Once an Animal, Always an Animal
A LAYMAN’S UNDERSTATEMENT OF MAN FOR HIS OVERSTATEMENT ON REASON
According to Aristotle, human beings are by nature political animals, because nature, which does nothing in vain, has equipped them with speech, which enables them to communicate moral concepts such as justice, which are formative of the household and city-state (ref. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy). The great thinker added that the city-state exists by nature, because it comes to be out of the more primitive natural associations and it serves as their end, because it alone attains self-sufficiency. Besides, the city-state is naturally prior to the individuals, because individuals cannot perform their natural functions apart from the city-state, since they are not self-sufficient. We have come a long way, most obvious from the transformation of city-states to nation-state in contemporary age. Yet the gist remains the same; we only have to interchange the terms.
|Text from The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell|
If we examine this rhetoric, we are apparently the most intelligent animal—with a mental faculty that is supposedly more developed than the most sophisticated mainframe. However, there is a caveat here in the use of the word ‘animal’. No matter how much progress we make, we are going to stay as animals; and by this word, we mean the rawness and irrationality that describe the animal world in general and its body including the mentality, in particular. We have only set a benchmark of humanness from the best level that, as human beings, we have done in the name of intelligence. We are not concern here about the difference between man and animal or the moral considerability of animals. Still, no other animal asserts to be the most intelligent animals, except us. We would substantiate the claim by the presence of consciousness in us and the lack of moral consideration in other animals. In some bland academic circles, we are but a product of communicative rationality, which is a spin-off of Aristotle’s definition of a political animal. The theorists posit that human rationality is the result of successful communication and certain kinds of reason are an integral part of communication itself. However, several scientists have contested that human beings are not the only animal having the faculty of consciousness. Check the PDF from the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. (http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf).
The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.
— Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
On one hand is the similarity between human and animal; and on the other, it is our brutality that beats the most horrible beast without trouble. The latter becomes clear when we look into some of the global issues that have made headlines in the last few weeks. A couple of days ago, three fundamentalists shot down ten news people of a French weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and two police officers in Paris. The reason: this newspaper known for its irreverence and nonconformity had published a cartoon lampooning the shooters’ religion. People die of every possible reason and the most ridiculous of it is a cause pertaining to a bloody faith. Religion is such a disgrace. Liberals would argue with such obviousness such as religion is good but its followers are bad; however, these people and their supposedly wiser smartasses have created religion in the first place. Precisely, religion is a blot on humanity and its followers, a symbol of Nonsense. And personally in Manipur, our race has been reeling under identity crisis for quite a long time, partially because of an adopted religion which has become a way of life in its existence for three centuries. Religion is an animal way of saying we need to be controlled or else we will let loose our true colours just like our brethren in the wild—it is no different from those bankers at the Wall Street and all, admitting they need regulation otherwise they would continue robbing, though with regulation or not, the amassing of wealth ever continues unabated.
|Text from Existentialism Is a Humanism|
However, we are ever ready to accentuate our intellect while downplaying our animal instincts. We have made economic progress, we have built civilisations and we have built the foundations to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Only the murderers’ gods know how. We do know our existence is relative that we can only compare our achievements to the wild animals. In the Paris shootout, the miserable humanness is evident in how people are laying bare the issues of freedom of expression and censorship—by all accounts, these are sophisticated human qualities, though it is different how we have managed to develop and maintain them in our evolutionary narratives. Yet nobody would deny the beastly nature of men that were unleashed on that fateful day in the name of a great human creation: religion.
This might be harsh judging from one incident. For that matter, a group of fanatics killed 132 schoolchildren in Pakistan last month. If not for religion, there are issues like land and territory that bring out the beast in us. For instance, sample the mindless violence every day, which has ripped apart West Asia, many parts of India, several countries of Africa and beyond. History is also littered with horrific incidents of mass killings and murders; fortunately, the so-called reason has somehow reduced the frequency of such barbarism. Alternatively, in a Freudian world, the realitätsprinzip or the reality principle is the saviour: this ability allows the mind to evaluate any given condition and take apparently necessary decision; but then, this is not absolute, regardless of its long-term implications against the short-term pleasure principle.
|Text from Human, All Too Human|
Closer home, in our hometown, it is even more difficult to separate reason from insanity, as is evident from the use of brute force by both the state and non-state actors. For some issues like those of administration, we have seen elsewhere in other parts of the world that discussion is a preferred method of making a compromise or finding a solution, but it is entirely different in this part of the world, where recently a national survey has mentioned that the highest percentage of urban poor lives. According to preliminary figures of the national socio-economic and caste census in first week of January 2015, Manipur has the maximum number of urban poor (43.06%) in India. The prevailing culture of violence and direct confrontation has changed the mentality of an entire generation for all the wrong reasons. It does not take the experts in humanities to show how poverty and crime, which further enhances the bestiality, are taking a toll on us day in and day out. Territorial issues, first, and then natural aggression: this is too much to expect from an animal.
In fact, animals are better in many ways than a human is. Perhaps, the view of man as the bridge between animals and gods would make sense etymologically. It will be a cliché but no beast hunts once its stomach is full, which is diametrically opposite from our greed and obnoxious want for possession. Researchers have studied that many animals have cognitive faculties, power of sense and other certain abilities far more developed and better than those of human beings. Our obsession with reason, intelligence, language and scientific achievements has blinded us to see nothing beyond the naked human eyes. Then, obviously, the highly artificial evolutionary tree that we have made it on our own while we occupy the top position has very little meaning. Undoubtedly, as experts have been pointing out, several traits have defined the human world: we are intelligent; we have humour; we know the appreciation of beauty; we understand self-consciousness; we possess the awareness of death; we understand time; we can make connections between words; we can ponder on the meanings of life; we own free moral agency; and we have the capacity for wisdom, and so on. In the end, just as duality is the law of nature, all of these qualities are relative, amongst us as well as in comparison with the animal world.
Our greatest achievement has been primarily the economic progress by virtue of a complex set of factors; and others are secondary. Under the illusion of progress and growth, or even under those of human exploration in wide-ranging issues from politics to science, we might often overlook the animals in us. Yet it is hypocritical to kill and mourn ourselves. Nobody knows it better than the Manipuris who would pursue the most violent protests against armed brutality of the state, while simultaneously coughing up large amount of illegal money for employment in the police service. It might be oversimplification to put the people under one umbrella. For that matter, we have several factors, from religion to race, which help us in hating each other. Our self-interest is binding us together in families and societies; or as economic theorists put forward, the desire to be cooperative and to improve our environment makes us a lesser beast. No more, no less.
From the www
The Moral Status of Animals
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/
10 Human Attributes Found in Animals
The 10 Smartest Animals
NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/24628983/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/smartest-animals