The Duke and I, on being human

Corporate grit. That’s how I think of the myriad little things that used to irritate me when I worked in corporate world.

One of those bits of grit was the term, ‘human resources’.  And in that I had an unlikely ally – the Duke of Edinburgh.

I was at an event for developing young Commonwealth leaders – as a mere observer – when he railed against this reduction of human beings to the status of nuts and bolts. Components in the great, grinding machines of industry and commerce.

I’m not sure he’d agree with most of my other views, but we are as one on that – humans are not mere ‘resources’.

It’s surely the simplest way to dehumanise humans, to deny them any agency or will. To regard them as mere tools. To ‘other’ them, to use a more recent piece of grit-speak.

Ask any dictator. The masses when homogenous are more easily controlled. An ocean of creatures, ebbing and flowing as one, lured by their great moon, their leader.

Kept in line by fear of a carefully cultivated ‘other’, a focus for aggression, grievances and hate. A stimulus to action.

In my last post I declared that the terrorist who bombed the Manchester Arena wasn’t human – and was rightly pulled up for my wishful inaccuracy.

Since then I’ve been thinking about what makes us human.

In the next few hundred words I can’t begin to reach a conclusion. Philosophers, scientists, anthropologists and  – yes – archaeologists, have written volumes on the subject.

But I’d still like to ponder that basic question: what is it, to be human?

What makes us different from other animals?

Or are we?

Wandering down the alleyways of our species and all its works is a complicated undertaking. No maps are adequate, no path ever seems to lead to a concrete destination.

And I warn you, this isn’t my usual style. It’s rambling, somewhat incoherent, long – and yet… I have to do it. Otherwise, these thoughts will keep on rumbling round my head. So I’m inflicting them on you.

Here goes.

Starting close to home, with the work of my in-house archaeologist.

Investigating the Deep Root of Human Behaviour is the title of his new five-year project, researching a change in stone tool technology that occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago.

A change that was only possible because humans had evolved brains that could imagine. Its practical application being the ability to invent.

We often debate ‘what is human behaviour’ as we eat our evening meal.  Sad, but true. And over the years the change to the answers has been dramatic.

Stone age pick from South Luangwa, Zambia

First the criterion was tool use.

Humans alone use tools.

Uniqueness sorted.

Except  that other creatures do use tools.

Chimps use stones to break open nuts.

Dolphins put sponges on their beaks to protect them when fishing on rocky seabeds.

Georgetown professor Janet Mann discovered that dolphin mothers hand down to their calves the use of sponge tools, such as the one being used by this dolphin, for foraging

So the goal posts moved …

Humans are unique because they don’t just use tools, they make them, requiring forward planning. The ability to envisage something that doesn’t yet exist.

So what’s unique about that? Lots of creatures make tools.

Like the Mandrill at Chester Zoo who stripped a twig and used it to clean its toenails.

OK, so humans live in society, they cooperate.

Well, guess what, plenty of animals cooperate.

Right. Well, what about symbols? Humans, uniquely, use symbols.

Ha! Gotcha!

Erm….

Apes – and even pigeons – have been taught symbols and can use them too.

Sigh.

What about rituals – non-practical routine behaviour? Finally, a truly human…

Nope. Take a look at this:

These chimps are throwing rocks at a tree, leaving them in heaps in a hollow trunk. Why? No apparent reason. Possibly the sound they make. Chimps have been known to bang on hollow trunks to make loud noises, like gorillas do in King Kong films 😉 Possibly for territorial dominance reasons. But why this? It’s a mystery. So far. Credit: ‘Ritual’ stone throwing by chimps in West Africa, article in Nature, Kühl et al 2016.

And so it goes on.

The gist of this is, there aren’t many basic functions, in terms of what our brains can do, that separate us from other animals. It’s more a matter of degree than kind.

But what about our physiology?

Well, that’s different.

Perhaps it’s simply a stroke of luck (or misfortune, depending on your viewpoint) that by evolving opposable thumbs (and having voice boxes that enabled complex sound-making) we became top species. For the time being…

Some believe we have a soul, a spirit independent of our biology. That’s what makes us different.

I wanted to believe that one, but recently heard an interview with an eminent scientist. She took LSD as a college student, had an out-of-body experience. Ever since, she’s been trying to find out if such an experience was ‘real’.  She’s no longer young – and as yet the results are negative.

But what about emotions? Aren’t they uniquely human?

Erm, no. Animals apparently feel fear and even, arguably, happiness.

What about abstract thought, then?

No, I’m sorry, this is getting beyond me.

I want to take a break from rational thought.

Turn to that man.

That bomber.

That human being.

What made him able to do what he did?

Most people will agree if I say it was an evil act.

Today I read a very clear analysis, by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, of what’s behind this kind of act. At the risk of wearing out your tolerance, here are some key extracts:

… Salafi jihadism, the core beliefs of Isis and al-Qaeda, developed out of Wahhabism, and has carried out its prejudices to what it sees as a logical and violent conclusion. Shia and Yazidis were not just heretics in the eyes of this movement, which was a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, but sub-humans who should be massacred or enslaved. Any woman who transgressed against repressive social mores should be savagely punished. Faith should be demonstrated by a public death of the believer, slaughtering the unbelievers, be they the 86 Shia children being evacuated by bus from their homes in Syria on 15 April or the butchery of young fans at a pop concert in Manchester on Monday night.

[…]

One of the great cultural changes in the world over the last 50 years is the way in which Wahhabism, once an isolated splinter group, has become an increasingly dominant influence over mainstream Sunni Islam, thanks to Saudi financial support.

[…]

[Western] Leaders want to have a political and commercial alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil states. They have never held them to account for supporting a repressive and sectarian ideology which is likely to have inspired Salman Abedi. Details of his motivation may be lacking, but the target of his attack and the method of his death is classic al-Qaeda and Isis in its mode of operating.

The reason these two demonic organisations were able to survive and expand despite the billions – perhaps trillions – of dollars spent on “the war on terror” after 9/11 is that those responsible for stopping them deliberately missed the target and have gone on doing so. After 9/11, President Bush portrayed Iraq not Saudi Arabia as the enemy; in a re-run of history President Trump is ludicrously accusing Iran of being the source of most terrorism in the Middle East. This is the real 9/11 conspiracy, beloved of crackpots worldwide, but there is nothing secret about the deliberate blindness of British and American governments to the source of the beliefs that has inspired the massacres of which Manchester is only the latest – and certainly not the last – horrible example

Well, that’s how – but ‘why’, on an individual level, is still the question I can’t answer.

Why is this branch of Islam – why are these men – so intolerant? Why do they need to control and repress in this joyless, savage way?

Illogical, un-natural – it doesn’t seem to have an evolutionary benefit.

And I see it as evil.

Is evil a truly defining human trait? One that really distinguishes us from other animals?

And if so, why are we capable of it?

I wanted to do more with this post. Too much, I know.

To ponder why so many humans are manipulated – or managed, if you prefer the less emotive term – by so few. In business, in politics, in religion.

And radicalised by zealots.

I wanted to talk about artificial intelligence and the ‘evolution’ of robots. The machines we are told look set to assume our human role in this world.

But who don’t – yet – have emotions. Who don’t – cannot? – have souls.

Watching the clip in this report, of a robot approaching the Provisional IRA bombing that destroyed Manchester’s Arndale Centre in 1996, my husband said he felt fearful on behalf of the robot and sad it blew up.

I want to ask, do we, as humans, feel too much? Or not enough?

Are we too empathetic or too apathetic? Too hate-filled, too evil? Too blind?

Are those our existence-threatening weaknesses, our truly human qualities?

Some won’t notice the insidious usurping of the human role by robots. They will welcome the convenient, efficient, calmly-caring pseudo-humans that look after them or do their housework.

But what happens when humans – as a species – become redundant?

Or, to put it more coldly, what happens when we humans cease to be – resources?

Will we as a species, survive?

And, ultimately, what does it matter?

And to whom?

I’m heading for the hills.


 

The great question has been solved again, I am told. Now the behaviour that is uniquely human (for how long?) is the ability to make tools with tools. Though crows come close with string and twigs. Don’t watch Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ after thinking about this.

This entry was posted in Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Duke and I, on being human

  1. Thel says:

    Whew! That’s a lot to take in! A few thoughts popped to mind as I read this blog.
    John Lennon’s song “Imagine'” came to mind. The book “The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey. It was a thought-provoking novel but I do not wish to see the film, too graphic!

    Also I wonder about human intention, whether for good or bad. We seek out new drugs to rid the Earth of disease. Then the same drugs are overused to our detriment. We introduce one species to get rid of another, which in turn becomes an invasive. Herbicides, pesticides, not letting nature take its course… humans are manipulators. Control, control.

    Loved the chimps and the rocks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh. I’m a dreamer. And I know I’m not the only one. But will the world ever live as one? I doubt it but you never know – if we keep on dreaming.
      I know what you mean about control. Perhaps that’s our biggest failing… wanting to control. But perhaps we can’t be human without that. I kind of wish I hadn’t started this one. Thanks for ploughing through it and responding thoughtfully. I haven’t read that book, should I?

      Like

      • The says:

        It’s sci-fi, which I don’t normally read, with good character development and interesting moral conundrums. You might look into it. It takes place in England.

        Do you remember before Human Resources we had Personnel Management? Much more straight forward

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Heide says:

    I echo your distaste for the term “human resources,” as if people are something to be strip-mined or sold for parts. That’s why I’ve adopted the homonym “human racehorses.” No one at work seems to have caught on yet to my small act of sibilant subversion.

    As for that other matter, of what makes us human … well, I’ve gone around and around on this topic as well, and my conclusion is three-fold. First, our hands. Not just our opposable thumbs — but the sheer dexterity and mobility of our hands, and the amount of brain space that is devoted to manipulating them (if you’ll pardon the Latin pun). Second, our adaptability. We’re one of the few creatures on Earth that can not only adapt to a variety of climates and diets, but who can also reshape those varied environments to better meet our needs. And in honorary third place I’d say our inability to learn from our past mistakes is also uniquely human. Sadly, that last one may well do our species in.

    Whether we’ll eventually become redundant or even extinct is up for debate, I suppose. But will it matter? Only to us … and we’ll be gone.

    Sigh. Save me a spot in the hills, will you please?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can have the next log cabin along 🙂 We’ll have some good conversations over our log fires and foraged mushroom and rabbit stews!
      I think your last point is very apposite – failure to learn, as groups or individuals. I have been told that although they don;t have the opposable thumbs gorillas have extremely dexterous hands – as well as beautiful eyes. The more I learn about what other animals can do, the less I feel we have any ‘superiority’ other than those thumbs!”

      Liked by 1 person

    • PS: I LOVE human racehorses!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jilldennison says:

    Dear Mary … now you are walking in my realm … the dark side where there are far more questions than answers, where the questions keep you awake at night. What you have written is absolutely wonderful in that the words are obviously flowing from heart/mind to fingertips/keyboard. I have read this twice, and love the spontaneity, the heartfelt emotion. This is writing as a catharsis … I do it often, as you know. My comments will be equally rambling, as I am jotting responses as I read on my second pass.

    I would love to sit at the dinner table with you and the professor … I think many lively and thought-provoking conversations take place there! If I ever make it across the pond …

    Being somewhat of a rebel, I have never liked the term “human resources” and have come across only one ‘human resource’ manager whom I respected. The rest would place us in boxes whereby we are to behave as the rest in the box do – automatons, if you will. Individuality is NOT valued in the corporate world today.

    You know what I think makes humans unique? Their capacity for violence and cruelty without cause. Animals will attack when they feel threatened or need food. Humans will attack because they don’t like the colour of another human’s skin. They will attack because they do not like another person’s thoughts or beliefs. That and the opposable thumb. (I keep saying that if my kitties had opposable thumbs, they could roll my cigarettes for me. 🙂 ) Animals are as capable of love as humans … just watch a mother of any species with her young. Animals are better judges of character … the old saying that if dogs like you, you must be a good person is actually true! (Happily for me, when I go on my morning walks, all the dogs want to befriend me!) And animals have keen instincts far beyond what we humans do. Watch the dog or cat when a storm is moving in, watch their ears perk before you ever hear the first rumble of thunder. My kitties know when somebody is going to knock on the door a full 10 seconds before the knock comes. Humans are unique, yes, but not necessarily in a good way … and though many say humans are superior … I do not believe it for a second.

    “‘why’, on an individual level, is still the question I can’t answer.” Possibly a place in history? Convinced by leaders that what they are doing is just, is what Allah wants, they see themselves as martyrs in the history books of the 22nd century. Maybe … just a thought.

    My friend … you have made me think tonight. And my heart is with you, as I sense you are suffering a bit of angst, understandably. I wish I could help. Please forgive my rather lengthy comment … a door opened, and as you know, I sometimes go on … and on … and on … when I am inspired. I am sending many hugs to you. Feel happy again soon, okay? ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a joy to have three thoughtful replies already! I assumed I would be met with bemused blankness. And never apologise for long responses – you’ve seen mine to you, right? 😉 I have to say, you have been seeing a me lately that is walking in an unusually bright light of day with birds and butterflies and trees and blue skies – but I do tend to wander in the darkness quite a lot – and share the paths I get lost on! One of the reasons I have been taking time with Mother Nature is that things have become so depressing, so frustrating, so disturbing in politics. I read you and Gronda and feel I need to find some balancing joy in the world. That and I’m writing four seasonal modern, ecologically-biased folk/fairy tales. 🙂
      I totally agree about mindless and/or motive-less violence. I was talking to the prof about exactly this yesterday. I asked him if chimps do it – and though they can be violent to the pint of killing other chimps, it seems it’s usually a result of territorial threat – which in turn is about resources. So often humans are just plain nasty, evil and murderous for no reason. What a terrible indictment of us – that we pride ourselves on our ability to reason and yet some of us reject it totally. That rejection, then, is anti-humanity, which I suppose makes them less than human? Sigh. It goes forever on.
      I can see martyrdom as a motive (I was brought up Catholic, my school hymn had the memorable line ‘as thy mangled body lieth crushed beneath the oaken door, through that door thy soul is passing to the bright and distant shore’ – our patron saint was a martyr who was crushed to death for her religion, Margaret Clitherow, a butcher’s wife in York) but I still can’t understand the reasoning, the ‘why’ of the cult behind it, the draining of joy and light from our world, the cruelty, to women in particular.
      The meal is ready when you are, the wine open, the gentle jazz on in the background… when’s your plane arriving?
      Thanks for being there, I’ll be back to normal soon – whatever that is 😉 Hugs, Mx

      Like

      • jilldennison says:

        I certainly understand the need for a walk in nature after reading mine and Gronda’s posts. In fact, this evening, after doing research for a post I’m writing, I was so angry that I was being snappish and felt that I simply could not sit at this computer for another minute, so I went for a 4-mile walk which did help. Not enough, but some. These days, even if one decides to take a break from it all, it is almost impossible. Turn on television? There it all is. Pick up a newspaper? There it is again. First thing we see when we boot up the computer in the morning … the ugly faces of the idiots, whether in the UK or the US. I wonder if business has picked up in the last year for mental health service providers? It wouldn’t surprise me.

        I am intrigued by your writing of “four seasonal modern, ecologically-biased folk/fairy tales.” Let me know when they are published! Sounds like a fun project, though I’m not quite sure what an ecologically based fairy tale is … I’m envisioning Little Red Riding Hood picking up litter on the way to plant trees at grandmother’s house … 🙂

        Another thought on the humans vs animals topic … humans are the only species that takes more than they need. Animals will kill for food, but they do not stockpile more food than they can possibly eat. Whereas humans amass billions of dollars, not to mention antiques, jewelry, and tons of just … stuff … for no reason that I can see. But as to understanding why humans are as they are … I suspect people like us will never understand why people kill because a person is black, or LGBT or Muslim. The more I ponder it, the further I am from an answer.

        I am always here, my friend. You can email me anytime … I know times are tough and we all need a bit of encouragement from time to time. You have helped me, brought a smile to my face, more than once! Many hugs!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • ‘When they are published’ – ha! But I will try… They are like fairy tales only in that they allow for magic and mystery and feature a Mother Nature figure who is not an Earth Mother type but gorgeous and vain and shape-shifting and whose moods affect the world in odd ways. I have so far an Old Mistress Winter curating snowflakes in Tierra del Fuego and four Summer Curators in Africa worrying about the Zambezi river flow at Victoria Falls… The ‘message’ is about climate change and so on, hopefully not too blatantly to be preachy (Thel has read the latter for me and is keeping me on my toes in that respect) – so it ties in to what you are saying about us as humans taking more than we need.. Everything is connected 🙂
          What will we do if the nightmare that is current politics ever does get sorted out? What will you write about then? I admit I have begun to avoid news… not all the time but I have rationed myself to weekly or so excursion to Twitter it is just too bad a vortex.
          Hugs to you and happy wondering, keep up your strength – and I’ll raise a glass to you tonight!

          Liked by 1 person

          • jilldennison says:

            Well, your stories sound wonderful and I want to read them. So … if you publish them, I will buy them. If you don’t, I still want to read them, though I would rather buy them so you would get royalties! (I worked as a CPA for a publishing company for many years, and did all the royalty accounting). And yes, my friend, at one point or another, everything is connected.

            As to what I will write about if the political mess ever gets straightened out? I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we both know that will not happen in my lifetime. Blogger-buddy Roger (writes as woebegonebuthopeful) is trying to convince me to spend less time on politics and try my hand at humour, but I don’t seem to be able to do it … at least thus far it has not been successful. Perhaps I am just not a humorous person … H tells me I have forgotten how to be … or perhaps this is just my niche, what I was meant to do. I cannot read a news article without thinking of what I might write about it, or what more I need to know. Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could step back from it, but I think it is a passion … or perhaps an obsession. If Trump gets impeached, there will still be Pence, Sessions, DeVos, the EPA … and if it gets boring here, I can always look across the pond at Brexit! 🙂

            And I shall raise a glass to you tonight also! And I shall wave across that big pond to let you know I’m thinking of you! You are a cherished friend … hugs!!!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    I, like you, dislike the term Human Resources with a passion – good old DofE! Although I don’t quite follow how you link your insight into Jihad with robots.

    It is interesting what you write about America, Britain etc deliberately missing their targets on terrorism by pin pinpointing Iraq and Iran, and cosying up to Saudi. As my radical son used to say (but doesn’t any longer), it’s all about oil!

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I said, rambling and incoherent! But there is a link, it’s all about what is humanity? What is it to be human? Are robots ever going to be what we would call human? And the nearer they become to being human, the more they become the resource of the controlling ‘few’ and humans become redundant. And the controlling few include the Jihadi leaders. It made sense in my mind, but though the ingredients were there, and I mixed them up, I couldn’t quite roll the pastry out properly to fill the pie tin – it kept falling to pieces and needed patching!
      Oil. Yes, it may be the death of us…It has already been the death of so many.
      Thanks for tackling this Rosemary, and for responding! My faith in humanity is being restored. A little.

      Like

  5. MELewis says:

    I fear I can add nothing to this debate – it leaves me feeling lost and lonely. Empathy, I would have said, but clearly we are able to deviate so far as to make that not viable as any kind of scientific definition. As for ‘human’ resources I must say that in my time in the corporate world, some (not all) of those who worked there were the least people oriented of all. Leading wags in France to refer to them as ‘ressources inhumaines’.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Don’t feel lonely – come round to dinner with me and Jill 😉 and anyone else who’d like to join us! I think we’d either solve the world’s problems or talk ourselves into an abyss of despair. Like you I had once thought empathy – but if that bomber was a human then how could he do what he did if he had empathy? And surely not all the suicide bombers are suffering from personality disorders? Or are they? Sigh. Circles in spirals, wheels within wheels.
    I like the ressources inhumaines – did you see Heide’s human racehorses? Ha, a good one to sneak by unsuspecting inhuman resource folks.
    Thanks for attempting to wade through my verbal flailing around.

    Like

  7. I have read this post three times now…it has given me so much to think over.

    When HR – I too loved the human racehorses – took over from Personnel the emphasis changed from employee welfare to employee exploitation. I cannot tell you how much I came to loathe reading the documents produced by HR people trying to justify unfair treatment which led to resignations, or, in the case of the more hardy employee, sackings through no fault of the employee but seen as necessary to the development of the company employing them.

    Humans…are we really so different from other animals? We just seem to be able to take animal behaviour to extremes.

    The article on Wahhabism struck a chord for me. For various reasons my father was interested in Yugoslavia under Tito and so I kept rather more vaguely in touch with events there after Tito`s death.
    One of the changes was the introduction of Wahhabi led mosques…building funded and imams provided by Saudi Arabia….and the resulting sense of identity was, in my view, one of the main underlying causes in the break up and civil war in what had once been a relatively stable country.

    I am not a Green but roll on the day when we don`t use fossil fuels and Saudi Arabia goes down the drain. Only then will the U.S. and, in its train, the U.K. stop supporting the country that has funded ISIS and brought misery to millions.

    Thank you again for such a thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As usual you hit the nail right on the head – yes, the change to HR was more than just a form of words. Personnel had at least been about the semblance of ‘care’ even if for managerial ends. HR coincided, did it not, with the crest of the wave of outsourcing and facilities management? I would imagine they are symbiotic.
      Are we different from other animals? Sigh… I really don’t know any more. As you can see, the more I think about it, the less I know. But I do wonder if we will find any other creatures that do the equivalent of motiveless killing. I await the news in New Scientist…
      I’ve emailed you – that’s a fascinating comment on Yugoslavia, in more ways than one. I had no idea about Wahhabism being exported/imported there..
      I just hope the oil replacement has been sorted out before we cheerfully wave goodbye to Saudi and all its works.
      I think we are shaping up for a really interesting supper club here….
      Everybody OK with Southport potted shrimps for starters? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Bill says:

    Fascinating and excellent post. You’ve covered a lot of ground. So much to discuss. I suppose self-consciousness has to be near the top on the list of things that make humans unique (although I know there are some who question whether that is uniquely human).

    Let me offer another thought, usually an unpopular one. Among the things that make us human are our capacities for and expressions of kindness, compassion and empathy. The senseless murder of these people is newsworthy because things like it are rare. And the evidence suggests that humans are becoming less violent over time, being far less violent today that in both the near and ancient past. Slaughtering people of different tribes/religions was once common and few would have found anything remarkable about it. Nowadays it is rare (relative to our population) and when it happens the condemnation is nearly universal. We’re still a messed up lot of course and we have a long ways to go, but it seems to me that (even though I’m writing just after yet another senseless brutal attack) we generally cooperate and get along pretty well under the circumstances.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bill and thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, I believe there have been animals (dredging memory – orang utans??) who seem to have a perception of self as evidenced by behaviour with mirrors.
      I am also remembering a deeply buried memory of a session on violence at a conference (Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies in Liverpool 2013 where I was merely an observer) – anthropologists talking about violence in human societies. Apparently in small hunter gatherer groups (before farming) violence was quite rare, usually caused by those old human standbys, sex and food – and because the groups were small and it was visible and audible there was a communal reason to ostracise the one causing it and stop the disruption of such things happening. Now there are many more people and thus the occasion of violence (setting aside wars) probably affects fewer people relatively. War between groups is (if I remember rightly) not normal in pre-farming/hunting and gathering type societies. There is, I am told, a Jane Goodall study of chimps in Tanzania where a group of male chimps started patrolling the boundary to their territory and then started knocking off the males of the neighbouring group – theory being their territory was being encroached on by human activity and diminished and thus they were running out of resources. Which is presumably why we lovely humans took to warfare too?
      Yes, condemnation is pretty widespread of today’s barbaric acts but still we do seem to go to war, don’t we? I am still confused and am resigning myself to it, mostly – and taking walks in the fresh air at regular intervals!

      Like

  9. seer1969 says:

    Gosh, talk about biting off more than’s chewable. You always seize the difficult subjects!
    So many questions, but the core one seems to be ‘what makes us human?’ from which the rest stem.
    There are, of course, many more examples of animal behaviour that illustrate similar proclivities to humans; there are birds who pick up bits of bread humans throw for them to eat, then use them as fishing aids, dangling on the surface and then snapping up the fish which comes to eat! If that doesn’t illistrate imagination, awareness of the other and planning I’m at a loss to know what would. Though humans do try constantly to cling to the belief they are special, it’s self-serving and, being always from a homocentric standpoint, often misses what it doesn’t understand since other species have their own. And clearly other mammals share more with us, the primates especially, just further back down Evolution Road.
    Our much vaunted ability to speak resulting in the term ‘dumb beasts’ ignores that speech is just one form of communication, and often obscures real communication with wasteful chatter. People constantly ‘talk’ on Facebook without ever communicating anything.
    A picture is worth a thousand words, and if a picture can be transmitted and ‘seen’ it would suffice as a substitute for verbal description. This is the way deep thinking occurs, not in words as if one is debating another, but in images of things, actions and effects, which I believe is how other species communicate; telepathically. Yet most humans would smile condescendingly at even the possibility of telepathy, having never experienced it. Those with companion animals know from experience the communication that exists between them, in most cases with the ‘dumb’ animal understanding our speech better than we understand their communication, whether it be body language, verbalising or telepathic; the slave learns the master’s language from necessity.
    As to what separates us from other species, perhaps it’s our psychopathy, a species that not only imagines itself special, but invents a god who created it to be special, and justifies destroying anything on the basis of right. Ultimately it’s about power and its misuse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aargh I know, nearly gave up totally on this one. Why do I start writing about things I don’t understand? It’s a very fair point and I really don’t know. Quite con-trary I suppose. And, like you, always thinking. And yes, I agree with what you say about communication of the non-verbal kind. I think I was humbly (from a position of a very little knowledge and that gained over dinner table conversations) trying to make the point that whenever we say ‘aha, this is what makes us superior humans human’ something comes along and proves us wrong. Which, though I may not have said it outright, I agree, suggests we may not be superior after all. I know you are a longstanding believer in our less than superior qualities and lately I have begun to agree with you more and more. I have, by the way, been writing ecological fable/fairy stories lately. My escapist way of coping with the world and some of the ‘humans’ in it. 😉

      Like

  10. Interesting. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

Thanks for reading, please comment if it struck a chord

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s