It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

Zarg has heard more than once that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and he came to me for clarification. No, I told him, dogs seldom eat other dogs. Indeed, I’ve seen many dogs both large and small in my lifetime, and some have looked quite ravenous. But I’ve never, ever seen a dog eat another dog. Which isn’t to say it never happens, just that it seems to be rare at best.

So what is this dog-eat-dog world to which they refer?

Well, substitute ‘dog’ for ‘human’ and you’ll take a step towards solving this conundrum. It’s a saying, and one that seems to be aimed at the naïf: at the teenager about to leave the nest, or the fresh young face in a wizened organisation. It says that, beyond the cosy confines of your immediate circle, people are cruel and competitive. Be warned: they will take advantage of you if you’re not as cruel and competitive as they are. So the youngster learns to be cruel and competitive and the dog-eat-dog world is recreated from generation to generation.

I explained all this to Zarg and he understood as well as any alien might be expected to understand such nonsense. On his world, which he has called Planet X for our convenience, young aliens are advised to treat strangers as friends, and to think of everyone in the wider community as a family member. This philosophy has persisted on Planet X for countless millennia, allowing Zarg’s people to progress to a stage he describes as ‘beyond technology’.

Could this work here on Earth? Do we even have the time to try it?

William Coffin

Dogs, not eating one another, by Anthony Mendez on Flickr.

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