just loves. Love is fundamentally an hormonal state. The strongest love is not something one decides to engage in. One can decide to love, true, but this is a secondary, weaker form.

 Nietzsche is correct that searching for power is a conscious decision, something one wills. It’s not as natural as love.

 Wolf packs are led by alpha couples: other animals in the pack are not just subservient, they just don’t get to eat first, and the best parts. They also don’t have sex. They are subservient, otherwise they will be attacked with lethal force.

 However, primates are not wolves. Primates are less on a war footing than wolves. They don’t need to live in a fascist state with absolute rule all the time, as wolves do. In primates, although sex is the object of conflict and impacted by hierarchy, (most of) the whole group reproduces. Thus not only primates do not need to be leaders, but they can perfectly reproduce without brimming with the utmost domineering characteristics. Thus primates do not reproduce domineering characteristics in an overwhelming manner. They also reproduce other sorts of manners.

 In wolves, those who reproduce have been selected, by the struggle for power, to be particularly domineering. So baby wolves tend to have the power drive genetically engineered, because only the dominant ones reproduce. Only domination to death reproduces. Wolves are born as topmost domination machines.

 Baby primates are not genetically pre-selected for so much domination, since non domineering members of the group also genetically contribute. 

 However some primate species need leaders. Why? Because they have evolved to live in primate hell, namely the savannah park, where trees stand among grass, as if they had been planted in a park by a divine gardener (most of Africa was endowed with that landscape, in combination with a web of narrow forest gallery where water and predators lurked). 

 The savannah park was, historically speaking, ten million years ago, no place for primates. Primates evolved in the trees, in the age of dinosaurs, from ancestors we probably have in common with squirrels. In the forest, monkeys have few competent enemies. After primates left the equatorial trees, and their huge juicy fruits (up to 50 kilograms), though, primates became dependent upon sources of fresh water. Moreover, primates were the object of gustative desire of a magnificent panoply of carnivores, from dogs, to many species of hyenas, giant cheetahs, leopards, lions, and saber tooth cats, let alone giant carnivorous baboons, boars, and bears. 

 Primates, to be present in the savannah, had to develop military psychobiology. It was a necessity, not an option. Primate sociobiology evolved into the sociobiology of armies. That is blatant when one observes baboons in the wild, as I had the good fortune to do as a child. Baboons need water once a day, so they have to organize a military expedition to get to the water hole, everyday. Stealth does not work. What works is military organization, and terror in the heart of all and any potential enemy.

 A baboon army on the march is a terrifying spectacle of sound and fury. They shake trees. They bark furiously in unison. Lactating females and their children are inside the formation. In front, demonic big males flashing their eyelids and giant canines, brimming with the threatening insanity of their obvious will to tear into whoever or whatever would dare stand in their way, proceed irresistibly towards their objective. Lion prides rise, and decide to go somewhere else sniff the grass. Leopards disappear in the darkest bushes.

 Armies function because they are the many acting as one: “E Pluribus, Unum“. Forming an army allows to constitute a super beast, with just one mind (that of the leader) and the total mass of the individuals which compose it (total mass matters: in combats between lions and hyenas, the group with the largest total mass generally wins).

 That primate army is endowed with the spirit of the leader. That leader has to be domineering enough to be accepted as the mind of all, and combative enough to look towards combat, when there is no choice. And that leader has to pretend to love combat enough to make the group it leads appear dangerously insane to third parties (thus making way, as needed, the way baboons have to do it, to exist).

 To become a leader, one has to fight, to get to that position which has obvious advantages. This has the interest that not only fighters get selected to lead, and lead into combat, as needed, but the very process of selection develop the leaders into ever more aggressive minds. Evolution found the trick that if the groups were led by individuals more aggressive that the common members of the groups, the groups would battle better, and how to develop a process to increase the combativity of the leaders. 

 So here is the picture: primate groups in the savannah can exist if and only if they are large enough, bound by love. While at the same time, primate groups need to be led by particularly aggressive individuals, capable of leading the group into combat, and making other animals believe that the groups they constitute are the most dangerous thing on earth.

 Thus savannah dwelling primate species have developed, had to develop, a psychobiology which favors the “Will To Power”. Primates are rendered more ferocious by undergoing the power struggle to reach power, and that is obtained only after “willing” it. “Willing it” transmogrifies soft individuals in the loving groups into the hard edge tyrants needed for the victory of the group.

 Some scientists have determined that most of the large animals’ mass, for millions of years, was made of lion sized carnivores (as lions can take down a giraffe and survive on rabits). It’s no more the case now, thanks to the great primate offensive for savannah park supremacy. The war between monkeys and lions has ended with the victory of the monkeys, thanks to the militarized fascism of the latter, as needed.

 By the way, this may be why Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, from his ferocious debate performance: the voting primates perceived in him a greater warrior, the product of a greater Will To Power, promising a harder edge to solve the problems the country confronts, and that too “cool” an attitude of the seducer in chief, with his huge smile, cannot address.

 Let’s recapitulate: love is a necessity, a fundamental imprinting. Ferocious leadership is obtained in a contrived way, through the constructive “Will to Power”.

 But what of the cases when combat is not enough? Say the enemy has been defeated. But now the enemy needs to be eradicated, because there is not enough food to go around, or simply because not eradicating today, means being eradicated tomorrow. Just as chimps do in the valley over there. 

 Genocide of his own species has been, historically and evolutionary speaking, one of the characteristics of the genus Homo. Genocide is what the most domineering hominids have had to do, and did, for millions of years.

 Is the “Will To Power” the answer to impose eradication? No. It is more oriented towards combat. The “Will to Power” wants to overpower, not massacre. The “Will To Power” is about exerting power on others. Will To Power needs the continuation of others to be exerted. And indeed, although baboons kill baboons in power struggles, sometimes (their canines are like small daggers), power struggles among baboons do not result in extermination in the famed chimpanzee-human style.



 Thus the interest of the Will To Cruelty. The Will To Cruelty is what motivates the ultimate, all too human activity, genocide.

 Genocide: when man becomes like the legendary god of Abraham, ready to want the worst one can possibly imagine, and turning it into a religion (what is worse than asking a parent to kill his child, out of love for one’s superior, as the Abrahamic god does with Abraham?)

 Omitting the presence of the Will To Cruelty is one of the greatest failures of conventional humanism. It is also a failure of standard economics, and, in particular of the free market fanatics. And a failure of all of those who deify some of their superiors. All human beings have potentially Pluto inside. But those who have the greatest power in their hands have fewer checks left to restrain them, and thus are more inclined to transgress into vice. Thus, admiring leaders is fraught with ethical peril. Leaders, threatened by temptation, ought to be viewed with suspicion.

The only transgression left to those who have most power, the only challenge left, is to cultivate the Will to Cruelty, so they do. It attracts them irresistibly. So they informed their academic servants that it would be best never to evoke the subject.

 Indeed, some of these observations are not really new. Sade was first.

 That grotesque cruelty motivated leaders all too much was de Sade’s main point. They were not keen to hear this, all the more since the People was listening carefully, at least in France. This is why king Louis XVI, and the dictators Robespierre and Napoleon kept Sade in jail for decades. Sade was saying that Robespierre and Napoleon were… sadistic brutes motivated by inflicting pain, they had to be, that is why people like them did what they did… and sadistic brutes they, indeed, were!

 Funny how many busts of Napoleon there are, with rabid Napoleonophiles on their knees lauding that cruel monster, considering most of what he did was to bust the great revolution for human rights, in general, and the republic, in particular, besides ravaging Europe, all the way to Moscow, while destroying his great European army, and killing, among others, millions of Frenchmen… Do they admire the cruelty? The arbitrary assassinations? Keeping Sade in jail?

 Why is genocide so central in the evolution of hominids? Because hominids represented, for millions of years, the ultimate power, and had to use their ultimate power on that ultimate power to keep humanity in check. Only terminal force can master terminal force.

 Left to themselves on (parts of) South Georgia island, reindeer devastated the ecology to the point their population, after booming, having run out of vegetables and lichen to eat, starved, and crashed by up to 90% (in parts).

 But it does not work this way with human beings. Human beings, just like rats, are sociable, and help each other, when their populations are at sustainable densities. Beyond that, the worst enemy of man becomes other men, and there were plenty of thousands of centuries to select for human beings who could get the job of culling of other hominids done. Actually, they self-selected. Not only human beings have an inclination, a will, to cruelty, but they selected themselves this way, because that was most advantageous, evolutionary speaking. So the cruel ones reproduced, and the sweet ones did not. A consequence of this has been the (semi-demented) love for tribalism and nationalism (with major inconveniences such as Nazism, and now neutralized in modern times by team sports).

 The Will To Cruelty, ultimately, protects an optimal version of the planetary ecology. It is timely to remember this, as the greatest attack against the ecology is proceeding ever more. Logically, and evolutionarily speaking, it is only a matter of time before cruelty comes to the rescue of the biosphere.


 Patrice Ayme


 Note on some fundamental errors of Christianism: Christianism made a big deal of love, as if Christ invented it. Well love is clearly a necessary pre-condition to human life. The fact that Christ had such an unloving relationship with his own father, should not lead us astray about the necessity of that pre-condition.

 Thus Judeo-Christianism was wrong with its theory of original sin! Men are not born bad, quite the opposite: they evolve that way. Such an egregious error can only have been committed deliberately. The manipulators of the Dark Side probably felt that “original sin” made common people feel bad about themselves, thus weakened their resolve. Moreover, if man was born bad, the leading plutocratic miscreants were excused to do whatever nasty stuff they wanted, since they were born that way! 

 Of course Christianism was not chosen by the Latter Days Tyrants of Rome because it was right, but, precisely, because it was wrong.

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15 Responses to “WILL TO VICE.”

  1. Geo Says:

    Really wonderful to read. Awesome in brilliance, anecdote, illustration. You’ve really hit your stride. Bravo!


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Geo! Such compliments are as much fuel for future essays… All the more since I was not too sure about that one being digestible enough… All the more since it crossed many lines of conventional decency and good taste…


  2. DuJuan Ross Says:

    Power can be used in a self-edifying exemplary manner. However,using personal power to exploit the inferiority of others simply for vain aggrandizement is POWER-OVER. Nietzsche’s “Wille zu Macht” fails to see the distinction.


  3. Alexi Helligar Says:

    Wow! Very insightful essay, Patrice! I appreciate your affirmation of automatic Love as the default state.

    DuJuan, I think Patrice’s essay does a very good job at describing how “Will to Power” serves the social group and how that same power metastasises into cruelty against one own social peers and genocide against other social groups.

    This essay is a big change for Patrice, as he seems to be allowing that the genocide of say Nazi Germany may have had a practical dimension. It also suggest some of the particular depravities of supremely successful cult of power are ultimately forms of entertainment, of which the Roman Colosseum was a visible expression.

    It is important to look at these dark elements of our psyche so as to not to be seduced into their practice. These are the often hidden tools that religions and plutocrats exercise to manipulate their acolytes. They wield these dark arts often standing behind a rhetoric of Love.


  4. DuJuan Ross Says:

    Odd you should mention Nazis…Goethe and Oskar Schindler possessed a ‘Will To Power”, the fruition of either of whom bore little similitude to the other, ultimately.


    • Alexi Helligar Says:

      DuJuan, what I think you are touching upon is that Love is a Power a la the strong nuclear force. I think the essay clearly (and correctly) sets Love outside the realm of will. In the essay, Love is depicted as a default state from which the emergence of Society is made possible. The “Will to Power” is a movement away from the default state in the manner of how a plane defies gravity while using it at the same time.


      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        DuJuan: Indeed, as Alexi says, “Will To Power” has positive aspects. Monkeys would literally not have gone from the trees to invade the savanna without it. The analogy that Alexi makes with a plane taking off is also excellent.

        Alexi: Thanks for the compliments, I very much appreciate. I was not too sure that the essay was not thoroughly indigest, so it’s reassuring to know it’s getting a positive reception (I never get enough of those!) I have always approved of …Nietzsche’ Wille Zu Macht, and I agree that it dominates in many areas of culture (say Christianity). Although I always held that Nietzsche and some of his commenters (Camus, etc.) went overboard by trying to apply it to anything. As you put it, love is the default state.


  5. multumnonmulta Says:

    POWER is that resource that can be transformed in other resources in the absence of markets.

    Could it be that Napoleon was looking for a way out of a recession, just like others after him have been documented doing? In other words, war may not be a matter of pathology as much as Malthusian arithmetic. That it can degenerate in excess of one kind or another is less understood, especially at a time when Iran is front and center of the new-neocon agenda.

    Patrice, capitalism shows no signs of revival on its own, so old tricks come in handy. Since you seem so interested in religious analogies, don’t you find that democracy rhymes with Christianity?

    I’m so …ing happy our alpha-male in chief is selectively taking on the tyrants of the world. Religiously happy as in enlightened, but don’t ask for his decision criteria, he’s not supposed to make sense to us, we are patriotically required to submit…



    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Napoleon was bad, but the (Prime Ministers) Pitts in England were indeed the Pitts… Napoleon is a long, very long subject. By the time he attacked Russia he had lost his genius, completely. OK, he may have had to attack Russia… However, his army, the European revolutionary army, was devastated by Typhus, but he criminally persisted.

      In any case there was much of the Corsican bandit in him. He had many personalities, and then many fates. it’s a mystery (to me) that Nelson won over the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar. Had that not happened… And so on. An admiration for Napoleon is inexcusable. he wasted a beautiful revolution, and set it back by two centuries in some ways…

      Iran, Iraq, Syria: the French are supporting with weapons the insurrection in the latter, apparently driving Turkey nuts: it’s a complicated world, as it was under Napoleon. The USA has still to be completely kicked out of Iraq 9which it patriols with 11,000 State goons and even drones!

      Capitalism is a bit like air: we can’t avoid it. What is wrong is clear. What to do first is clear: put a financial transaction tax (as Srkozy wants to do), outlaw most derivatives, break up the big banks in banks small enough to fail, prosecute the outlaws. And so on. Then frac reserve will have to be made transparent, etc…


  6. Money Does Not Care « Some of Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts Says:

    […] many obsessions. And Will to Power and plain old Curiosity are also important. And so is also the Will to Vice (for a demonstration of that, have a close look at Afghanistan). In particular, pathological […]


  7. coldwarbaby Says:

    A very eloquent, well written and informative treatise Patrice. I find it very complimentary to something I recently posted here: http://my.firedoglake.com/coldwarbaby/2012/07/06/the-genetics-of-tyranny-psychopathy-parasites-and-totalitarianism/#comment-57

    I invite your opinion.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Coldwarbaby: Thank you for your appreciation, and I will look at your work ASAP, but that will not happen today, because I cannot fo anything intellectual today, or, rather, anything to do with reading and writing, being, literally, on the run through the real wilderness!


      • Richard William Posner Says:

        Thank you. I look forward to it.

        Please forgive the nickname. It’s attached to my WordPress account and was the easiest way to leave a comment.

        I generally try, when posting either blogs or comments, to use my actual name; Richard William Posner.

        I have developed a certain distaste for the anonymity so many people hide behind in the virtual world.


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Dear Richard: I agree with you about the distate for anonymity. The anonymity is part of a general mood of irresponsibility which infuses not just the Internet, but lots of contemporary life, especially in places such as Silicon Valley: people are all smiles and banalities, but all these trivialities finally often lead to trivial tech, like facebook hacking through by email (to give company to linkedin, I guess…). Good tech is CERN.
          In any case, IMHO, when people start to act to afraid and too irresponsible, they are inimical to democracy…


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Dear Richard: I am unfortunately still very squeezed timewise. Or maybe it’s a good sign. I looked all too rapidly through your article. My own belief, long asserted in various essays (probably more than 500 by now) is that psychopathy is not an accident, but a consequence of the genus Homo’s dominant position. Basically, someone has to kill man, to prevent irreversible ecological damage, and it won’t be lions that will do it, so it has to be man.
          So I am even more cynical than Christianism.
          I know I will not make too many friends with that perspective. But it actually rests on solid science: at some point there were 14 species of hominids living simultanenously in East Africa alone. All died, but one.
          I will need to read what you said more at leisure. But as the concluding cartoon had it in your essay, looked at it another way, psychopathy is Gaia’s friend.
          This being said, i agree we can do better now. And we ought to.


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