The Human Animal
I originally wrote this article in the hidden backwaters of my much forgotten WordPress account back in 2008 or so, maybe even 2007, I honestly forget now. I was - haha - inspired by the little picture here above and, in typical oddball writer fashion I began making stories and thinking about this strange image...It was doing the rounds for Facebook of whatever served as a medium for the rounds being done in at the time. I, of course, entered 'Social Commentary' mode and began to take off on mental wanderings.
It is a well known fact that writers are arrogant little buggers almost universally. We all think we are the best, that our insight into current events hold The Answer. That our social commentary, as represented in our latest work, is going to affect The Big Change! We all feel like M. Night Shyamalan's character in The Lady in the Water as we go off on a writing binge, knowing we are going to do it this time. We might even be right. However, how we see, perceive and think about things, often in a very non-linear and very much odd fashion, that makes us writers isn't it? We start by observing, commenting and then making out our own little sequences of explanation.
As I said, I wrote this long ago but am resurrecting it now because it's just as valid now as it was then. Also I like the photo, the fake chimera looks cute and slightly pensive. Finally, I was thinking about some things related to this very topic earlier on today, let's see whether I add them on or not...
How can we humans say we are not animals? Can one look around the world today and observe animals on the TV, in zoos or, for the more fortunate, in the wild and not say we are so unlike them? Are humans, as it has often been said, just a thin veneer of civilisation away from the 'roughened beast' and not as superior as we like to believe?
It seems human civilisation, in many ways, exists simply to prove the animals wrong, societal norms and rules, laws; they exist to try and hide what we secretly know and are deeply afraid of. If the rules went away, if the consequences were no longer there, if no-one were to judge....
Watch the wars and the conflict around the world and, when we break it down, it can be seen as the ago old act of marking and expanding (or defending) one's territory, of establishing dominance, ensuring feeding and breeding rights. War is one example, fame is another, business is yet another. In all three we will tread upon, 'defeat and cause to retreat (tail a-tween legs) our rivals and detractors in order to gain the dominance and success we think is ours by right. And what is this success but achievement of the most deeply programmed of biological goals? Look at how the young and not so young idolise the famous, the successful and why? Because success is shown as someone who has good genes to pass on, will mother or father good children and bring success and therefore status to anyone who is closely involved with them. So are we so unlike animals, the wolves and lions and other pack animals who have their Alphas who the others challenge or fawn upon, even emulate? Can we say we are so different or even better than them? Or are we actually worse?
Think of the war stories we keep hearing about. When Order breaks down, brutality, survival and killing become all too common, think of the stories we always hear about. The rapes, the murders, the doing as thou wilt which becomes all too common. The Rule of The Gun makes men believe they are above other laws, that they are the law and so can do as they please. Every major war or extended conflict which has taken place ever has been witness to this behaviour. Every single one.
Add to all this that we humans have something 'other' which animals apparently lack, the seat of conscience and reasoning. Some call it the soul, the ki, the yin and yang, the anima; many different names for the same thing; we have a knowledge and understanding of the concept of the future and our place in it, of our own mortality. We know what the possible consequences of our actions may be. We can choose to do or not to do a thing. An animal, we are told, behaves according to it's nature, a human can overcome or alter their nature. We have the moral judgement, no matter the creed or person who drives or inspires that creed, of what is right and what is wrong. We can, in effect be better than animals - so many say - by doing that which gives us no immediate or noticeable benefit, improves our status not at all and may even cost us more than it gains for us. All the religious doctrines of the world touch upon the same thing, have the same laws, to do well by others has it's own reward. That to take advantage of or damage others is not right, and we know this down to the very depth of our souls. We seem to have a hardwired desire to help those less fortunate than us, to preserve and protect our own children or even the children of others and to revile the murderer, the rapist, the selfish boor who takes but does not give back and so...animals do that too don't they? Maybe they do it in a more bestial, less 'human' way but your dog will protect you if you're attacked, all baboons protect their young, elephants have been observed mourning their dead. These instincts are built in deep in order to allow groups of the same species to live and to survive together. But we break the rules, many of us consider ourselves only above the herd and will disadvantage many without blinking.