“The Animal in Us”


“Many cultures, including the Native Americans, believe that if we put our ear to the ground, we can hear Mother Earth’s heartbeat. Land animal totems are keenly aware of this heartbeat – and in fact, are said to walk in time with the beat of the Earth’s heart. Consequently these land animal symbol meanings relate to intuitition, awareness, and cognizance. Additionally, this animal group represents being grounded, and stable both mentally and physically. ” –Avia Venifica

Animals are our brethren.” — Mahatma Gandhi

But we human beings, are we not animals? Isn’t it simply the pride of our humanity that always puts  a wedge between us–who call ourselves human–and the so-called animal world? Isn’t this pride just a sheer expression of what we think as the uniqueness of our humanity and thus the rest of the animal world are in this sense not at par with our ontological superiority? Or, are we not totally animal so that it is more realistically meaningful to say that there is only something animal in us?

In so many basal ways ranging from the simply rude to the most obscene, we know the animal about the human being in expressions like, “You bitch!” . . . “You sonovabitch!” . . . “You’re all wolves in sheep’s clothing!” . . . “You’re a snake who’s never learned to value good deeds done in your behalf!” . . . “These politicians are all crocodiles in coats and ties!” . . . “These dirty rats are all scot-free to scavenge garbage bins on sidestreets!” . . . “These stalking dogs have gotten used to follow their idols’ performances even to the end of the earth!” . . . “That one heck of an ape keeps repeating what I’m doing!” . . . “You’re surely get a lashing from that scorpion-tongued idiot if you get critical of his views!”

Yet, in another context, exemplary animal aspects are likewise reckoned about our humanity: “He just gave me a warm, encouraging bear hug.” . . . “Their enterprise is as busy and organized as an anthill.” . . . “The eagle-eyed fighter pilot delivered the shot right smack on the target!” . . . “His bull-like strength pinned the opponent down on the canvas in less than a minute.” . . . “She walked with the elegance of a gazelle and it drew some significant rave from her admiring fans.” . . . “She was a dove of peace who arrived just in time to settle the dispute.”

These are all superficial attributions brought about by some instant emotional surge. At the end of the day, the established affirmation remains: We are human and never animal. Human pride perennially rivets in our consciousness the belief that humans are human and animals are animal and never the twain shall meet. In the judaeo-christian thought-system which has dominated through generations the cultural apparatus of the western mind, the divide is irreconcilable as divine power deemed it at the beginning of time the uniqueness of humanity having been especially endowed with a “spirit”  never bestowed to animals. That is what the creation story tells us. But that’s a myth which through time and in the dramatic march of science in its methodological observations and investigations has been proven inaccurate and unreliable even impossible. Something which solely relies on and is hence a matter of faith is a dead-end and will never lead us to a meaningful and worthwhile discussion of an issue which is of prime importance to better understand our circumstances in the here-and-now.

Starting off with the state of being where we ought to reasonably begin, the concreteness of our physical reality is a given. We cannot commence the journey elsewhere; consciousness points us to what is perceived in physical reality. And our very own physicality is indubitably animal. We can see it, we can feel it, we can even smell it and listen to it. The issue at this point is not simply consciousness but, as the phenomenologist contends, it is consciousness of something and that something at the onset is consciousness of our physicality. We are basically animal and perhaps the only factor that takes us beyond the basicality of our animality is the fact that we are able to be conscious of our consciousness. We are self-conscious entities. Could this be the location of the animal-human frontier? Are we now  at this point identifying the ultimate dividing line that separates the human from the animal? Is this realization a justifying break-away point to make it clear once and for all that we are totally human and hence fully shed off the vestiges of our animality?

The truth of the matter is we cannot escape from the reality of our physicality. We are here and now in flesh and bone and blood. It is only the arrogance of our well-achieved evolution that has given us the illusion and the delusion that there is nothing animal in us anymore. In recognition of this incontrovertible fact and to turn the table around, it might be rather more meaningful to say that there is something human in our animality. What makes sense at this point is not the animal in us but rather the human in us who are actually animal.

But to give the topic, “the animal in us,” a run for its money, so to speak, let’s consider certain significant factors that cannot break the animal spell in our being such as: the instinctive drive to survive; the spontaneity to desire what our senses have perceived as desirable; to feel the pleasure of being in a delightful experience and the sorrow of being in a sad state; the natural impulse to provide for one’s own need and the offspring’s need as well; the innate sensitivity to protect one’s well-being as well as that of her/his loved ones. Among others which I failed to mention here, these are the circumstances of “the animal in us”–in fact, the indisputable reality that we are animal.

Conclusively, we could now soberly say with deep sensibility that our self-consciousness/self-awareness (which in most recent investigations done by present-day biologists using the most modern/most sophisticated methods have dramatically proven that even chimps and dolphins as well as other mammals show some significant signs of self-consciousness), creativity (in arts and technology) and moral sensibility do not extricate us from the animal kingdom but simply give us the knowledge that within the kingdom, the evolutionary process has gone this far.

Arrogance is the single “badass” that such an evolution has carried through the space-time continuum and has given us the utterly wrong notion that we are no longer animals as eons ago, we successfully broke away from the dispicable limitations of the animal kingdom. In retrospect and through the aid of the very instrumentality of self-awareness, the more reasonable human animals in us have realized once and for all that many lower animals have more appreciably and thus more commendably productive and moral characteristics than what the majority of us human animals have. It is interesting to note at this point that there has never been a record of a lower-animal mass murderer that parallels  the caliber of a Hitler, a Mussolini, a Netanyahu, a Bush or a Blair, among others. However, there have been cases of mass murder in lower animals and these are perpetrated by none other than the human animals. No lower animals invented religions which later developed to become hatred machineries sowing misery, violence and terror on planet Earth. No lower animals got into politics to deceive and manipulate and exploit fellow animals and thereafter enrich themselves with the loots they plundered from the latter.

In the final analysis, it is not “the animal in us” that has created all the mess we find in the world; it is rather the human in us animals.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 6 January 2016