|2008 & Older
Love of the World
Animals After All
The Human Community
I once attended a course in which the facilitator was attempting to draw distinctions between people and the way animals perceive and respond to the world.
Notice that I have already drawn a line between people and animals, as if people are not animals. It has always fascinated me that some people get extremely upset when I speak about how people are just animals too.
These people would argue that humans are special, that we have a soul, superior intelligence and superior reasoning skills. They tell me we have a conscience and therefore the ability to consciously choose right from wrong. Then, they tell me the proof of this hypothesis is that animals dont go to heaven.
Even more, some have suggested to me that all of the animals and all of the plants were placed on the earth to serve the needs of humans. Theyll tell you that its blasphemy to compare humans to animals.
I become puzzled when I am confronted with that response. It represents the concept that the survival of humans is more important than the survival of any other animal, or the survival of plants and microorganisms. It proves to me that people, really are, animals after all.
Im going to assume, for the sake of the discussion of this book, that you accept the idea that the primary intrinsic human and/or biological function, in whatever context, is survival. And, that survival is the result of domination and submission.
What does it take to survive?
2) Propagation of the species
When I first began to consider the domains of survival, I created a list of all of the things I thought were necessary in order to survive. It went on page after page after page. After a while, I whittled down the list to these two things.
I believe that propagation of the species is fairly self-evident, although it sometimes does get folded into the domain called territory. Thats why Im going to concentrate on territory.
If you look in a dictionary, the definition of territory generally comes down to something like this: the area to which one is assigned or sovereign.
Thats a simple definition with a great deal of room for speculation. The first things I want to ask are, who assigned the areas to whom, and what determines sovereignty? And, furthermore, why would anyone assign an area, or accept the assignation in the first place?
Now it begins to get complex.
I was raised in the hills of Scotts Valley, California, a small town outside of Santa Cruz in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We moved there when I was 6 years old from East Palo Alto, California. East Palo Alto was just across the bridge from Menlo Park, an affluent part of town, and what has become one of the elite areas of the Silicon Valley.
My parents decided to move to the Santa Cruz area in order to protect their children, all 6 of us, from the violence and potential danger that was occurring in our neighborhood and the schools during the period when Martin Luther King was beginning to lead civil rights marches and demonstrations. East Palo Alto turned into a ghetto within 6 months of our moving. In fact, where we lived, 2752 Hunter Street, became known as little Nairobi. Ill talk about that more in the next chapter: Territory: A Study in Prejudice.
All of that was to express one idea: we moved to Santa Cruz because my parents deemed it necessary in order for us to survive. The territory that had been established and which was safe, as well as a community that was bound together by common values and ideals was no longer safe, and had to be abandoned to forces willing to take it from us.
It did not matter whether or not it was right or wrong, good or bad. It was not important whether my parents understood the issues of black people, or if they understood the needs of people like my parents. What was important was survival and perpetuation of the family, at all costs. My parents were dominated by their perception of danger, as well as their perception of safety. They had their own image of what a good environment was for raising their children. It was more important to them than any other consideration.
In what must have been the 5th grade, 10 or 11 years old, I talked to a friend who lived in an exclusive area of town that did not allow Jews or minorities to reside there. I asked her, What if the black people came and protested where you live?.
She looked at me and answered very quickly, Oh, its alright, we have a gate.
I asked, What if they decided to go in anyway?
She said, That couldnt happen, we have a fence.
So, I asked, What if they broke down the fence?
She replied, Oh, they would never do that.
Yeah, but what if they did? I asked.
And that was the end of the conversation.
In her mind, that fence defined her world, the territory she lived in, and to her, it was invulnerable. To go through the gate at her communitys entrance represented acceptance, safety and social standing. It was their territory. They made the rules. They considered themselves sovereign. And, she trusted her community to take a stand and make rules to defend her and keep her safe. She took it for granted, and did not question those who trained her to follow the community leaders.
These leaders, after all, were elected, and, because of that competition, it was determined that they were competent in providing the elements necessary for survival and protection of the territory.
Inside of their homes inside of their community, they had their own individual territories and sovereignty. Some people might call this personal space. Their homes might also be called shelter.
Lets review. So far, Ive said that we have territories, and inside those territories, we also have sovereignty and varying degrees of territories and sovereignty or personal space. We also secure shelter in order to survive. And, we have leaders of communities to define community and territorial policies and procedures. These leaders are also charged with setting the territorial boundaries, and representing and defending their territory to and from leaders of other territories.
Well take this one step further. In the civilized human world, we also have courts to settle disputes. We have legislators and national leaders to set the tone and create the laws of the tribes or communities. They are also charged with the responsibility of defending the nation, or community as a whole.
Humans use and create tools well. Simple examples of this would be guns, bombs, farm production equipment, drugs, computers and automobiles. Without these inventions, humans would be less dominant, less able to impose rules over those who disagree, and unable to support populations which would otherwise have grown beyond the ability of their environment to support them.
The ability of humans to do all of this is empowered by communications. Years before the advancement of communication technologies, technology developed very slowly. In addition, local conflicts between peoples were contained to and resolved by the local communities. The ability to alter or resolve conflicts often becomes related to the ability to dominate and/or control communications.
Animals After All: The Non-Human Community
These days, humans hardly notice the animal world, except when its inconvenient or for sport and recreation, and for simple beauty. We see birds in the yard or at feeders and think theyre pretty. We see animals at the zoo and think theyre interesting. I know many people who view dogs and cats as living toys. We rarely think of other animals as beings.
As a teenager, I used to go to the mountains with a few friends once or twice a month for the weekends. Wed go to a property in the Trinity National Forest near Weaverville, California, where a friends father had purchased a 99 year lease on some property and 2 cabins that were on the tract.
One night, we were outside star-gazing and spinning, and, after becoming dizzy a few too many times, we decided to go back into the cabin. So, we walked down the path, and just as we were to go around the corner to the front door, we looked up, and there was a 6 foot tall bear about 20 feet away.
We werent all that surprised to see the bear around the property. After all, it was rare that people were around, so there were no smells to delineate territorial boundaries. We didnt mind knowing they were around so long as we didnt have to see them, and we didnt feel a threat.
But, we were afraid. So was the bear. We all stood there and looked at each other until my friends decided to run. They flinched and I grabbed them both. I said, continue to look the bear straight in the eye, do not turn your backs, and walk very slowly, one by one to the door, making little noise, and go into the cabin. Meanwhile, being more experienced with animals in the wild, I stood and held my ground. I was not comfortable with being in that position, but I knew someone had to show a defensive use of force by displaying the willingness to stand up to the bear, and, at the same time, show respect for the bears power and willingness to use force.
What I knew most of all was that bear did not want a confrontation with me any more than I wanted one with him. So long as the bear felt no aggression or weakness from us, he would not harm us. And, I was prepared to run as fast as I possibly could. I knew the bear would most likely do the same.
Once my friends had gotten inside the house, I very slowly turned my body and began to move toward the cabin door myself. I never took my eyes off the bear. After I took a few steps, the bear did exactly the same thing. Fortunately, he went in the opposite direction.
The fact is, animals arent all that different than human beings. They have the same requirements as humans. Animals live by the law of survival of the fittest, domination and submission in its simplest form.
Territories are established in a number of basic ways. Scents, typically urine, mark the boundaries of the territory for most animals. For some, territory is marked by rubbing their bodies against landmarks, such as trees.
Many animals actually occupy the same territories. They survive by staying together in packs. Should another animal pose a danger or even a potential threat, a number of decisions must be made. Many times, the decisions are based on the kind of food they eat.
In human cultures, packs are called gangs, mobs, vigilantes, protestors, organizations and associations, political parties. They have names like the Black Panthers, Hamas, Hezbollah... organizations that were created out of needs people had for food and security that wasn't being met by the established "authorities" and governments.