Sunday, November 17, 2013

Animal and Human Nature, The Western Conflict

Animal Nature

Humans' relations to animals and our participation in the world bring forward our innermost instinctual selves, the highest in the order of our biological senses and being and the core element of our consciousness. Traditional peoples around the world have incorporated this sense into their relationship with animals, as they see all animal species as having equal rights to life and a place on Earth.
The ones who live in contemporary cultures have largely disassociated themselves from their natural instinct for affiliation with other forms of life. The once sacred Earth Community that nurtures human life has become "outside", a place filled with malevolent natural forces that must be controlled or otherwise guarded against. Fear, control, and exploitation of the "outside" or the other as enemy is deeply embedded in the psychology of Western society. To this end, much of modern science and technology has been mobilized to guard against or to war against the other, be it a mountain, a forest people, a religion, or the world of insects. From ideas in books and film, through education, government, and science, the message and therefore the practical belief, has been one of fear and the need for domination and control of nature - its plants, animals, insects and even its microorganisms.
Even the word "beneficial" is a judgment call based on modern conditioning with regard to the natural world. We love our pets as long as they conform to deeply entrenched attitudes about animal nature. But usually we project upon animals the worst of who humans are. Anthropomorphic projections upon animals are reflected in everything from cartoons children view to commercials for the latest tennis shoes. Animals must serve humanity or be done away with; after all, it says so in the Bible. We have been conditioned to act, think, and project prejudicially toward animals, and as for the insects, we lack both the emotional and intellectual appreciation that would bring forth any true appreciation for their role and importance in the natural order.
Animals raised for food are given little thought at all. They are certainly not the focus of prayers, dance, art, or ceremony as they were in earlier times. So called "wild animals" are confined to lead desolate lives in zoos apart from their homes, the real sources of their natural being. We say we do this for their protection, their own good. We have simply become adept at rationalizing our "bio-phobia", our basic fear of nature. Ask "What good is it?" and "How can we further our plans?" These questions and their underlying orientation form the basic foundation for the modern Western worldview of humanity as well as nature.
We have little awareness that globally there is the equivalent of a biological "holocaust" in play, and that every day the Earth experiences the extinction of hundreds of microbiota, plants, insects, and animal species. The biodiversity of live is dwindling and with its loss, we lose the biological web of life upon which we depend, we incur a real but largely hidden danger; in the life of the land or this planet lies our human lives. We ignore these relationships at our own peril.
In contrast, Native cultures usually look at all species as sharing a circle that is inclusive of all life, a circle that embraces science, art, community and spirit.
Native cultures have much to teach non-Native cultures from their inclusive vision of life - about listening to the "noise of the infinite in the small." All animals including insects are necessary for the biological functioning of the biosphere and the survival of all living things. The known benefits of the honeybee, the earthworm, silkworms, lady bug, various beetlesants and spiders balance out their perceived harmfulness to humans.
An entire species may be condemned to extinction if humans deem its behavior or appearance unacceptable. This is the prevailing modern Western cultural attitude towards animals. In many ways this attitude has also characterized Western attitudes towards Indigenous cultures that have traditionally afforded kinship to the entire animal world.
For Native people, knowledge of animals was important to all aspects of their lives. Learning about animals was a lifelong task integrated in every aspect of tribal life. Practical knowledge included characteristics of animal behavior, anatomy, feeding, patterns, breeding, and migration.
Techniques of hunting and fishing ranged from simple to complex and required long periods of teaching and learning, but these skills were always learned in the context of detailed understanding of the natural ecology of tribal homelands.
Native hunting combined great creativity and flexibility with complex rules of conduct and acts of spiritual significance. Through long apprenticeship and experience the hunter came to know his prey, where and when to hunt and the topography and weather conditions most appropriate for hunting. He also knew the myths, songs, rituals and history that were woven into the context.
Author note: Some people will try to understand the relationship between humans and animals by going to zoos or places like Disney Land or Disney World which have animals that people can interact with. Knotts Berry Farm is another such place. This will not show any type of "natural relationship" between humans and animals.

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