I read a book (whoa!) this summer called “The Naked Ape” by Desmond Morris. Now before you all criticize me, and rightly so, for wasting my time, I do take away the basic and surface level motif of his argument, which is that we are all basically naked apes that get dressed up and try to avoid the fact that we’re still animals.
For animals, our species has come pretty far. We managed to destroy over half of our natural environment and showcase ourselves doing so on cable television. We also were determined to do a lot of good stuff for each other instead of just living in caves and looking at fires all day — if I remember any of that good stuff I’ll let you know!
Yet, we tend to focus solely on ourselves as some sorts of “non-animals” that exist at the top of a contrived hierarchy. Speciesism, as I have written about in the past, describes this phenomenon, and it creates a weird discrepancy with our understanding of basic biology. Remember how we divide domains, kingdoms, phyla, classes and so on? We humans are a part of that taxonomic ranking too.
My point is to address how we use hierarchy to belittle others, by which I mean other people, animals, and environmental and natural processes. We use a hierarchy to demean other races, genders and even ages. In some ways that extends to how we create policies and laws to protect others from troubles that arise from being based on this system.
Take our politicians for example. Before I voted in the general election, I was sure to make some simple conditions for the people I voted for: they 1) want to address climate change and do “something,” and 2) want to reform public education.
It is amazing to see nationally how many politicians don’t want to address those things, and also how they beat around the bush on these issues. We’ve created a monetary system that helps denote this hierarchal system, and therefore the amount of currency indicates the values placed on where it lies. It almost entirely lies on issues that apply to us and not to the world we live in.
So what’s the big deal? Woe is me, because the world is a terrible place to be in?! No, but it is interesting to see how the human species have evolved so much in intelligence but so little in equality. You’d think an egalitarian utopia would be our goal, but it just isn’t.
After all, we are all just standing, chewing, walking and watching cable on a floating rock, in what is basically infinite space, and all of our actions and deeds are incredibly small and insignificant as our lives here are but sparks on a terribly long time line of randomly occurring events in a universe within universes which we cannot ever grasp. Remember, you’re a naked ape on a floating rock, but this idea should not scare you. It should empower you to remember that you’re part of anomaly in a much larger universe than you think, and even if your actions are unimportant, you still have this small flash of a moment called life where you can try not to be insignificant.
On that note, happy philosophizing!
Benjamin Sylvester is the president of the Drexel Animal Welfare Group. He can be contacted at [email protected]. “Mull On That” publishes biweekly.