What’s so special about us?

Julian Summerhayes
3 min readOct 15, 2021


“Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.”
Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality

Right about now, I should be living, if not the best years of my life, at least comfortably.

But I’m not.

In fact, I’m the most disturbed and unsettled I’ve ever been by dint of my growing awareness of the Anthropocene.

Put it another way, I don’t like what we, the whole of humanity (some more than others), have done to this Planet. Don't worry, I’m not off the meat hook of my opprobrium.

The thing is, you can dress it up any which way you like, and bring great brushstrokes of importance to all the things we’ve done for humanity, but in the process we’ve rubbed out so much of the natural world, killing, I’d guess, trillions of other sentient beings along the way. And it doesn’t matter where you look our mark is everywhere to be seen.

What does this say about us?



Of course, the counter-balance to this, at least so far as our fellow humans are concerned (again, not all of them), is we can be creative, loving, kind and compassionate.

But if you look at the scales, the harm more than outweighs the good.

I realise I’m being very simplistic — almost childlike — but I’ve never been persuaded of our importance, different or separate to our non-human relatives who we should see, but we don’t, as no different to us, save that we have this overdeveloped brain that seems to create chaos out of order just to have something purposeful to do.

At this stage, I’m reminded of that amazing essay by the late Peter Zapffe, The Last Messiah:

Whatever happened? A breach in the very unity of life, a biological paradox, an abomination, an absurdity, an exaggeration of disastrous nature. Life had overshot its target, blowing itself apart. A species had been armed too heavily — by spirit made almighty without, but equally a menace to its own well-being. Its weapon was like a sword without hilt or plate, a two-edged blade cleaving everything; but he who is to wield it must grasp the blade and turn the one edge toward himself. (my emphasis added)

And to think this was written in 1933 long before we had all the prognostications on climate change and loss of biodiversity.

This message of mine — more a reflection I feel — is not one that ordinarily crosses our bows or fills the airwaves or (I’d guess) gets taught at school. No, it would be far too depressing and you’d be accused of being nihilistic, depressed or uncaring. I leave to one side how many people you’re likely to offend who still see the human race (actually man, in a lot of cases!) as the Crown of Creation. The Crown of bloody Destruction more like.

In the end, like so many of these slightly aphoristic pieces of mine, there’s nowhere to go with it. You might come out in sympathy but you’re just as likely to stay quiet on the whole subject and let the tides of the Anthropocene carry us to the bring of annihilation, along with everything else.

Take care.

— Julian



Julian Summerhayes

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” ― Dogen