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We Are All Animals

I’ve been working on a theory. It is SURE to piss a lot of people off, but I am learning YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY, and MOST PEOPLE LIKE TO USE THE INTERNET TO ATTACK, NOT TO CONNECT. This second fact makes me very sad, but also plays into my theory: WE ARE ALL ANIMALS FIRST, PEOPLE SECOND.

I’ve heard it called a variety of things: human nature, primitive instinct, the “natural self.” We are taught it is a good thing to be in touch with these feelings as sometimes they warn us when there is danger, and other times they drive us to compete, feed ourselves and survive if not thrive. I want to make it clear I AM NOT SAYING THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THESE INTERNAL DRIVES. Oy! What I am saying is that I recently became aware how much they drive every single person every single day, and it was an unsettling feeling.

As some of you know, I live in New York City. Here it is easy to be a witness to human nature – you just have to step out the door and keep your eyes open: people pushing and shoving one another to get down the sidewalk, annoyed by those moving too slow, is a common enough site. Aggressive competition is the name of the game here and that is the ONE instinct in particular I want to talk about. The aggression. The hatred of “the other who is different.” The fear of the one that stands out. The desire to claim and keep ones piece of hard won territory.

I feel like this aggression has become endemic. I see it everywhere these days: from neighbors to strangers, in TV, films and theater productions, and ALL OVER politics, the news and media outlets. Everywhere the story under the story seems to be the same: this person is angry; that one is afraid; this group wants something and that group feels they will crush another person before letting them have it.

We live in a civilized country, but you wouldn’t know it from the way so many people talk to one another, and if you suggest anything different, anything like “hey lets talk it out, lets try to understand one another” the tendency, even in the most civilized of company, is to mock, ridicule, slander or humiliate – some form of aggressive competition designed for one person to win and the other to lose.

So why TRY to be civil? Why not just accept that we are ALL ANIMALS, operating from our basest nature and go from there? I have been seriously thinking of switching my worldview radically. “We are all the same at heart and need understanding” isn’t really doing a hell of a lot for me, so I’ve been thinking about coming from the viewpoint that everyone is like my dog: scared and snappy when he doesn’t feel protected; defensive around those larger or different from him; unable to survive without love and companionship; territorial of his space and with a strong instinct to pee where other’s have peed before.

I think I am going to go with this because it makes more sense. All the neurosis and emotional drives pale in comparison to animal instinct, and as a society I think we are being driven to extremes for some reason. It’s as if nothing less than high adrenaline, high risk, base entertainment and social interaction will do to satisfy.

What’s the matter with us? Are we missing passion or some kind of satisfaction in our lives? Is that why we attack one another?

Sometimes, if I didn’t believe in the possibility of good that entertainment, social discourse and the Internet can do, I would unplug from it all, because these days it’s beginning to feel like a relationship with an abusive lover. Crazy, dramatic, and soul sapping. But I do believe. I believe that writing this right now is bridging some kind of gap with somebody, somewhere who feels as confused and sad about the world they are looking at today as I do.

So what is the solution other than going back to what is usually labeled the “idiotic liberal socialist dogma” of loving acceptance and care for all? CAN we as a society find a middle ground where we accept our aggressive nature without indulging it? Does it have to be all one way or another?

What I find myself falling back into is politeness. Learned social behavior that allows me to walk certain territory with some grace. Saying “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” allows me to feel good about the way I navigate my life.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people practiced some of these old fashioned basics? Maybe it’s like putting a coat on a dog (for SOME people) but at least the dog still has to take the trouble to unzip before he can pee on you.

I would like to invite you to share your feelings about my theory, but please, try not to prove me right.


6 thoughts on “We Are All Animals

  1. I’ve LONG believed that we are basically animals with (sometimes) higher intelligence. We are. Scientifically we belong to the animal kingdom. This isn’t going to change. But, we have art, music, literature, theater, etc. And these things open up our minds and hearts to more than just basic instincts to thrash the living crap out of anyone in the way of us getting what we want. I want to be more than just my ID and Ego. I have accepted that the first instinct is usually self-preservation, and self-importance. It is only with higher understanding (and not everyone has a dominant SuperEgo/Conscience) that compassion, empathy, and communion can occur. Keep in mind, those who never get there aren’t really at fault for that either. We just need to overcome nature and calm down and be gentle with each other. I recently found out that White Tigers, which are popular in Zoos, Animal Reserves, Vegas, etc. aren’t allowed to live in Nature. If a mother tiger gives birth to a white tiger, she’ll kill it because it’s different and won’t live long (normally eaten by another tiger) in the wild either (they can be cross-eyed, smaller, and tend to occur from inbreeding). That’s the part that of our nature we have difficulty curbing… the animal nature to destroy what is different or in our way. Because we destroy what we fear. /Armchair psychologist off.

  2. I think we spend *so* much time trying to connect on the internet, we forget how to “be” and “connect” in PERSON, and do so with kindness and peacefulness. I struggle with this myself… I said the other day I was going to say “hi” and smile at every person I encountered that day. Then I got in my car. Then I entered the 10 Freeway heading toward the 405 Freeway interchange. GOD HELP ME and THOSE OTHER DRIVERS. If my words could elicit actual events in an instant, it would have been a great massacre with weeping and bashing of teeth. I meditate, I practice yoga, I exercise daily, and yet the struggle to make the peaceful, milder, calmer, kinder choice evades me time and time again. One of my mentors calls it the reptilian brain… that old evolutionary part of the brain that we had billions of years ago that IS more animalistic and lashes out like a cornered dog… She believes that it snaps and lashes out when we are exhausted and stressed, and that is for sure. But she also believes that the more we try to tame and calm it, we can succeed. Just keep up the OHMs lady… if you do that. If not… maybe start. LOL We’ll log our progress! LOL

  3. I hope you were sort of joking or thinking aloud when you said you are thinking about changing your worldview radically. The bit about politeness, I get totally, and I wonder where it’s gone. I’m far from perfect but for the most part I am polite and considerate of others – and often am reminded of just how different that makes me. Something as simple as letting someone who has turned their blinker on merge in front of you on the highway – it just isn’t done very much anymore. Why?

    I sometimes want to remind people that saying “please” and “thank you” actually don’t cost anything. Not to be sappy, but to some extent they pay you back. I truly believe the mood you put out becomes the mood you end up with internally. I used to be an angry person, but I learned the hard way that when I lost my temper, the person I ended up hurting the most usually was me.

    Ultimately, I think you (we) need to continue to have hope in most people’s basic decency, because if we give up on that, why bother?

  4. Very much enjoyed your writing and thoughts, Cady, (not to mention the photo!!) and was glad to see your remarks about manners. I’m especially aware of the power of manners, of etiquette, the cornerstones of achieving GRACE, my goal for this chapter of my life, better late than never, right? Manners, or grace informs everyone you meet that you see and care about them, amazing!!

    So although there are millions of people suffering in their own cranky, aggressive, “I’ll steal and abuse to get more for me” mire, there is almost nothing I can do to affect change in them…EXCEPT to offer them a little GRACE, a genuine smile or greeting when they least expect it, throws them way the hell off course, in the best way!

    I have a friend who says her objective each day is to SEE, to acknowledge and brighten each person she encounters throughout the day, the grocery clerk and the parking attendant (I’m in L.A!) She does it like a game, “Oh you are so kind!” “oh look at that shirt, I love it!” …she “flirts” with everyone, thereby flirting with life. It sounds corny (and a little “L.A.”!) but when I”m with her I see the power of her technique, how she leaves a “Sweet smell” wherever she goes, and thereby has great fun throughout her day. And the thing is, when you give a stranger a little “mitzva” like that, your energy is contageous, you’ve created something good and you haven’t even had to struggle!

    I can’t say I have mastered this technique to the degree that she has, but when I remember to try it, I feel better, no matter how anyone else is affected. Try it, let me know how it works for you!

  5. Please don’t be so polite, I really love the Cady that is willing to bash some animal in the face for behaving like a rude human being! You can still find a few good ones, just kick the rest to the side of the road, and if you must, say “sorry”. Just to be polite πŸ™‚ xx

  6. Terrific/thought provoking as always, Cady. If people feel different, hey, that’s their business. It’s funny you talk about switching your worldview. Yesterday my loyal to a fault sister who’s been dealt a really shitty hand by some so called friends of her’s recently, turned to me and said “maybe I should just switch things up and become a bitch to everyone. It would be easier than feeling crapped on by people I was nothing but nice to.” She said it jokingly but I could tell part of her was considering it. And I don’t blame her. I guess thanks to our parents her and I are both the “old fashioned” type, we say please, we send thank you notes for gifts, we’re shy but polite, we know how to behave in front of our grandparents and we visit relatives we dislike without starting trouble. I never considered it a gift that we were raised that way but maybe I ought to. As far as reaching out to the confused, I just graduated, so consider me a freaked out basketcase, & consider you someone with a POV and general outlook on stuff that’s nothing but admired/respected by moi. I hope that counts as a gap-bridging. Also, random but do you watch 30 Rock? If so more props to you, but if not, there’s a recent episode called “The Tuxedo Begins” that I think rings scarily true with your blog here. A quote from Liz Lemon, “Am I the last one in the city still following the rules of being a person?” Check out the episode if you can, Liz temporarily changes her “world view” and it’s freaking hilarious, good reason to remain plugged in as any. Sending hugs. πŸ™‚

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