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The Preachy Blog

Beyond a thousand bars

Small blue heron nature, biodiversity, flora, fauna cricket Big green grasshopper

3/18/2012 -- Beyond a thousand bars

Cheetah in zooBeen to the zoo; supposedly the place which should bring us humans closer (back) to nature, through the exhibition of "wild" animals. Of course this is to be achieved with the exact opposite: the "habitats" un-natural, the separation of humans and non-humans un-natural, the incarcerated animals in their behaviour un-natural. It's illusionary to believe that in such a setup a connection can be made with (wild)life. Instead it seems to me zoos are more a display of our self-righteous belief in superiority, of our supposedly given right (by whom?) to forcefully display and exploit individuals of other species in any way to our likings. Individuals reduced to "specimens" of their species, degraded to "exhibits" to be gazed at, to be consumed like a TV show, "simplified to meat in a sack of brown fur" in case of a broken bear waiting for the suffering to end, in a concrete-tile-and-glass cell. [A very recommendable essay on this by Derrick Jensen can be read in the book "Thought to Exist in the Wild", from which I borrowed some thoughts]

What zoos can teach us though, if not about wildlife, is how separation from the natural world in which we all - humans and non-humans - evolved may transform us, seeing these creature's stereotypies and dulled senses, which are so aptly described in Rilke's poem (see image link). In above mentioned book Derrick Jensen quotes from an interview:

"Nowadays most of us live in cities. That means that most of us live in an insulated cell, completely cut off from any kind of sensory information or sensory experience that is not of our own manufacture. All the sensory information we receive is fabricated, and most of it is mediated by machines.
I think the only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that our sensory capacities are so terribly dimished - just as they are in all domesticates - that we no longer know what we're missing. (...)
And the common experience of victims of sensory deprivation is hallucination. I believe that our received cultural wisdom, our anthropocentric beliefs and ideologies, can easily be seen as institutionalized hallucinations."

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if we detected symptoms on us as if living in a self-made zoo, and I can't disagree our perceived independence from nature and our belief in human superiority may be hallucinations.

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