Saturday, August 27, 2005

REACT: Animals vs. humans at London zoo.

AOL News (Aug. 27) decided that the lead window story of the day was the London zoo's new exhibit displaying humans in a natural setting. Newpapers all around gave at least a photo and caption to the event.

First of all, let me say that the zoo's mountainesque diorama does not look like a natural setting for humans for at least a million years -- with the possible exception of the outdoorsy camper types. Personally, I never understood the lure of spending eons to progress to our high human standard of living just to go out in the woods to act like a cave man. I prefer to camp out where a there is a bellhop to carry my luggage.

Of course, there are some reasons why modern young human creatures may find a brief visit to a secluded forest worth the mosquito bites. That, however, was not part of the London exhibition. Had it been, I think a trip to the zoo might have been more alluring. Now, I assure you I am only thinking of science and the fullest study of all aspects of human nature.

On the other hand, and despite my concern for complete scientific accuracy, I do hope that the humans on display are more discreet than elephants or water buffalo when they find it necessary to relieve themselves. Somehow, even the majesty of an elephant is compromised by the sudden and unexpected excretion of large amounts of digested vegetation.

The effect of the exhibit is seriously compromised since the human specimen are not naked, or even in some scanty shredded patch of garment with titillating glimpses -- like the costumes seen in those 1950s prehistoric movies featuring tall Scandinavian women and highly buffed Arian cavemen.

Rather, the British exhibits are wearing swim wear of sorts – sometimes with paper fig leaf appliqu├ęs of the type elementary school children make in art class. Of course, there is enough flesh to yearn for more on a couple of the specimens. The others would be better more conventionally attired. And, by the way, what mammal beside homo sapien has figured out that the right clothes can make an average body look sexy? Every homo knows that ... or is it sapien.

Unfortunately, the London creatures' attire of bathing suits and gym shoes (with socks, in some cases) undermine the “au natural” effect. They look more like a group of high libido young adults resting during a rafting trip down the Colorado River.

To enhance the effect, the humans ape apes -- crouching down and picking at each other. Not at all sure of the educational value of humans imitating apes. Their actions may be the weakest argument in my contention of human superiority.

In attempting to justify this … well … call it like it is … this cheap publicity stunt, zoo lady Polly Wills said that seeing people in such an environment “teaches the public that the human is just another animal.” Way no!! I think Polly needs a cracker.

I refuse to dishonor a few million generations of ancestrial evolution to place humans as “just another animal.” My great-to-the-127th-power grandfather did not drag himself out of the swamp by his stubby fins to have his progeny compared to the lackards who were too lazy to mount the evolutionary escalator.

One zoo guest, Tom Mahoney, bought into Polly’s perspective. He said that “lots of people think humans are above other animals … (this) kind of reminds us that we are not that special.” Maybe not you, my Neanderthal friend, but those of us who took sociology at a non-public school know we ARE very special. We are not “just another animal.” What more do you need to know than we humans do not defecate in public like that elephant.

Let me ask you, Tom … ever see a zebra cruising the Internet? You ever see a Jaguar driving one? We make clothes out of their skins, for goodness sake. You ever see a mink wearing a hairy human floor-length coat?

When given the chance, THEY eat us raw. We have evolved to know the culinary delight of cooking them with delicate herbs and spices at precisely the right temperature. And still, some cannot see the incomparable status difference.

They are known widely as “dumb animals.” Do we affix that appellation to huma … uh … bad example.

I understand that the members of PETA, and no few lonely old ladies, give parity to members of the animal kingdom. Their obsession with the lesser kingdoms is best handled by therapists – which is yet another thing the lowly animals never thought of. The only animals to see shrinks are those brought to human practitioners by … members of PETA and lonely old ladies.

I really do not want to open the entire spirituality debate – the human soul thing. Partially, because I think the case for human superiority of compelling without resorting to leaps of faith. But, I must remind you that “All dogs Go to Heaven” is just a cartoon. It is not theology.

Speaking of cartoons, we should never forget that the only animals that come close to our superior human level are cartoon characters. They are make believe creatures provided unnatural human skills for the amusement of our children. Name an animal that shows humantoons to the litter on Saturday morning.

Even after sharing millions of years of evolution, these poor creatures cannot come close to human talents and traits. Oh sure, there are a few things like Polly approximating human words without any comprehension of there meaning – referring here to a parrot, not Ms. Wills.

Dolphins and great apes can be trained to mimic language with a couple of instinctive synapse connections after intense training. But no dolphin has ever delivered a commencement speech, and no ape has ever written an alphabet.

Judging from the play the London zoo story is getting in the international press, I assume the British royal family has not done anything embarrassing lately … you know … like maybe Charles and Camilla being part of the exhibit. And now don’t going pointing to the royals in refutation of my “human superiority” argument. Remember, there has been a lot of inbreeding among that aristocracy.

If you do not think we humans (royals not withstanding) are leaps and bounds ahead in the race for evolutionary superiority, then flap your wings to the London zoo and see just how out of place humans (even silly ones) look in the animal domain. For my part, I am about to put on my leather shoes and suede jacket, and head out for some ground steer meat on a bun -- medium rare.

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