This is, incidentally, the same “headline” as one of the arguably most important articles in the Yellowstone-themed issue of National Geographic (“May 2016, Volume 229, No. 5”). I made the connection on purpose.
This blog post is about nature, human nature, and what happens when the two clash.
Let’s start with what defines human nature. From Wikipedia: “Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling and acting—which humans tend to have naturally, independently of the influence of culture. The questions of what these characteristics are, how fixed they are, and what causes them are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy.”
The most “obvious” characteristics, for some, can be complied in a very short list:
- Complacency – this is true – there are a lot of bad things that you already know about but refuse to do anything about for some pretty weird reasons…the current statistic is that “Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. ” (From an article from theguardian, three months old at the time of writing, part of “The Counting.”) And yes, this is the sadly familiar racist, horrible killings you’ve been hearing about. “‘This epidemic is disproportionately affecting black people,” said Brittany Packnett, an activist and member of the White House taskforce on policing. “We are wasting so many promising young lives by continuing to allow this to happen.'” (From the same article.) Black people are definitely protesting about it, yes, because they have a deep, worrisome connection to the problem. If you “know what’s up,” you should know this is very wrong. Yet…what are you doing about it? What is the average person doing about it? Do you notice any change? Any real change? Any actually effective things happening? Our mindsets are shifting, less so the actual problem. The cycle just repeats. And the reason for it is this: once someone has been ingrained into your brain as normal, maybe by just existing for long enough, it never leaves. It only dies with you. This is why a mad scientist would have no trouble with us, we can’t fight in the end. If the Hunger Games (from The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins) actually started, at first we would be shocked and disturbed, as expected. At first. Then…well, let’s just say in advance – I hope my District wins. (Pride and glory for District 1!) Another, more vague, example is that there are many, many problems with the U.S, nearly dystopian problems, even without President Drumpf, and yet…these problems keep happening…looks like the rebels aren’t getting any progress…
- Agression – the definition is “hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront.” Does that ring any sort of bell for you? It should. Where might you have seen this before? ISIL, the U.S military, pretty much any military, it’s kind of a military thing, it’s kind of a war thing, rape, murder, homicide, the survival instinct…boy, we’ve seen this a lot, haven’t we, ladies and gentlemen and other classy people of all different genders? (Is there a non-binary word or phrase that can be used to the same purpose as “ladies and gentlemen”?) There is no disputing this. You have seen it.
- Contradicting Morals – This one is less obvious, so I will explain it for you. We tell our kids not to hit, and become proud when they go off to join the army. When these brainwashed anger machines come back and regain their humanity, we cast them aside. We stress the importance of self-control, and seem to lose all of it, along with all of our common sense, in the race for survival in a crisis, even leading to the brutal killing of another human, which we are all supposed to understand and forgive completely. Yet, without an obvious crisis, we are absolutely merciless towards a murderer, unknowing how to act when the crisis is inside their heads but still very real. Pigs are smarter than dogs, and intelligence is considered a virtue worthy of life by humans, and yet one is a delicacy, and the other is considered way, way off limits. And yet even this varies from country to country. (I believe neither should be eaten, I’m a practicing vegetarian.)
- Selfishness – We are only kind when we feel it will benefit us (conscious thought), or when we psychologically know it will (altruism). Even when it does not psychically or tangibly help you, just the fact that some of you enjoy making others happy, safe, or healthy proves my point. If you enjoy it, it helps you stay happy. Whoomp, there it is. Just broke your mind.
- Selective Kindess – This goes hand in hand with the other one. This requires no explanation, but instead, an example: Think of any time that you have been nice to one person but not another, for whatever reason. Why? Seriously, why? Were they rude to you? Why should that stop you? Kindness has benefits, right?
(If you have any to add to my list, email me with a descriptor similar to mine at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll edit them in.)
And now for the other type of nature, the one out of our comfort zone. “Beautiful but terrifying” is the common way of describing Mother Nature, the goddess of all things out of our control. We are slowly but surely learning how to take advantage of and use her, or so we think. (For examples, try watching “Generation Earth,” (without the comma) available on Netflix – there’s only three episodes, and it is quite educational.) Mother Nature can kill, using brute power, the waves of the ocean, the scorching heat of the cracked desert, or one of her foot soldiers, our brethren, raised in the wild. Mother Nature can give birth, she can give life. Mother Nature isn’t only in charge of Earth, she holds the entire Universe (and just possibly the Multiverse) in her hands. She is not a being, but we personify her for the sake of understanding her weird ideas and movements. We create theology out of her, we try separating her, with water, and fire, and death, we create gods out of her. Mother Nature is endlessly complicated, and very strong, but very vulnerable. She is strange, indecipherable, manic. She is very beautiful, we mistake her for something that is there for us. No. We are a piece of her. Yes, I am vegetarian, but I believe in the natural order of things. Is that so contradictory? I believe humans, the pieces of the Universe that have become self-aware, should be vegetarian because they have the choice to remove that heavy burden. Other animals do not think in the way we do; we should not try to think in the way they do. We should not be aggressive, even in our crises, but they can be, because their biology suggests that they must. So yes, I am vegetarian, but I understand that other animals deserve to be forgiven and loved, predator or prey, because they simply do not think the way we do. There is a natural order to things. Innocence is a human construct. When we try to bring it upon our furry/scaly/feathered brethren, well…things go badly.
Here lies the connection to The Paradox of the Park: an excerpt from it, and a few thoughts.
On August 7, 2015, in Yellowstone National Park, a ranger found the chewed-upon body of a man near a hiking trail not far from one of the park’s largest hotels. The deceased was soon identified as Lance Crosby, 63 years old, from Billings, Montana. He had worked seasonally as a nurse at a medical clinic in the park and been reported missing by co-workers that morning. Investigation revealed that Crosby was hiking alone on the previous day, without bear spray, and ran afoul of a female grizzly with two cubs. The sow, after killing and partially eating him (not necessarily in that order), and allowing the cubs to eat too, cached his remains beneath dirt and pine duff, as grizzlies do when they intend to reclaim a piece of meat. Once trapped and persuasively linked to Crosby by DNA evidence, she was given a sedative and an anesthetic and then executed, on grounds that an adult grizzly bear that has eaten human flesh and cached a body is too dangerous to be spared, even if the fatal encounter wasn’t her fault. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim,” said Park Superintendent Dan Wenk, a reasonable man charged with a difficult task: keeping Yellowstone safe for both people and wildlife.
Do you see the problem? I do.
“…on grounds that an adult grizzly bear that has eaten human flesh and cached a body is too dangerous to be spared…” This is illogical. She was just doing what bears do. And she had kids! What are you doing about the “innocent” cubs who now have no one to take care of them? If our brethren see a possible source of meat, they go and try and get it. This is natural. This is the natural order of things I was talking about. Bears have an uncanny sense of intruders. I’ve heard they even wake up from hibernation, and they can tell where you are from miles away. Everyone knows this. And also, bear spray is a thing. And also, he was already old and close to dying anyways. I wouldn’t have killed him myself, but my point is that the bear was just being a bear. The authoritarian way of making sure that nothing can be more dangerous than us is nothing more than desperation, a sad imitation of the justice system. You cannot subject our brethren to the justice system. They’re just living their own life, in the way they know how. And besides, the have no lawyers! They have no idea why there is a need for a justice system. It’s like clashing two completely different planets together and only using the ideology from one.
The paradox of the park is that we are loving it to death. Humans destroy things, they crowd things, they spread trash everywhere, and yet they love nature. So every human wants a humanless place. This is the paradox of the park.
And as for human nature…we must rise above it. It sounds strange, but it will leave us in a better place than we are now. Complacency can be used for good, if we are complacent and non-rebellious in doing the right thing. Aggression can never be used for good, but it is admittably natural. (Natural. That word I keep using.) It arrives with adrenalin, a property of humans worth saving, it gives us psychical excitement, it contributes to fun. The contradicting morals are illogical and confusing, they cannot be used for good. The selfishness of altruism can be overridden when you act with kindness not because you enjoy it, even though you may as a bonus, but because you understand its benefits for others. Selective kindness should be stopped, it can never be used for good.
To simplify all that for myself, I made this promise to myself and wrote it down everywhere I think I would need to:
I promise to never force death on someone, or let it happen, no matter what, no matter who. I promise to be as intelligent and “clever” as I can, if only to be more efficient in creating solutions for the betterment of others. I promise to be honest to no end, for if you act logically, this cannot harm you.
Save Earth, save us. Save us, save Earth.
Published on the day before Earth Day 2016.