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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Harvey

I’m an Animal, and So are You

Oftentimes, we forget that we are animals. That we are living, breathing specimens made out of the same blood that would make up any other creature on this blue planet. You and I are no different than the squirrel that roams in the high weeds of our front yard, or the countless flying bodies of flesh that go over our heads every day. No different than the lion that rules over their safari, or the gorilla that leads its tribe through the jungle.

Each animal, we say, has its habitat to which it thrives, a habitat to which it can operate in so that they may prosper and populate, to which they can survive. Just because we no longer live in caves or obtain food by the means of hunting and gathering does not mean we don’t have a habitat of our own. Just because we chop down the trees and bushes to which we would be able to collect the fruits for our labor does not mean we don’t have a habitat. We say that civilization is the lack of an existing savagery, of which they attributed to the animals that would once roam in the lands that are now populated by our species. That where our cities and towns are today somehow differ from when there would be entire wilderness built intrinsically just to provide for a specific part of the food chain. They don’t. Because we still use our towns, our cities, our properties, and our society for one thing and one thing only: to provide for a singular part of the food chain. To make sure that only one species is on top of this chain. And that’s humans.

So you see, civilization is our habitat. We say that civilization is the nihility of any unit of nature, but it’s just the same as when the shark is in its waters off the coast of Australia. It’s a place for us to thrive, to feed off of each other, to contest over who should get what to survive, such as what amount of money or power should be given to a certain person. We have put titles and theories onto things so that we can hide how animalistic we are, and to somehow prove that we transcend the boundaries of nature and operate on a much cleaner level than any other species on the planet.

But to try and prove that we are anything else than what we simply are is nonsensical.We are animals, and we always will be.

Although, what kind of animal are we? We are, as Harvard’s own Edward O. Wilson has stated, “eusocial apes”. What, therefore, are eusocial apes? Quite simply- any eusocial species is what is considered to be a group of animals that unite and work together to accomplish a higher form of life for the general population. One of the defining attributes of a eusocial species is their need to defend and preserve their species no matter the cost, and to lift the whole of a species up to a point where they can prosper and survive.

Although, while we are very much like animals such as ants, bees, or lions, we are beyond different from the rest of the eusocial species of the world. We have one thing that many eusocial animals do not have- and that’s individuality. We have our own thoughts, our own values, and insights. That is why, in the past, events like wars and revolutions have occured. Because even though, yes, we work to serve a specific thing or person, like how a bee works for its queen, we have our own moralities and ideas of what should be. Whether you believe these ideas to be right and wrong, that is up to who you define.

But with the privilege of individuality and having your own habitat to build comes the detriment of self-survival, and that’s when the idea of community comes into the fray of human history. Where families of ancient homosapians come together to form tribes, and from this they morphed into settlements, towns, cities, and eventually governments- thus we began to separate from the idea of being a part of nature and instead being a part of humanity. We believe so much that we are not animals that we have even waged a war on nature, putting gas emissions into the air, feeling as if because we are not animals, are not a part of nature- we can therefore control it. But if you have not been able to tell by recent events- we can’t control nature, but nature can control us. Ultimately, what we have done to the Earth is a result of our evolutionary and inherent predisposition to selfishness and competitiveness over self-interests like political ideology or social preferences that can prove disastrous for everyone as a whole. To off guard this we emphasize the attributes of compassion and respect throughout society. One such way that we have done this is through the creation and study of religion, and taking from the laws that we feel are defined by the being that created us to say that we must not hurt others, even if they hurt us, and that we must care for all even, and especially, if they have sinned. Furthermore, through the institutions and ideas of civilization, as the sociologist Steven Pinker assessed, we have managed to seduce our innate characteristic of savagery to the bare minimum- but that does not mean that it is non-existent. It very much does exist, and it can be seen everyday. It can be seen in how our politicians and foreign government go at each other like tigers in a den, or how a troubled mind will walk into a peaceful place and attempt to kill everyone like a hawk in a squirrels nest.

So continue to think of yourself as human, and as a personal individual, but never forget that you are an animal. You can change your personality, your identity, your sexuality- but you will always be bound to the one defining trait that exists in all animals. The trait of savagery, of selfishness, of competitiveness, but also of kindness, of humility, and of caring for others. A lion may hunt the innocent deer, but it does so to bring back food to its cubs. The kid may pull out a gun to steal from your pockets, but he only does so to help those he loves and to survive. This is not a justification, and this is not a good reason to do as such- but next time you go outside, disgusted by whatever you think you see, remember that you too are a part of it. You too, are a part of the chain. Because, ultimately, I am an animal, and so are you. So preserve us.

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